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DanaK

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CBS comedy by Chuck Lorre, Thursday’s, 8:30pm, premiered last night. About a former Marine who was stationed in Afghanistan struggling to work through issues while welcoming his Afghan interpreter who he got into the US

I thought the pilot and the cast were pretty charming, including the guy playing Al, while awkward and kind of shaky as is usual for a pilot. There are several Afghan writers on staff and Afghan actors in the cast, though Al is played by an Indian actor

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I liked it.  The show had some decent jokes (kind of a modern take on "Perfect Strangers") but also touched on some interesting real-life issues with vets returning home from war.  I'll definitely watch it again, and I'm glad they moved the MUCH less watchable "B Positive" to make room for this show.

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Though they are clearly trying to properly represent the Afghan and Muslim experience, especially with Afghan writers and producers, I do wish they had cast an Afghan for the role of Al (the actor is a South African of Indian heritage) to be more authentic. An interview with either the actor or the show creators suggested it was hard to cast narrowly for a role they felt required experience and some other qualities. They may be right but maybe they should have cast a little closer to home. The show has gotten some controversy, with pushback from Afghan activists that it may not properly show the Afghan experience, though some of the criticism has been based partly on the trailer

Similar to "Mom" and some other sitcoms, it's a comedic show with some heavy elements, including Riley being a Marine with PTSD and Al and Riley having gone through some harrowing experiences in Afghanistan

Also, I rather liked Riley's estranged wife Vanessa and she only had one scene I think. There were some weighty topics in that discussion between the two of them

Edited by DanaK
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I liked some of the moments, and I really believe and appreciate the bond between the two men. However, the pilot is giving me an uneasy feeling the show concept simply substitutes a "Magical Muslim" into the old literature/media "Magical Negro" trope. I really don't want Al's sole purpose to be solving all of the problems his American friends are experiencing, teaching them to be better people through the sharing of his cultural wisdom and insights. I'd like to see that Al doesn't solely exist as instructor/mentor/guru for Riley and his family - give me some deeper insight into who Al is as a person, and some focus on his journey and personal growth in America. If the series sticks with the "I'm so grateful to you for bringing me here, I'm going to devote my life to fixing you" primary motivation for Al, I don't know how long I'll stay interested.

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5 hours ago, Gregg247 said:

 kind of a modern take on "Perfect Strangers"

Perfect Strangers is the first thing I thought of, too.

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I kind of loved it. I like the actor who played Al; he played Timmy on "Rules of Engagement." I don't have an issue that he's not Afghan; that's why it's called "acting."

The actor who plays Riley was also on "Enlisted," a short-lived comedy on Fox. If I recall, he was the dimwitted brother soldier. (Plus, he's easy on the eyes.)

I thought they hit some pretty heavy topics, which I liked. I work with veterans who have PTSD, and a lot of what they (and their spouses) have told me sounds exactly like what Riley and his wife are going through.

I'd rather the "Magic Muslim" than the stereotype of the "Terrorist Muslim."

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31 minutes ago, SmithW6079 said:

 (Plus, he's easy on the eyes.)

I appreciated the gratuitous shot of Riley in his boxers. The actor who plays the dad has great timing. They showed his best lines in the commercials but I still laughed. I too hope they flesh Al out more completely.

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19 minutes ago, Grizzly said:

I appreciated the gratuitous shot of Riley in his boxers. The actor who plays the dad has great timing. They showed his best lines in the commercials but I still laughed. I too hope they flesh Al out more completely.

For any Breaking Bad fans - you go, Hank!

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I found it deeply uncomfortable. Al really did seem like a wind-up toy, more for entertainment than a real person. He was so bubbly and happy, for a guy who spent six years running for his life. It's hard to laugh at the jokes he makes, considering you know he has family who could be brutally killed.

Also, you have to believe he's a bit more intelligent than someone who thinks you can bite fruit and not have to pay for it. 

