With Jerrod Carmichael serving as EP on Lil Rey Howery’s new Fox series Rel, the question from the TCA corps today was just how political in this new comedy series going to be?
The Carmichael Show pushed boundaries until its ultimate cancellation from NBC; “an uptight network” dinged one reporter in the room.
“During the Barry Diller era, (Fox) really challenged and felt dangerous; there was stuff on there my mom didn’t want me to watch,” said Carmichael, “We want to contribute to that legacy.”
“On The Carmichael Show we built from the argument out,” says that series former Co-EP and current Rel EP Mike Scully, “Jerrod was like ‘we’re going to do Ferguson’. I was like ‘Wow, when does the family go camping?’”
In Rel, the writing team has been working it from reverse, setting up the situation and layering on the political and social issues later. One episode follows a mundane day for Howery where he does his laundry, only to find that the laundromat has been taken over by a gang. That set-up speaks to events literally going on in Chicago, but without being too preachy and “keeping the conversation honest” per Howery.
From Carmichael, Scully, Rel is written/executive produced by Josh Rabinowitz & Kevin Barnett and Howrey and inspired by the latter’s stand-up act and life. It centers on Lil Rel, a prideful, self-made success who lives by the code to “always believe in yourself and great things will come,” finds that attitude put to the test when he learns his wife is having an affair with his own barber. He tries to rebuild his life post-divorce as a long-distance single father on the West Side of Chicago on a quest for love, respect, and a new barber.
Carmichael said that the political bent on his show came out of his own stand-up, where as Howery “comes from a very personal place.”
“We’ll try to bring the truth but with a different perspective,” says Carmichael.
“We got a #HeToo episode,” joked Howery.
Asked whether there were boundaries in comedy, Carmichael responded “I don’t think anything is too sensitive to be analyzed or explored, especially when you approached it like a human being.”
“We talk about age and skin color,” said Sinbad who plays Howery’s dad on the show, “It’s the duty of comedy to touch about those things that people don’t want to talk about. You can sneak a punch in through comedy — I’m going to have you deal with it — and the conversation opens up.”