So we have a guy who is a standup comedian that gets his own sitcom. He has a male and female sidekick who come in and out of his life. We’ve seen this formula dozens of times before. It all began with Seinfeld but no one has been able to recapture that magic that we had between Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer. The new multi-camera half-hour comedy “Rel” starring Lil Rel Howery is another such attempt that at least initially falls short. Then again it’s probably unfair to compare a newcomer to what is one of the most successful sitcoms of all time.
Lil Rel Howery has appeared in the recently canceled “The Carmichael Show” which I enjoyed. However he is most famous for his role in the hit movie “Get Out” as the comic relief sidekick TSA agent who gives Daniel Kaluuya advice over the telephone as he faces his bizarre future in-laws. He is now capitalizing on that success with this new sitcom.
The premise of the show is that he is a nurse living on the south side of Chicago whose wife had an affair with his barber. She takes their two kids and moves to Cleveland. He tries to get over the shame of the loss. He is supported by his best friend Britney played by Jessica “Jess Hilarious” Moore and his ne’er-do-well brother Nat played by Jordan L Jones. Nat is recently out of jail and is constantly denying that he was a meth dealer. It wasn’t meth it was ecstasy like that makes a big difference.
Their father is played by veteran comedian Sinbad who is disappointed in both of his sons. In one scene where they go to church, dad tries to be supportive of his recently divorced son but he insists that he not sit near him because he doesn’t want to be associated with a guy who could lose his wife to a barber. The preacher in the church is also played by Howery made up in a bald cap and a beard.
My ultimate test for a sitcom is “did it make me laugh?” And on several occasions this one did. The first episode was pretty much a one joke story about the shame of losing your wife to your barber. It remains to be seen if the show remains creative and funny or just becomes a string of well-worn clichés.
Admittedly because I’m an old white guy I not going to have as much appreciation for some of the cultural context of an African-American cast and story. I probably will not continue to watch. I already enjoy “black-ish” and found it to be funnier than “Rel”. Don’t let my lack of enthusiasm for the show turn you off. It does have some very funny moments and I suppose once I got used to the characters I might appreciate it more. But in an already crowded space I will not be adding it to my watchlist.
Because I did laugh I will give it a very strong rating of “Could be watchable“. If you’re looking for a good African-American comedy you should check it out for yourself.
That show appears on Fox. The pilot episode was shown September 9 as a sneak preview and is available on demand. Regular episodes premier September 30.