If you want a show that does Muslims well, Little Mosque on the Prairie was so much better. 

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Loved the scenes of Lizzie and her dad. Bertha for the win.

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On 4/2/2021 at 10:07 PM, SmithW6079 said:

The actor who plays Riley was also on "Enlisted," a short-lived comedy on Fox. If I recall, he was the dimwitted brother soldier. (Plus, he's easy on the eyes.)

He was also the handsome, but insanely dumb, jock neighbor boy on Suburgatory. That was another fun show that ended too soon.

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http://www.thefutoncritic.com/showatch/united-states-of-al/listings/
 

They flipped last night’s episode’s and next week’s episode’s airdates. Makes sense because the “marriage counseling” storyline continued. Honestly Al needs to cut out that crap. It’s getting old already. But I guess that’s who he is. Can’t wait to meet Hazel. I loved the Art/Lizzie dynamic and the three year flashback at the end so we got to see what Michael was like.

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1 hour ago, nelroy78 said:

http://www.thefutoncritic.com/showatch/united-states-of-al/listings/
 

They flipped last night’s episode’s and next week’s episode’s airdates. Makes sense because the “marriage counseling” storyline continued. Honestly Al needs to cut out that crap. It’s getting old already. But I guess that’s who he is. Can’t wait to meet Hazel. I loved the Art/Lizzie dynamic and the three year flashback at the end so we got to see what Michael was like.

The Art/Lizzie scenes were the best part of the episode, as was the flashback. I was not quite expecting the dad to be so loving and gentle given how he seemed to come across in the pilot.

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Tuned into this for 3 reasons:  Dean Norris, it’s a Chuck Lorre show, and Dean Norris. Both last week and this, shut it halfway through. Just can’t stand the writing and the stilted performances of said writing (except of course for Dean Norris 😏). [I’ve been a fan of his since he played Hank in BB.] I’ll cut a show some slack until it finds its legs, but I’m not sure about this one (even if it does feature Dean Norris 🙂).

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I wonder if Al's relentless cheerfulness is not a reaction to growing up in a war-torn country. Has there ever been a time when Afghanistan wasn't involved in conflict during the past 50 years? Perhaps it is his way of dealing with PTSD, in contrast to the way Riley deals with his. At first I would have pegged Al as being in his mid- to late 20s, but the actor is late 30s, so I don't know how old Al is supposed to be on the show.

While he may be meddling in Riley's marriage, perhaps it's because of his sense of obligation to him for getting Al out of Afghanistan, although I guess you could argue that Riley was the one under obligation, since Al was risking his life and the lives of his family to be an interpreter for the Americans. Then again, Al could consider Riley family.

According to the website Cultural Atlas: 

Quote

One’s family is the single most important aspect of life in Afghanistan. Afghan culture is very collectivistic and people generally put their family’s interests before their own. This means that family responsibilities tend to hold a greater importance than personal needs. Loyalty to one’s family also generally supersedes any obligations to one’s tribe or ethnicity.

The sister's storyline was gut-wrenching; I think there's going to be a lot of that in this show. She's not coping with her grief and the ramifications of Operation Enduring Freedom. Seeing the flashback of the two couples hanging out at the bar and knowing that within three years, the fiancé will be killed in action was heartbreaking.

   

Edited by SmithW6079
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Knowing that there are four Afghan Writers on the show makes me want to stick with it longer.   Also, for a sitcom, I think they are touching on some important topics (loss, PTSD).  I'll add it to my dvr queue.

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I just wish they'd flesh out Al a bit more. He still acts like a wind-up toy, so cheerful that it's cloying. Unless they are preparing us for when he does break down, which would be brutal beyond words and hard on a comedy. 

Also, Dean Norris is a genius actor. His tenderness with his brother, 

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On 4/2/2021 at 10:07 PM, SmithW6079 said:

it. I like the actor who played Al; he played Timmy on "Rules of Engagement

I  can’t believe I didn’t recognize him since I always watched Rules of Engagement and loved Timmy, can say I love Al. 

