Over the past 15 years, Chuck Lorre has become one of the most prolific producers in TV today. The creator of comedies like “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Mom” has very few misses on his resume as Lorre can seemingly take the most basic premise and turn it into a smash. But with his latest comedy, “United States of Al,” Lorre’s string of hits may have finally come to an end.
In “Al,” Marine veteran Riley (Parker Young), is struggling to adjust to civilian life in Ohio after serving in Afghanistan. Things begin to look up for him when he is reunited with Al (Adhir Kalyan), the interpreter who served with his unit in Afghanistan, who has come to America to start a new life. Al moves in with Riley and his dad, Art (Dean Norris), and his sister, Lizzie (Elizabeth Alderfer), and begins to adjust to life in a new country.
In the premiere, Al is disappointed to discover that Riley is divorced and sets out to reunite Riley and his ex-wife, Vanessa (Kelli Goss). Meanwhile, Art and Lizzie get used to their new houseguest and his different customs.
A lot has been written about “Al” since the trailer came out, with many groups criticizing it for having a non-Afghan actor play Al. I would argue that is just one of many issues the show has, with the biggest being it’s just not that funny. It’s clear that Lorre is going for a more serious tone with “Al,” a la “Mom,” as Riley struggles to adjust to civilian life as much as Al struggles with being in America. And the show does do a great job of shedding light on Afghan customs and showing how people of different cultures can come together. But the majority of the jokes come from Al’s beliefs and that gets old quickly. While the show is never disrespectful to Afghan culture, laughing at things like Al’s embarrassment at women wearing shorts makes you a little uncomfortable.
There is no doubt that Lorre is a creative genius, but even geniuses have bad ideas, and I think that “Al” is definitely one of them.
“United States of Al” premieres at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 1, on CBS.
If you’re looking for something a little more worthy of your time, don’t forget the epic crossover that NBC is serving up with “Law & Order: SVU” and “Law & Order: Organized Crime.” In 2011, Christopher Meloni, who played one half of the super duo Stabler and Benson (Mariska Hargitay), left the show after a contract dispute. Stabler was written out in unceremonious fashion with very little explanation. Now, Stabler and Benson will finally reunite in a two-hour event introducing “Crime,” the newest entry in the “Law & Order” franchise. The crossover begins at 9 p.m. Thursday, April 1, on NBC.