Jerrod Carmichael doesn’t have a household name, but he has good taste.
As one of the creators behind the new NBC sitcom “The Carmichael Show,” the millennial-aged comedian who is best known for his role in 2014’s “Neighbors” was wise enough to recruit stage and screen vets Loretta Devine and David Alan Grier to play his parents. The end result is nothing short of comedy gold as Grier, 60, and Devine, 66, steal every scene they’re in. Seriously, these two are so quick with quips and one-liners that you will wonder why they haven’t been paired up on a sitcom before now.
That’s not to say that “The Carmichael Show,” which premieres Wednesday, is without its flaws. Despite great jokes from Carmichael, Devine and Grier in the pilot, the opening story line — should Jerrod tell his parents he’s living with his girlfriend Maxine (Amber Stevens West, “22 Jump Street”) or not — feels stale and out of date, even if his mom Cynthia is a finger wagging Bible thumper.
Although Grier and Devine make the most out of the writing, it would be refreshing if they had more to work with in the inaugural episode. In the the better developed and penned second and third installments “Protest” and “Kale,” much of the pacing and interactions come together more smoothly and most of the characters evolve beyond their shticks.
The “Kale” episode even features a touching moment between Jerrod and his dad Joe as the younger tries desperately to get the elder to eat better and exercise following a medical scare.
In “Protest,” Jerrod tries to come to grips when the police in his North Carolina city shoot an unarmed teen and Jerrod’s mother and girlfriend choose to march. Poignant without being preachy, the timely episode feels like a nod to a Norman Lear comedy.
Sadly, the reverence is nearly ruined by Jerrod’s thuggish former sister-in-law Nekeisha, played by comedic actress Tiffany Haddish (OWN’s “If Loving You Is Wrong”), who ends up looting.
While there are a few scenes where comedian Lil Rel Howery, who costars as Jerrod’s brother Bobby, rises above the stereotypes Haddish isn’t as fortunate. Blame it on lazy writing or a lack of inspiration, but Nekeisha is the Tyler Perry-esque odd woman out on this multi-camera comedy.
Even West, who plays most of her scenes as the straight woman to this irreverent family’s antics, has more dimensions and comedic significance. Her chemistry with Carmichael is also promising.
The opening scene in the pilot where the couple compares their musical tastes — he likes Biggie and she likes Taylor Swift — falls flat but the two make up for it later with humorous but heartfelt exchanges about real concerns.
In the end, “The Carmichael Show” is not perfect but it is too promising, courageous and funny to be discarded as a disposable summer sitcom. Even if NBC doesn’t bring it back, here’s hoping somebody does.
“The Carmichael Show” premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m on NBC.