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Well.  A sitcom that made me cry.  That's a surprise bonus.

 

I'm so happy Dean Norris isn't playing a big narrow-minded ham steak who only opens his mouth to change his racist feet.

 

Already a big Timmy fan, I'm prepared to love (almost) all these characters.  The screechy blonde wife in the low-cut tee shirts seems like a miss.  Those Modern Family girls have good comedic timing and I think they're available.

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On 4/12/2021 at 12:51 PM, SmithW6079 said:

I wonder if Al's relentless cheerfulness is not a reaction to growing up in a war-torn country. Has there ever been a time when Afghanistan wasn't involved in conflict during the past 50 years? Perhaps it is his way of dealing with PTSD, in contrast to the way Riley deals with his. At first I would have pegged Al as being in his mid- to late 20s, but the actor is late 30s, so I don't know how old Al is supposed to be on the show.

While he may be meddling in Riley's marriage, perhaps it's because of his sense of obligation to him for getting Al out of Afghanistan, although I guess you could argue that Riley was the one under obligation, since Al was risking his life and the lives of his family to be an interpreter for the Americans. Then again, Al could consider Riley family.

According to the website Cultural Atlas: 

The sister's storyline was gut-wrenching; I think there's going to be a lot of that in this show. She's not coping with her grief and the ramifications of Operation Enduring Freedom. Seeing the flashback of the two couples hanging out at the bar and knowing that within three years, the fiancé will be killed in action was heartbreaking.

   

I must have missed this episode.  It sounds moving.  I'm finding this show to be sweet and delightful.  The most recent one, I think, about Al not wanting to enter a girl's bedroom and then, at the DMV, seeing a girl's bare legs for the first time, not only showed part of Afghani customs, but the United States' as well.  Different cultures.  I think Al is adorable.  A little overbearing, but I think he'll learn to fit in.

 

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I really enjoyed tonight’s episode. I think they are starting to really flesh out the characters. I enjoyed Al defending taking care of family and how he wanted pictures with the lawn mower. It is a reminder of how blessed we are in this country and that the things that we take for granted because to us it is just normal and expected.
My brother and I went to the same university (it is Catholic) and his roommate and best friend Farrukh is a Muslim from Pakistan. He is one of the most lovely people I have ever met in my life. He spent many holidays, including and couple of Christmas’s with our family. 

We haven’t seen each other in person in over 28 years, way too long. He hasn’t met my Jewish husband but they have talked. They are both amazing, loving men. 

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I think Al was wrong to keep pushing his views of respect on the family when he’s a guest in their home. He should have talked to them before pushing his views and they should have told him to shut up. But the standoff between him and the daughter with the food was funny and the talk about missing her dad when he was at war was moving

Also, given Al just fell off the roof and broke his leg, it seems to me Riley should have called an ambulance instead of moving him using their car and going to Urgent Care

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9 hours ago, DanaK said:

Also, given Al just fell off the roof and broke his leg, it seems to me Riley should have called an ambulance instead of moving him using their car and going to Urgent Care

It was the dad who fell off the roof.  I thought Urgent Care was an odd statement too. 

The way Riley reacted, checking his pupils, setting up a splint and then later in the hospital saying he wanted to help people, I thought they were setting him up to become an EMT.   He seems to have some basic first-aid training and given his combat experience should be able to handle the stress of an EMT.

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I like Al's beliefs in children respecting their elders and helping around the house (things I was not good at as a lad!) but he did seem to go a little overboard with it, given that he's living in someone else's house.  Also, I'm with Hazel; I would have NEVER eaten that spinach thing! haha

What's the best way for Al to help this family "be better"?  I don't know, but I like the fact that this show is demonstrating this difference in cultures and looking for "the best way" (or at least the middle ground) for raising a family with respect, duty, and love.

