On Thursday night, April 1, 2021, the pilot show of a new comedy aired on CBS. The United States of Al is about an Afghan interpreter who comes to America to live with his friend Riley – a former Marine who he worked for in Helmand province, Afghanistan. The first show was pleasant to watch and there is hope that future episodes will be as entertaining.
The Afghan interpreter, Awalmir or Al for short, worked with the US military in Afghanistan for several years. He and his Marine friend bonded and Al found his way to the United States – with some assistance from his friend. Presumably, he enters on a Special Immigrant Visa – reserved for Afghan and Iraqi interpreters who assisted US forces. His arrival in the US was preceded with time spent hiding from the Taliban in Afghanistan – they had earmarked him for death because of his service to the American military forces.
His host – no longer serving in the Marines – is excited to have his friend here in the states (Columbus, Ohio). However, the former Marine appears to be having some adjustment problems. Some drinking, mood swings, living in his Dad’s garage, and separation from his wife pretty much describes his life. I am sure, as time goes on, we will discover additional problems the young man is experiencing. Al is going through some adjustments of his own – learning and understanding the American culture. And he is missing his family still in Afghanistan.
Naturally, Al – who seems to be quite the optimist – gets right to work to set things right with his host. This includes assuming the role of marriage counselor and ‘life coach’. Even though the show spends a lot of time depicting the readjustment problems a war veteran has . . . it is still funny. The producers will probably need to expand the material beyond this if it is to remain interesting . . . and humorous.
The depiction of the Marine, played by Parker Young, seems to be on track. Nothing out of the ordinary to cast doubt on the authenticity of the character. Al, played by Adhir Kalyan, seems to be an unlikely Afghan interpreter – his English is almost too good. Al comes with quite a sense of humor. Some critics have complained that Al – an actor of Indian and South African descent – should have been played by a real Afghan. I am not sure this is a problem. The show has a number of Afghans doing the writing so there shouldn’t be any concerns. It appears that the other principle characters in the show are Riley’s dad, his sister, his daughter, and his wife (played by Kelli Goss).
Chuck Lorre brings The United States of Al to our television sets. Lorre is the executive producer of The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, and Mom. So this show is promising based on the track record of Lorre. If you Google for reviews of The United States of Al you may find most of the ‘Hollywood’ experts giving it less than high marks. But I am wary of listening to that crowd – and will make my own judgements in time.
I am not a television watcher – very few shows interest me. However, between 2002 and 2017 I had spent a good part of nine different years in Afghanistan as service member and contractor. So learning about a comedy about an Afghan interpreter coming to the states had my interest. I was able to endure the multitude of commercials and saw the one half hour show to its completion. The comedy was good enough that I will check it out next week as well. Part of my weekly routine? We shall see.
The United States of Al
Thursday nights, 8:30 EST, CBS