Wednesday, September 9, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Carmichael Show' - Jerrod and Maxine Learn Some Surprising Things About Each Other in 'Prayer' & 'Guns'

NBC's The Carmichael Show - Episode 1.05 "Prayer" and 1.06 "Guns"

Cynthia is concerned about Maxine's disregard for prayer - igniting a passionate discussion about religion and spirituality. Jerrod and Maxine are forced to discuss deeper aspects of their relationship. Maxine's dismay over Jerrod's gun sparks a debate throughout the family regarding gun control and gender power dynamics within a relationship. Jerrod's attempt to prove his point goes terribly wrong.

The Carmichael Show has proven itself over these last three weeks that it's not afraid to tackle some really big and important topics. In this short season, the show has talked about protesting, transgender issues and needing to eat healthy. The season finale includes discussions on prayer and guns. Those are topics only a confident and smart show should tackle. Fortunately, The Carmichael Show has always been very smart in its handling of all of these issues. It's been wonderful to watch every week. The humor and dynamics of the character has gotten so strong in such a short period of time. It will be such a shame if NBC doesn't know how to handle a great show like this. But at the end of the day, these were six episodes with something important to say. If that's it, I won't have any regrets - though I do desperately want to see what else The Carmichael Show is capable of doing.

"Prayer" and "Guns" are two strong episodes to end on. They aren't as political as the show has been in the past. The topics are much more specific to the characters. But that also makes the people and show seem strong. Both of these subjects are important issues that affect everyone. Everyone has to decide how they stand on both of them. A variety of responses can happen. This show made the experience unique to these characters in a way that helped define them as strong characters but also as a family unit that can find the humor in any situation.

"Prayer" is probably the stronger episode of the two that aired tonight. It probably would have been better to end the season with that one. But then again, who could argue with ending on the entire family in the living room singing? That was a moment very specific to this family. They are saying goodbye to a gun with a musical tribute. These characters reversed their opinions on this issue. And yet, it all came about very naturally. That has been a strong point of the show so far. There hasn't been any kind of whiplash that resulted from the network's airing pattern. The characters have felt distinctive in each episode. That is a strong achievement for just a six episode season airing across three weeks.

The episodes have always treated the character's beliefs with the utmost respect. They may not be the correct opinion to have. But the show has created a world where it's easy to understand why each character believes what they do. It's a tad surprising to see Maxine exposed as an agnostic and not a Christian given just how spiritual Cynthia and Joe have been in many of their reasonings this season. But it also makes so much sense that Maxine and Jerrod haven't talked about those kinds of issues yet. Their relationship is strong. They've been able to survive his family. That's a huge accomplishment. And yet, their relationship is something much more personal than that. They are trying to build a live together but that means they have to understand each other. They need to know what the other believes and what their plans for the future are. It's okay that they disagree in this huge way. They don't need to have all the answers now. The best they can do is get Maxine's name on the lease as well. That is a meaningful gesture that notes they will both work to handle these issues whenever they should arise. That's a sign that they are a strong couple.

It's also just so funny whenever the show divides the family in order to make a point. Jerrod loves pointing out the hypocrisy of his mother when it comes to Maxine's lack of religion. It's logic that only makes sense to a mother. And yet, the show can get away with such a comedic beat because it also features Joe being completely baffled by the fact that Cynthia had doubts about their marriage up until the wedding. The same kind of divide happens in "Guns" as well as Jerrod and Joe are united against Cynthia and Maxine when it comes to owning a gun. And yet, it's those precise pairings that force the characters to realize how they truly feel about the subject.

"Guns" is slightly more derivative in regards to its core topic. The episode doesn't really get into the politics of what it's like owning a gun in today's society. It's much more about whether or not these characters feel comfortable or protected with or without one. And of course, a gun firing is what brings about a shift to their way of thinking. That was a tad predictable. And yet, the humor and reactions of the characters make the experience worth it. Jerrod shooting his father in the foot is enough to get him to dispose of his gun forever while the threat of an intruder is enough for Cynthia to realize she wants one in the house. The episode is allowed to explore both sides of the argument. Sure, it does fall along generational lines in the end. But it's also very amusing and smart in its approach of the subject.

That is the most appealing thing of what The Carmichael Show does. It is allowed to have discussions with multiple perspectives and makes the entire experience seem more enlightened as a result. This show just needs to make more episodes. The broadcast networks aren't really making shows like this anymore. It stands out in a crowded field. That is one of the most important things to do in today's marketplace. I remain very hopeful.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Guns" was written by Aeysha Carr & Hunter Covington and directed by Gerry Cohen.
  • "Prayer" was written by Austen Earl and directed by Gerry Cohen.
  • It's a good thing that when Jerrod went to his family's reverend that he was actually good at giving advice - as well as the secret that Jerrod didn't know about. That made him seem competent at his job much more than him getting drunk at the family dinner.
  • But the family dinner with the reverend was good in seeing how Cynthia had to slowly go against the way she wanted things to go all in the hopes of regaining control of the dinner. She didn't want anyone to talk about their sinful lives or to lie. But in the end, she lied just to get off the topic of spirituality that she didn't want to be talking about.
  • The family trying to meditate was one of the best tag scenes of the season. The joke of Maxine saying "God bless you" was just so amazing and the perfect way to end the episode.
  • Bobby has officially moved out of the house with Nekeisha and her new boyfriend. He is living with Cynthia and Joe again - and they didn't even notice for a week.
  • It's great that Nekeisha isn't willing to forget that Joe tried firing a gun at her. She's probably the least developed character of the show so far (Bobby's not much better) but her staying on that was very reasonable just as the family didn't want to make it a big deal.
  • Isn't it nice to know that the stairs in Cynthia and Joe's house actually lead to somewhere? This is the first time the audience sees their bedroom. And Cynthia, Hulu isn't a channel you can just get on your TV.
  • NBC please renew this show!