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1 hour ago, gadzooks said:

It was the dad who fell off the roof.  I thought Urgent Care was an odd statement too. 

The way Riley reacted, checking his pupils, setting up a splint and then later in the hospital saying he wanted to help people, I thought they were setting him up to become an EMT.   He seems to have some basic first-aid training and given his combat experience should be able to handle the stress of an EMT.

I thought the same thing.  That scene really seemed to demonstrate that EMT could be a good career choice for Riley.  Plus, it was nice to actually see his competence for once.  He's told us that he enjoyed being in the Marines and was good at it, but since he's come home there's been a lot of struggling and angst so it's great to see him taking charge and handling an emergency.

Overall I'm liking this show more than I expected to.  The family interactions seem realistic - they love each other but can drive each other crazy at times.  It's also really sweet how they all welcomed Al into their home and are doing their best to make him comfortable and help him fit in.  Heck, I even like Vanessa.  I didn't think she came across too well in the trailer, but in the actual show she's pretty sympathetic.  She clearly tried to make the marriage work but they just have too many issues at this point.  I'll be interested to see what direction the show takes them.

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1 hour ago, gadzooks said:

It was the dad who fell off the roof.  I thought Urgent Care was an odd statement too. 

Yes, thanks for the correction. I goofed and used the wrong name.

A fall off a roof and a likely broken leg should mean straight to the ER not Urgent Care

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I like Al but he annoyed me with how he thinks Hazel should behave. She's a good kid who helps when asked. Giving her a dollar to do chores is fine if there's the family's way. She says "please" when asking her grandfather for juice. It's also not a big deal if her parents ask what she wants for dinner. I assume they will veto anything outrageous. Hazel probably know her parent's usual recipes and cooking skills by now.

Yeah, cultural differences, but it's not his place to override her parent's style and act like his way is the "right" way.

Again, I like Al. The actor makes him likeable and I understand why he feels the way he does even if I don't agree. 

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23 hours ago, DanaK said:

Yes, thanks for the correction. I goofed and used the wrong name.

A fall off a roof and a likely broken leg should mean straight to the ER not Urgent Care

Not to get all cynical but I wonder if the mention of "Urgent Care" was some type of in-show commercial or product placement.  Are those even done any more ?

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39 minutes ago, gadzooks said:

Not to get all cynical but I wonder if the mention of "Urgent Care" was some type of in-show commercial or product placement.  Are those even done any more ?

I’m pretty sure they are but Urgent Care is pretty similarly used like the ER; there are many Urgent Care places with actual names

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Did they ever give an explanation why Riley lives in the garage instead of the house?  I am guessing it is supposed to be a 3 bedroom house with grandpa in one, sister in another, and the third is for when Hazel is visiting.  It just seems odd that Riley came back home and didn't move into his old room.  

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8 hours ago, needschocolate said:

Did they ever give an explanation why Riley lives in the garage instead of the house?  I am guessing it is supposed to be a 3 bedroom house with grandpa in one, sister in another, and the third is for when Hazel is visiting.  It just seems odd that Riley came back home and didn't move into his old room.  

Maybe he wants more privacy. Also maybe if he's in the garage, he can tell himself it's  temporary and he will either reconcile with his wife or afford his own place soon.

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8 hours ago, needschocolate said:

Did they ever give an explanation why Riley lives in the garage instead of the house?  I am guessing it is supposed to be a 3 bedroom house with grandpa in one, sister in another, and the third is for when Hazel is visiting.  It just seems odd that Riley came back home and didn't move into his old room.  

Maybe he gave his old room to Al since he is the guest. I don't think Riley and Al are sharing the couch in the garage.

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1 hour ago, eel21788 said:

Maybe he gave his old room to Al since he is the guest. I don't think Riley and Al are sharing the couch in the garage.

I think they actually are both sleeping in the garage.  Otherwise why would Al have gone out there for his early morning prayers?

