The Carmichael Show tack­les more hot top­ics

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - RICK BENTLEY

LOS AN­GE­LES — Cast mem­bers of the NBC sum­mer re­place­ment se­ries “The Carmichael Show” are seated on one side of a long ta­ble that has been placed in front of a tem­po­rary set that looks like a fast-food restau­rant. Nor­mally, the con­ver­sa­tions that take place be­tween the var­i­ous gen­er­a­tions of the fam­ily un­fold in the liv­ing room. The lo­ca­tion is dif­fer­ent but the will­ing­ness to tackle sen­si­tive top­ics is the same.

When the script of the com­edy that the cast is read­ing is filmed, it will have the group talk­ing about rape. It’s the lat­est sub­ject the fam­ily has de­bated, dis­cussed and dis­sected in the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons. Other hot top­ics have in­cluded re­li­gion, guns, po­lice protests, pornog­ra­phy ad­dic­tion, gen­der roles, prison and race re­la­tions. The show re­flects the thought-pro­vok­ing com­edy of se­ries star and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, Jer­rod Carmichael, and that con­tin­ues as the new sea­son opens.

Be­fore Jer­rod can wade into ver­bal war­fare with his old-school fa­ther (David Alan Grier), de­voutly re­li­gious mother (Loretta Devine), pro­gres­sive live-in girl­friend (Am­ber Stevens West), his sep­a­rated brother (Rel How­ery) and his brother’s es­tranged wife (Tiffany Had­dish), the script goes through con­stant rewrites to make sure the ar­gu­ments are bal­anced. Scripts of­ten change in the fi­nal min­utes to re­flect new in­for­ma­tion or ideas.

The ex­plo­ration in the episode is prompted by an on­line post about a sex­ual as­sault.

Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel ex­plains that get­ting the script right is a col­lab­o­ra­tive process that starts with get­ting as many opin­ions as pos­si­ble.

“I don’t think our show would work un­less we had these tal­ented writ­ers back here,” Witzel says point­ing to the group of writ­ers seated near the cast. “I don’t think it would work un­less we had the 12 dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives that we have on kind of ev­ery topic we han­dle. So ev­ery­one’s in­put kind of goes in the be­gin­ning, and then the writ­ers of record go off and write a first draft. That comes back to the room. So there is con­stant in­put from ev­ery­body.”

The opin­ions used to fash­ion the script don’t in­clude a lot of con­sul­tants but when the topic is some­thing as volatile and sen­si­tive as “no means no,” the staff will turn to groups who deal with the top­ics on a reg­u­lar ba­sis to make sure ev­ery­thing is fac­tual. They turned to mem­bers of the Na­tional Cam­paign to Pre­vent Teen and Un­planned Pregnancy for help with the script for the show that serves as the third sea­son opener.

Even with all of the con­cerns for the script, it falls to the cast to find a way to cre­ate laughs while deal­ing with top­ics that are not laugh­ing mat­ters. Carmichael and the cast ap­proach each episode the same way.

Carmichael says: “We don’t ap­proach any­thing with fear and as much hon­esty as we pos­si­bly can. That’s re­ally the thought that goes into it and just not be­ing afraid to ex­plore some­thing. Not that there’s hu­mour in ev­ery­thing. I’m not say­ing that. But there can be hu­mour mined from any tense or dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. So we like to try and ex­plore it.”

All of this is driven by Carmichael who deals with tough is­sues in his standup act. That hasn’t changed since he made his de­but on HBO in 2014 with the one-hour spe­cial “Love at the Store,” di­rected by Spike Lee. His big-screen cred­its in­clude “Trans­form­ers: The Last Knight” and “Neigh­bors 2: Soror­ity Ris­ing.”

“The Carmichael Show” airs at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day, May 31 on NBC Tri­bune News Ser­vice

NBC UNIVER­SAL,

Cast of the “The Carmichael Show.”

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