Our never-ending war in Afghanistan is inspiring a new CBS comedy about a Marine Corps veteran struggling to readjust to life at home after his wartime service and his friendship with the newly immigrated interpreter who served alongside him in Afghanistan.
“United States of Al” is set to premiere April 1 in a coveted 9:30 p.m. Thursday slot following the season finale of the hit CBS comedy “The Unicorn.” Executive produced by Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory,” “Mom”) and created by “Big Bang” writers David Goetsch and Maria Ferrari, the series will be the first military-themed sitcom to air since Fox gave us “Enlisted” back in 2014.
Parker Young stars as Riley, the young Marine veteran who’s having trouble adjusting to life back home in Ohio. Who’s that, you ask? Well, he’s the same Parker Young who played the youngest brother on “Enlisted,” the underrated and unwatched military sitcom listed above.
Adhir Kalyan co-stars as Awalmir (a/k/a Al), the Afghan interpreter who arrives to start a new life in the USA. Kalyan is best known for playing opposite David Spade in the hit series “Rules of Engagement.”
What the series probably won’t emphasize is exactly how lucky Al would be to immigrate to Ohio. There are currently 100,000 Iraqis and 17,000 Afghans awaiting decisions as part of a program to grant safe passage to translators who served alongside U.S. troops at great personal risk. The Biden administration has just ordered a review of the program with an aim to speed up processing of open applications.
CBS and the producers aren’t offering many details about the show yet, but there’s one casting note that might offer a clue. Dean Norris, best known for playing Hank Schrader on “Breaking Bad,” is co-starring in the show. We’d lay strong odds that Dean will be playing a reactionary boss/neighbor/relative who’s a veteran himself and possibly working in law enforcement.
This will be the Lorre team’s fifth show currently airing on CBS alongside “Young Sheldon,” “Mom,” “Bob Hearts Abishola” and “B Positive.” Lorre has long loved to tell “fish out of water” stories, and this series will definitely put a character through the wringer in new and unfamiliar territory.
In an attempt to make sure they get the cultural references right, the team has hired religious scholar Reza Aslan as an executive producer. Aslan is the best-selling author of “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth” and until recently the host of the CNN series “Believer.”
Will “United States of Al” be funny? Probably, since it’s anchored by two gifted comic actors and produced by a team that’s had quite the track record of late. Is a country that’s spent the last two decades anxious about immigration and Islamic culture ready for a comedy like this? We’ll find out later this spring.
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