Chuck Lorre has been a constant fixture in the realm of TV for years now, having produced series like Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Mike and Molly and Mom. His latest sitcom, United States of Al, is set to hit CBS next month but, ahead of its premiere the show is already facing backlash. These negative reactions stem from the casting and handling of the show’s central character.
United States of Al stars Adhir Kalyan as Awalmir, an interpreter from Afghanistan who arrives in America to start a new life and reconnects with his Marine veteran friend. Following the release of the first trailer, critics have taken issue with a few things. One of these is the casting of Kalyan, who is a native of South Africa and was born to an Indian South African family. In a Twitter post, journalist and host Dean Obeidallah named this as the show’s “most glaring” issue:
There are many issues with United States of Al - but one of the most glaring is not casting an Afghan actor to play the starring role of the translator from Afghanistan. Hollywood has long mocked/demonized Muslims without even casting Muslims to play the role.
Broadway star Pia Glenn offered up some honest thoughts on United States of Al in a series of tweets. One message took aim at a past tweet from BoomGen Studios (one of the companies behind the show), which announced the casting of Adhir Kalyan in the lead role:
Please don't fall for this utter bullshit. We're supposed to believe that "after a sweeping global search," they not only could NOT find an Afghan actor, but somehow magically landed on a series regular from a previous Chuck Lorre sitcom on CBS?
The show has also received criticism for its premise. Actress and writer Rekha Shankar also took to social media to express her displeasure with the show’s concept:
can someone tell Chuck Lorre that “what if a white person liked a brown person” is not a tv show concept
There are five Afghan characters in the show and four of them are played by Afghans. We saw 100 Afghan leads but sitcom is a specialized genre and it’s very tough to play. But we also have four Afghan writers/producers on the show who’ve done a great job helping Adhir.