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New CBS sitcom ‘United States of Al’ not going over well in ‘woke’ America

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It’s getting to the point in woke post-Obama America where television sitcoms may soon be a thing of the past, having reached the point where it’s all but impossible not to offend someone in today’s hypersensitive society.

A new CBS sitcom, “United States of Al,” is getting strong criticism for its portrayal of one of the lead characters, Awalmir, aka Al, an effeminate Afghan interpreter played by actor Adhir Kalyan.

Not that those behind the show are not pushing back.

The mid-season series by Chuck Lorre, producer of “The Big Bang Theory,” is set to premier on April 1, and the show is being billed as a warm-hearted comedy about the friendship between a Marine combat veteran, played by actor Parker Young, and the interpreter who served in his unit in Afghanistan.

The Awalmir character moves to America to start a new life as the veteran character, Riley, struggles to readjust to civilian life in Ohio.

One of the complaints surfacing on social media about the sitcom is that Kalyan is not Afghan — the actor is from South Africa.

Apparently, another strike against him is that he had a role in another Chuck Lorre sitcom.

The tweets being just the tip of the iceberg from Broadway singer-actor Pia Glenn, who posted a whole series of complaints — imagine being that invested in a sitcom.

There’s also a racial factor at play for some — after all, the show dared to cast a white man as the Marine vet. Then again, given the current state of affairs, we should be grateful that white males are still being cast. For now.

Another complaint is that the show is “romanticizing occupation forces,” there being no need to guess the political leanings of that critic.

The tweet is from Sana Saeed, a host with the Al Jazeera Media Network, who said: “gotta love sitcoms romanticizing occupation forces and the relationships they build along the way.”

Reza Aslan, one of the show’s executive producers, came to the sitcom’s defense.

“Maybe learn a little about the show, it’s creators, it’s producers, it’s four Afghan writers, it’s plot, and pretty much everything else before you announce your opinion of it. Just a thought,” he replied to one critic.

To another critic, he suggested that the show is “literally talking about a true story.”

“There are dozens and dozens of Afghan interpreters living with US soldiers,” Aslan said. “We know cause we actually spoke to them. This is literally their story. Speak from facts not feelings brother.”

Aslan, who is Iranian-American, would answer the charge that Adhir Kalyan is not Afghan.

“There are five Afghan characters in the show and four of them are played by Afghans,” he tweeted. “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.”

The executive producer also said the show works “hand in hand” with No One Left Behind, a non-profit dedicated to ensuring that America keeps its promise to Iraq and Afghan interpreters.

Tom Tillison

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