I have both been watching The Carmichael Show and the reaction to the show with great interest. Initially, just because I adore Jerrod and writer Willie Hunter, then because I really liked the show and wanted to see if it could overcome the dreaded August burn-off run. One thing that drove me crazy in the coverage, though, was the persistent angle that this show is important because it's "tackling issues" while still being funny. Granted, with episodes entitled "Guns" and "Protest" and a Little Brother parachuted in to talk about "Gender" the way Carlton suddenly developed and kicked a drug habit all in the span of a single episode of Fresh Prince, they were kind of asking for it. And I can't argue with the fact that it IS a strong angle to take to get the attention needed to merit a second season pickup in our clickbait world.
But what bothered me is how so few people went beyond that and looked st the sum of the 6 episode series to see what was really groundbreaking about this sitcom - It's Real. The situations and especially the dialogue on this show are some of the most realistic we've gotten to see on network TV since Reality TV was actually unscripted. The characters aren't thrown into bland, unlikely scenarios with no ties to time or place that simply allow hijinks to ensue and characters to act out their standard stereotype and learn their standard lesson. They are encountering both the everyday realities we can all relate to like divorce, the uneven growth spurts and setbacks of a relationship getting serious, and the failing health of a parent. And, yes, they are also running into Bigger Issues, but (mostly) not in concocted scenarios designed to push a safe party line message, they actually interact with these concerns the way normal people do.
Take "Protest" - each character presented a different and fairly nuanced perspective based on both disposition and generation. And nobody "won," there was no neatly wrapped up takeaway that spoon fed us the lesson we had just learned so we could feel good about having thought about police brutality against African Americans and the relative efficacy of modern protest movements for 30 minutes and then never worrying about it again. But neither did it shove anything down anyone's throat in an attempt to push one of those perspectives or another. Because that's how these things work in the real world. Think about it. You've probably talked about Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin with your friends or family way more recently than you had to concoct elaborate ruses to hide the fact that you'd hooked up with one of your best friends who lives across the hall at your brother's second wedding that ultimately got cancelled when he accidentally said the name of your roommate, who was his high school crush and ex-girfriend, during the vows (no offense to Friends). And you probably all had different takes and opinions, and focused on different aspects of the complicated issue, and you probably cracked a few jokes along the way because nobody ever really changes anyone else's opinions all that much but if you lighten the mood you can all still love each other. And that's what The Carmichael Show is doing, just with way funnier writers than your Aunt Helen has.
So, really, they got it backwards. The Carmichael Show isn't tackling issues while still being funny, it's finding humor in our real lives and that just happens to mean touching on serious issues.