Chuck Lorre's United States of Al Draws Fire for Portrayal of Afghan Character

United States of Al

A new CBS sitcom from uber-producer Chuck Lorre is sparking controversy online well before it even hits air.

The Big Bang Theory producer’s midseason comedy United States of Al has raised red flags for its casting of a non-Afghan actor in the titular role of Al, and for the character’s general depiction. The series (which is currently set to premiere Thursday, April 1 at 9:30/8:30c) follows the relationship between a Marine combat veteran (Suburgatory‘s Parker Young) who returns to civilian life in Ohio along with his Afghan interpreter, Awalmir (Rules of Engagement‘s Adhir Kalyan), who moves to America to begin a new life. (Kalyan was born and raised in South Africa to an Indian South African family.)

The criticism stems from the trailer alone, which began circulating March 5.

Writer Rekha Shankar tweeted, “Can someone tell Chuck Lorre that ‘what if a white person liked a brown person’ is not a tv show concept.”

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Qasim Rashid, a human rights lawyer and author, also took offense tweeting, “This is so ridiculous and offensive I don’t have the words to express just how terribly bad this is on every conceivable level.”

Broadway singer-actor Pia Glenn fired off a series of responses leading with, “I remember hearing about this when it was in development & thinking NAH…surely someone will stop this from going into production,” before taking shots at Lorre, calling him “television’s Wonder Bread, the very popular staple that’s neither delicious nor necessary.”

Though Lorre has yet to comment, Reza Aslan, another of the show’s executive producers, stepped up to defend the show, tweeting, “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,” he wrote. “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… Fun fact: you haven’t seen it so can’t really comment from a place of knowledge now, can you?”

What do you think of the criticism, and will you be watching United States of Al? Let us know in the Comments!