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'The Carmichael Show' review: Timely, fast-timed comedy of a family with issues

David Alan Grier as Joe and Loretta Devine

David Alan Grier as Joe and Loretta Devine as Cynthia in "The Carmichael Show." Photo Credit: NBC / Chris Haston

PLOT

Hot comic Jerrod Carmichael adds "issues" (personal/family) to issues (social/cultural), creating a potent contemporary sitcom.

SITCOM PREMIERE The Carmichael Show

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 9 and 9:30 p.m. on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The namechecks start early and keep on comin'. Caitlyn Jenner. Guantánamo Bay. Al Green. McDonald's fries. Occupy Wall Street. "The Book of Mormon." George Zimmerman. Donald Trump. Jesus.

They all signify something. Because "The Carmichael Show" is about something. When rising standup comic lead Jerrod Carmichael and mixed-race girlfriend Amber Stevens West ("Greek") visit his dark-skinned parents -- David Alan Grier and Loretta Devine -- she brings wine, innocently asking, "You like white, right?" Grier doesn't miss a beat: "Not as much as your daddy."

No malice meant. Just gotta get a laugh. That's the signature here -- open mouths, open hearts and definitely open season. On everything. Beyond Wednesday's 9 p.m. setup pilot, "Carmichael" episode titles point the way. "Protest" at 9:30 confirms the show's of-the-moment intent, using the star's job-hopping brother (Lil Rel Howery) for a topical zinger. Now a 32-year-old security officer in their Charlotte hometown, he can't tell where he fits into the day's youth rally over the latest police shooting of a black person. "You're not a youth, you're not an officer, neither side wants you, man," blurts Carmichael. With love.

Everybody blurts in "The Carmichael Show." So much zing, so little time. "Malcolm X was a black ginger, and nobody noticed" is an offhand aside from dad Grier. When he argues politics with mom Devine, she snatches his food: "You have lost your rib-leges." Next week, Carmichael serves "Kale" -- stand back. And laugh out loud.

MY SAY This is one crazy-paced show, and one smartly crafted comedy. Whether debating world affairs or family baggage, it's engagingly scrappy, plunging into conversational deep ends, with razor-sharp timing.

And that cast -- who doesn't love Grier and Devine? So Carmichael, also a writer-producer here, cannily does a Ray Romano ("Everybody Loves Raymond"), launching his self-titled show as a dynamic ensemble, where troupers score character-based laughs around his distinctive comedic even keel. Nice job of keeping it all in the family.

GRADE B+

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