Despite having to hand-wave a few logistic details like the bedroom setup, I continue to find myself unexpectedly charmed by this show.  All the characters are just so darned NICE.  Yeah, they all have personal issues that they're dealing with but they're just trying to do their best.  The conflicts (and humor) mostly come from innocent misunderstandings and I find that really refreshing rather than having the show try to mine humor out of an obviously obnoxious or racist character.

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I really appreciated the scene where Lizzie tells Al he is grieving. You see the happy, genie persona slip from his face to reveal what I think is the real Al. Kudos to the actor.

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On 4/30/2021 at 7:40 PM, Rose Quartz said:

I think they actually are both sleeping in the garage.  Otherwise why would Al have gone out there for his early morning prayers?

Despite having to hand-wave a few logistic details like the bedroom setup, I continue to find myself unexpectedly charmed by this show.  All the characters are just so darned NICE.  Yeah, they all have personal issues that they're dealing with but they're just trying to do their best.  The conflicts (and humor) mostly come from innocent misunderstandings and I find that really refreshing rather than having the show try to mine humor out of an obviously obnoxious or racist character.

I also think they showed an extra bed or a cot in addition to the sleeper sofa in the garage, although it does bother me that Riley isn't in his old bedroom. It looks like a pretty big house. Wouldn't the garage get cold? (It still has a garage door, so it hasn't been insulted or converted.) 

I'm already quite fond of this show. I find myself tearing up in almost every episode, though; something I've never done to such an extent in any other sitcom. Maybe it's because I'm friends with veterans who are going through many of the things that Riley is going through. I would like to see some more of Al's motivations for choosing to work with the Americans; it's a dangerous thing to do, but it doesn't look as though his family is in danger, although his admitting to Lizzie that he can never go home hints that his life would be forfeit if he returned to Afghanistan.

It must be hard for Lizzie; I hope we get to see more of her story. As Michael's fiancée, she's entitled to none of the benefits a widow would get for her husband's death in combat, and I bet there are people who would see her grief for "just a fiancée" as not equal to that of a widow's. 

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1 hour ago, SmithW6079 said:

 Wouldn't the garage get cold? (It still has a garage door, so it hasn't been insulted or converted.) 

Yeah. Ohio in winter it would definitely need to be a heated garage. 

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On 4/23/2021 at 9:32 AM, Gregg247 said:

I like Al's beliefs in children respecting their elders and helping around the house (things I was not good at as a lad!) but he did seem to go a little overboard with it, given that he's living in someone else's house.  Also, I'm with Hazel; I would have NEVER eaten that spinach thing! haha

What's the best way for Al to help this family "be better"?  I don't know, but I like the fact that this show is demonstrating this difference in cultures and looking for "the best way" (or at least the middle ground) for raising a family with respect, duty, and love.

At first this annoyed me, till I realize how genuinely shocking this would be for Al. 

This isn't "not agreeing on how the toilet roll hangs" this is major level rudeness, in a way that is actually quite baffling and overwhelming. 

Al is coming from a country with chronic food shortages. To see a kid turn up her adorable nose to food is disgusting. I think of my Holocaust survivor grandparents being shocked if I said I didn't like the food. Food was food and you were grateful you had.  

To see Hazal being rewarded for doing chores also makes no sense, in a culture where you pitched in and helped each other to survive. Hazel would come across incredibly entitled. 

And yes, I grew up in a culture that one stood when an elder came in. I found it shocking when I was eating out with friends, and the birthday girl invited a friend who was a priest to come to the dinner. I automatically stood up and everyone just stared.  (I'm not even Catholic, but one honors a teacher) To them, I was crazy formal. To me, it's as rude as belching in my host's faces. 

