Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Carmichael Show tackles a woman’s right to choose in a solid episode

Illustration for article titled The Carmichael Show tackles a woman’s right to choose in a solid episode

Part of the fun of watching The Carmichael Show is seeing how Jerrod Carmichael and his writers come up with new ways to trap the characters in one room so they have no choice but to talk to each other. By the hopefully forthcoming third season, they’ll have to get trapped inside an elevator or a biosphere, and I look forward to both. Since it’s still early yet, there are plenty of tricks Carmichael hasn’t used, and “Perfect Storm” takes advantage of a classic: the storm of the century.

Of course, the title has a double meaning, as the storm puts Jerrod and Maxine in a compromised position. The episode begins with Jerrod and Maxine fretting over a broken condom, which Jerrod may or may not have purchased from the dollar store. (Hopefully that wasn’t a joke; the very idea of dollar store condoms is hilarious to me.) They run out to CVS to grab the Plan B pill, but the severity of the storm leads them to take shelter at Joe and Cynthia’s house. Maxine lets it slip that they left the house to brave gale-force winds just for a trip to CVS. If they weren’t going for something essential like a Cam Newton selfie or a pack of cinnamon-flavored Trident, what could have possibly been so important?

Leave it to Bobby to blow up their spot and surmise that Maxine is pregnant. Credit goes to Carmichael and co-writer Ari Katcher for making a family discussion of Jerrod and Maxine’s sexual mishap seem totally unforced. The scene could have easily come off contrived, and it still sort of does, if only because of the economy demanded by a 22-minute, three-act format. But the conversation is entirely plausible, which is why Carmichael continues to be so interesting and terrific. Its conversations about issues of the day end up sounding way more organic than they have any right to.

Based on the episode’s title, I was kind of hoping “Perfect Storm” wasn’t quite so topical. Don’t get me wrong, Carmichael’s topicality is what gives the show its juice, and “Perfect Storm” does great things with its discussion of emergency contraception. But I’m becoming so fond of these characters that I also like the idea of them getting trapped in the basement during a huge storm and riffing on everything and nothing at the same time. The actors are able to do so much with so little, as seen when Joe announces Jerrod and Maxine’s arrival to Cynthia, who’s already down in the basement. I still can’t figure out how David Alan Grier managed to make that pop the way he did, but he did it.

Once everyone is huddled together, Cynthia takes issue with Jerrod and Maxine’s plan to interrupt the potential pregnancy, going so far as to flush the pill down the toilet. That bit seems like a stretch, even for a serial meddler like Cynthia, but it was worth it if only for the “plan C” line. The flushing of the pill also gives Nekeisha a way into the story, and this show always, always needs more Nekeisha. (Probably not a lot more, because she’s definitely a character that works better as seasoning than as a main course, but still.) As usual, Nekeisha gets some of the best moments of the episode, including a dramatic entrance timed perfectly with the flickering electricity, and proudly announces that she has Abilify “on deck.”

“Perfect Storm” also continues Carmichael’s streak of rooting its topical discussions in character development so they don’t feel like a writing exercise. Here, the debate uncovers the uncomfortable truth that Jerrod is not gung-ho about having kids while Maxine is adamant about it. The show occasionally makes Maxine sound too close to Jerrod, as if the only way to answer Jerrod’s arguments is to argue the same way he does. Maxine says they should have kids because “that’s what people do,” which sounds more like observational comedy than the rationale of an aspiring mother. And Jerrod’s explanation that he may not want kids but will always want her would mollify exactly no women ever. Still, “Perfect Storm” is yet another example of Carmichael doing a lot with a little.


Stray observations

  • More Nekeisha: The look on her face when Bobby starts talking about the pain of being unable to have kids is classic.
  • Jerrod: “How do you know so much about Plan B?” Maxine: “Because I’m an adult, Jerrod.” Jerrod: “I’m an adult too. I broke a condom today.”
  • I love how Joe pulled the $7,000 price tag for Plan B out of thin air.
  • This was a more interesting conversation about Plan B than the one in Master Of None.