Perception Is Everything In New NBC Comedy 'Grand Crew'

A new comedy series with an all-black cast seems intent on changing and improving the way black men are perceived.

The show, titled “Grand Crew” and premiering Tuesday night on NBC, does not specify where the negative perceptions it cites are coming from -- whether from white people, black communities, other groups, or all of the above.

One might think or even assume that the show is obliquely referring to the way whites perceive African-American men.

And yet, in an introductory segment at the beginning of the premiere episode of “Grand Crew,” the source of this misperception is not identified. Nor do the characters in the show address this issue at any point either.

The show’s theme is introduced and laid out succinctly by comic actor Garrett Morris, 84, who faces the camera and tells us what the show is driving at. 



Morris does not appear to be playing a character in the show, but serving more as a guide to what it is about. He is not a narrator, since no narration is evident on the show.

In any case, the necessity for this brief introduction is debatable. But nevertheless, there it is. Or rather, here it is, word for word.

“For ages, the black man has been seen as many things,” says Morris, “as sketchy, as wild, as arrogant and insensitive. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret about black men: We have a softer, more sensitive side … What I’m saying is, We got layers, y’all!”

I am not sure who goes around perceiving black men (by which I think he might mean all black men) as sketchy, wild, arrogant and insensitive, with no “softer” side.

Perhaps the most recalcitrant racists harbor these perceptions, but it is doubtful that the unspecified group or groups who are implied in this introduction have given this perception and its companion adjectives a whole lot of thought.

This theme seems to be an extra weight or burden, you might say, for this new sitcom about a group of 20- or 30-something friends who just happen to be black. 

New shows seeking to gain a foothold on the slippery slopes of prime-time television have enough to worry about without having to also take on a social assignment such as changing the way the world perceives black men.

As regular readers of this TV Blog (if there are any) know by now, this column’s primary desire when watching a TV comedy is to laugh, not to necessarily participate in social change.

Where “Grand Crew” is concerned, the premiere episode that NBC provided for preview was devoid of the kind of comedy that results in convulsive laughter, but few TV sitcoms nowadays do this anyway.

“Grand Crew” does start out promisingly enough, however. The characters are likable and well-defined. The principal storyline in the premiere has to do with one  character’s eagerness to propose to his girlfriend -- a move that his friends advise against.

But their conversations take place almost invariably over drinks or wine in a bar. This can lead to a perception that the show’s producers and writers likely did not intend.

These friends are seen consuming alcohol so frequently in the space of this 22-minute episode that it is reasonable to perceive them as alcoholics.

“Grand Crew” premieres Tuesday (December 14) with two back-to-back episodes at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Eastern on NBC.

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