And yes, Hazal comes off as spoiled, and on Al's radar, the equivalent of a kid throwing a tantrum. So, he steps in because he thinks no one else is doing it. He clearly loves the kid as much as if she was his own, and he wants her to be raised well. If my goddaughter (who I adore more than anything) was older and pitching tantrums, I'd definitely step in. 

 

 

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I agree more with Al's idea of parenting, but I disagree that he has a right to intervene when the parents clearly don't want him to, especially in their own house. He can enforce whatever rules he wants with his own kids, or in his own home, or if the parents ask him to. But to create a conflict between a child and her parents, to me is extremely disrespectful to both.

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I'm really loving this show, every episode brings me to tears then straight into laughter. 

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Of course Al can sing. I wish we could have seen all of Lizzie's video show. Poor Riley, he really needs help to sort through what he experienced.

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How did this show end up in the “Other Comedies” section? Home Economics is in the main “Comedy” thread and has a thread for every episode  and it only has seven episodes this season. I hope this show and B+ are both renewed. All the episodes have been great. This deserves to be promoted from the “Other Comedies” section. I am glad I will have something to watch through late June.

Edited by nelroy78
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I don’t think it’s been explained what happened to Riley and Lizzie’s mom, has it? Was Art married to her?

Edited by nelroy78
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I adore everything about this show. The supportive family, the fairly amicable divorce where they still care about each other "I just want my daughters father to be OK", Al's culture shock and adapting to his new home, and the underlying messages rooted in the real world. 

15 hours ago, Grizzly said:

Poor Riley, he really needs help to sort through what he experienced.

I hope they explore this in a realistic way without going down the path of a suicide attempt or wrap it up in a nifty bubble. We don't need to see Riley in therapy every episode but seeing the path of going where he is, to actually getting help could very well help people watching the show. Chuck Lorre can do serious subjects and I choose to remain optimistic.

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I am glad I decided to check this show out, its really sweet and does a good job balancing the comedy and the drama. That's a tough balancing act, but this show manages it really well, like they can go from Al giving a very serious and poignant speech about the risks that Afgan interpreters take to help American troops and the importance of helping them, to him doing a whole song number right after. And Al can really sing! 

Between this show and 9-1-1 I have been seeing Jerry/Garry/Larry all over the place lately. Its clear that Riley isn't ready to talk about what he experienced while in combat, but I hope he can get to the point where he can get help, or at least talk about it. At least his family is all trying to be supportive, even his almost ex wife and her new goofy boyfriend. Which is something I really like about the show, everyone is basically a nice person and most conflicts come from personal issues and quirks or cultural differences, not people being intentionally mean. 

 

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6 hours ago, tennisgurl said:

everyone is basically a nice person and most conflicts come from personal issues and quirks or cultural differences, not people being intentionally mean.

That's a really good point. I wish more shows would take that approach.

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I found the last episode to be poignant and informative. So many Afghans and their families have put themselves and their families in great danger bY helping US and Allied Troops. Way too often, we take freedom for granted in the USA, because we have it in abundance.

I really appreciated the PSA at the end that said we are pulling out of Afghanistan and we promised those who Helped us that we would provide them and their families safety? However, 17,000 are iM great danger.

IMHO, All of these allies should have been helped years ago and we should have always had their backs as Americans not matter put political leanings.

 

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17 hours ago, nelroy78 said:

How did this show end up in the “Other Comedies” section? Home Economics is in the main “Comedy” thread and has a thread for every episode  and it only has seven episodes this season. I hope this show and B+ are both renewed. All the episodes have been great. This deserves to be promoted from the “Other Comedies” section. I am glad I will have something to watch through late June.

The topic didn’t exist when the show premiered so I figured there wasn’t enough interest and started it in the Other Comedies section.  If it gets enough responses, we can ask that it be moved to the Main Comedy section

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On 5/7/2021 at 8:06 AM, nelroy78 said:

I don’t think it’s been explained what happened to Riley and Lizzie’s mom, has it? Was Art married to her?

I wondered about that, too.

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