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The United States of Al is yet another stale immigrant story, making its "good immigrant" the butt of all jokes

  • It's clear from the script that you are not supposed to find Adhir Kalyan's Al interesting, let alone relatable, says Poppy Noor. She points out that the CBS comedy makes its peripheral characters more interesting than its title character. Al, says Noor, "is the archetype of a 'good immigrant,' whose sole purpose is to be the butt of all jokes and help the show’s white characters find happiness. (Executive producer Chuck) Lorre has past form on this – he did, after all, create The Big Bang Theory, whose only non-white central character is Rajesh Koothrappali, whose main character traits are his Indian accent and the way he can’t speak directly to women, and whose parents are always trying to get him an arranged marriage. And there is of course that small matter of the constant Indian jokes. 'I made chicken. Now I hope that’s not one of the animals you people think is magic,' Sheldon Cooper’s mother says to Raj in one episode. Compare this to some of the more exciting immigrant characters we have had on TV recently and you will see that such portrayals are as regressive as they are sloppy. In Golden Globe winner Ramy Youssef’s eponymous show Ramy, you see the way in which his parents navigate the pressures, cultural differences and contradictions of being immigrants in the US while raising American children. They are not model citizens: they make embarrassing mistakes, constantly insult the US and question its values (as is their American right), and you see that their morality is sometimes dubious, their motivations sometimes self-serving."

    TOPICS: United States of Al, CBS, Muslim Americans and TV