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Pop culture has a tendency to hold a mirror up to society, sometimes using it to point out our progress and our accomplishments, and other times using it to highlight what we still need to figure out. One topic that NBC's The Carmichael Show hasn't shied away from in its three seasons is race, and Season 4 will double down on that by actually airing that most notorious N-word, uncensored, on network television. I recently talked to David Alan Grier about it, and he explained that it's important for The Carmichael Show to address the word because it's still an issue that exists in modern culture. Grier explained:
It's very important. 'Nincompoop' is what you're talking about. Yeah I mean that's a long discussion but usually it just breaks down generationally. You know, we have some new and different stuff to talk about because we're still talking about it. I mean, for me personally I'm tired of talking about this shit. Like my whole life, the Arab/Israeli conflict, the N word, poor people, poverty, hunger, war, racism. I thought as a kid that all that stuff would be wrapped up...It never left; it's just our tradition. . . . I just thought I'd be on a talk show going 'Whelp, it's done. No one's hungry, all the hungry jokes are old news.'
David Alan Grier kept everyone laughing during the NBC Universal summer press day in Los Angeles as he talked about this really serious issue, but he made a point that's very clearly worth addressing. The Carmichael Show is going to broach the topic of the N-word because that particular piece of derogatory slang remains an aspect of our civilization. The entirety of society hasn't moved completely beyond racism, so it makes sense for a show with an entirely black cast (and a series that has a reputation for tackling big social concepts) to be the one to highlight it for today's audiences.
Sitcoms have a long history of addressing larger societal issues in humorous (albeit poignant) ways. Norman Lear sitcoms of the 1970s such as All in the Family and The Jeffersons drew most of their content from topical ideological class and race conflicts of that particular era, and that's one of the main reasons why these shows have managed to persist and live on for decades. In that regard, The Carmichael Show is actually carrying on a long tradition of comedic commentary by addressing this racial epithet head on. Times change, but sitcoms stay the same, I suppose.