Earlier this month, CBS released the first trailer for Chuck Lorre’s upcoming comedy United States of Al, which is set to debut on April 1. What should have been a delightful, fun look at the new sitcom turned into a backlash against the show.
Created by David Goetsch and Maria Ferrari, the series follows a friendship between Riley (Parker Young), a Marine combat veteran struggling to readjust to civilian life in Ohio, and Awalmir (“Al”) (Adhir Kalyan), the interpreter who served with his unit in Afghanistan and has just arrived to start a new life in America. Sounds harmless, right? Well, for many there are some red flags. For one, a non-Afghan actor is playing the titular role and in a time when authentic representation is paramount, it was a spark that started a substantial amount of backlash.
Since the trailer’s release, Twitter was ablaze with criticism against the series and executive producer Reza Aslan spent a lot of his time trying to put out these fires, defending United States of Al.
“You can’t judge a show by a 30 sec trailer. Well, you shouldn’t, at least,” he responded to one tweet and in another he defended: “There are five Afghan characters in the show and four of them are played by Afghans. 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.”
“Maybe learn a little about the show, its creators, its producers, its four Afghan writers, its plot, and pretty much everything else before you announce your opinion of it,” Aslan wrote.
He contined, “Because it’s my show, I can make sure that it is written and produced by Afghans and Muslims. That it uses the format to reframe the perception that people have of both. That it portrays a Muslim Afghan protagonist in a true and honest light.”
Read some of the tweets below.
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