On Sunday’s season finale, “The Carmichael Show” will tackle a subject on the mind of many Americans: Donald Trump.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to regular viewers of the NBC show — a semi-autobiographical sitcom based on comedian Jerrod Carmichael’s family — that mines current events and hot-button topics for laughs in every episode.
Carmichael wrote the episode with one of the show’s co-creators, Nicholas Stoller, who directed the comedian in “Neighbors” and its recently-released sequel, “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising.” Jerrod’s father, Joe (David Alan Grier), enthusiastically announces his support for Trump, leading to a series of heated arguments with Jerrod’s girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West), a Bernie Sanders supporter.
“This election tempers seem to be running extra high, so it would be a disservice to the show if we didn’t talk about the election,” Stoller said. “It would be strange if the characters didn’t talk about it.”
The episode, titled “President Trump,” serves up plenty of jokes at the presumptive Republican nominee’s expense, but none of the candidates are left unscathed.
“Were not trying to say ‘Trump is right, Bernie’s right or Hillary’s right. That’s boring … that’s a story that could be told best by ‘The Daily Show,’ ” Stoller said. “What we’re trying to get at is why people fight about politics. What are the emotions underneath that?”
“The Carmichael Show” is primed to tell that kind of story. The show has earned comparisons to Norman Lear’s slate of 1970s sitcoms, including “All in the Family,” for its honest approach in addressing controversial issues from multiple viewpoints. The show took on Black Lives Matter, gender identity and guns in its first season, and made headlines for “Fallen Heroes,” an episode debating the legacy of Bill Cosby amid allegations of sexual assault by 58 women. The show’s pilot features the Carmichaels debating the merits of voting Democrat or Republican.
Please renew The Carmichael Show. It's an election year. We need those laughs.
— nathan (@npesina) May 14, 2016
The sitcom was renewed for a 13-episode third season last week, but not as assuredly as some fans expected it to be. NBC still had not made a decision about “The Carmichael Show” when NBC Entertainment President Robert Greenblatt spoke to reporters about the network’s fall line-up in a conference call on May 18 (the renewal was announced shortly after the call). The delayed decision was the result of a discrepancy between NBC and 20th Century Fox, which produces the show, over how many episodes the third season should have.
Vulture writer Mark Harris questioned the perceived ambivalence:
“In an era in which networks are desperate to inspire conversation about any of their prime-time series, ‘The Carmichael Show’ is one of the very few that has generated it effortlessly. … The show’s so-retro-it’s-new, raucous, issue-heavy, Norman Lear–esque approach to comedy has set it apart from most of what’s on the air, as does its take-no-prisoners interest in bitingly funny topicality. At a time when discussions of diversity in entertainment have moved to the front burner, getting behind an acclaimed, news-making show with an all-black cast and decent enough ratings — ‘Carmichael‘ is drawing 4 or 5 million viewers a week in its current run — seems like a no-brainer.”
Stoller said, “We kind of all just assumed we were going to be picked up, so when it suddenly seemed like we were on the bubble … we were all pretty shocked.”
Sunday’s episode may seem grand, given its controversial subject, but Stoller said there wasn’t much thought to having it be a possible series finale. “The show is so episodic, it would be weird to have some some big moment at the end of it.”
No premiere date for the third season has been announced, but Stoller said he hopes fans on both sides of the aisle will find Sunday’s show “hilarious, relatable and universal.”
He already has some indication of how the episode will go over since the show is taped in front of a studio audience.
“It was awesome,” Stoller said of the reaction. “You could just feel the relief — and I felt this during the pilot — of just [seeing] characters talking about something that everyone’s talking about all day, every day.”
“The Carmichael Show” season finale airs at 8 p.m. Sunday on NBC.