An early episode of The Carmichael Show’s second season, which returns this Sunday on NBC, deals with one of the network’s former idols, Bill Cosby. The halcyon days of NBC’s “Must See TV” are long gone, and the episode mostly serves to reckon with the remains of Cosby’s disgraced legacy, which it does deftly. That a bare-bones sitcom like this can confront such a complex issue is an encouraging sign for the future of the genre—the Cosby episode is at once formulaic and strikingly modern. But it’s also a hopeful sign for the future of the sitcom. After its six-episode run proved a surprising success last summer with both critics and viewers, The Carmichael Show is back for a longer season , and it hasn’t lost a step—it’s still one of the most audacious comedies currently airing.
The stand-up comedian Jerrod Carmichael, who created the show alongside Nicholas Stoller, Ari Katcher, and Willie Hunter, is trying to do something many others have failed at: Revive the old-fashioned Norman Lear sitcom. Lear’s shows, which included All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Good Times, analyzed contemporary social and political issues at the dining room table, bringing debates about racism, politics, and generational differences to American viewers through the lens of many a beloved sitcom family. The Carmichael Show does the same, examining topics like transgender rights, Black Lives Matter, and obesity among African Americans in its abbreviated first season. This year’s topics are just as timely, while each loud debate is as funny as ever.