If the intention of “United States of Al” is to highlight the contrasts and intricacies of Afghan culture, and to explore the weirdness of the fish out of Al’s water making new life in the Ohio, he has to dig a little deeper. (And maybe he should have started by introducing an Afghan actor like Al, rather than the South African Indian Kalyan). how a Middle Eastern and Muslim immigrant who spent years surrounded by war would adapt to American life. This series is called “United States of Al”, but the family that houses it are the real main characters. We see how the death of Lizzie’s fiancé in Afghanistan affected her, transforming her from a high performing student with a full commute to New York University to study art to a woman who spends her nights drinking. and in strangers’ beds. We see how Riley’s touring affected him: his inability to hold a job, his inability to stay true to his wife, his inability to cope with his lack of purpose.
But Al? What makes it Afghanistan, a country whose decades-long relationship with the United States has been marked by corruption, abuse and violence? Al looks perfectly fine, so totally unresponsive to his new life that the show almost seems to suggest that war is some kind of natural state for the Middle East, and therefore easy to brush off and pass off for the people of that region. (Tell that to the millions of people displaced by the U.S. War on Terror, the collapse of Iraq, the escalating drone warfare under the Obama administration, and the Syrian Civil War.) At one point, Riley affectionately calls him a “clown,” and that’s exactly what this show does. Al. If the intention of the “United States of Al” is to make Afghans “non-threatening” and make people watching the “tolerant” CBS sitcoms, I guess that’s a very trying way to go about it. But so far, the extent of Al’s usefulness in the show ostensibly named after him is to function as sSomething laugh, rather than somebody.
“United States of Al” begins by reuniting Riley and Al, who served together for six years in Afghanistan. It took Riley three years to firmly arm the US government with signing Al’s Visa paperwork (a federal trail of foot that put countless interpreters at risk during the Trump presidency and continues to this day. under Biden), and now Al has arrived in Ohio to live with Riley’s family. (The fact that this show doesn’t do an “Al was detained at the airport” subplot is both a relief and also feels like a sideways leap from a real issue that affects tons of people in the Middle. – East traveling to this country!) Shocked to learn that Riley and his wife Vanessa are separated and immediately volunteer to help them get back together, even though they are not both willing to do so. He also thinks that Riley is too lax of a parent for Hazel (she won’t eat spinach, oh no!) And too disobedient of a son to Art (Riley doesn’t do chores in a timely manner, oh no! ); Crazy how Afghan culture rigidly enforces generational piety, right?