TV review: ‘Carmichael Show’ tackles tough topics
In the opener, Jerrod’s (Jerrod Carmichael) brother, Bobby (Lil Rel Howery) is afraid he didn’t get the proper vocal consent from a woman he had sexual relations with the night before. He is concerned: Does that make him a rapist?
The Carmichael family then proceeds to debate what “proper consent” exactly is. As always, “Carmichael” tackles issues episode by episode, with Jerrod’s dad Joe (Detroit native David Alan Grier) and mother Cynthia (Loretta Devine) taking conservative positions, while Jerrod and live-in girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West) stake out progressive ones. Bobby’s ex, Nekeisha (Tiffany Haddish), doesn’t much care one way or the other.
My say: Carmichael taped his last special for HBO at the Masonic Hall on West 23rd Street in Manhattan, which is a curious place for any comedy special. It’s a beautiful space, and also a small, dark, cramped and somber one. But “Jerrod Carmichael: 8” succeeded because Carmichael’s comedy succeeds so well in small, dark, cramped, somber spaces. His comedy is the comedy of discomfort, introspection, puzzlement. The whole point is to challenge his own loosely held, loosely examined assumptions, and then — by association — those loosely held by someone sitting five feet away from him. It can also be intense, intimate, and right in your face.
Now with his show entering its third season on NBC, Carmichael is back on the world’s biggest stage, but those uncomfortable, introspective, puzzled, in-your-face vibes haven’t gone anywhere. Instead, what’s missing is the intimacy — and subtlety.
That’s too bad because those are core Carmichael strengths, just not the core strengths of the commercial network sitcom. “The Carmichael Show” has risen above those constraints before — like last season’s terrific episode on his coming to terms with Bill Cosby’s legacy — but not always, and not always this season either.
Bottom line: Uneven, but the core strength remains — a sitcom that embraces the uncomfortable, and sometimes the unmentionable.
‘The Carmichael Show’
Season 3 premiere 9 p.m. Wednesday
NBC (Channel 4)
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