Chuck Lorre knows a thing or two about creating a successful sitcom, but his latest effort hasn’t quite hit the mark. While CBS did give United States of Al a second season to find its audience, the network has now pulled the plug and confirmed the show is canceled.
Lorre has a string of megahits to his name, including beloved shows such as Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, but United States of Al never quite managed to find its footing. The comedy series was created by fellow Big Bang Theory alums David Goetsch and Maria Ferrari with Lorre serving as an executive producer. With so much creative talent involved, you might assume the show was a guaranteed slam-dunk, but that's not been the case.
As relayed by The Hollywood Reporter, CBS is currently going through the process of selecting which of its shows to renew, and United States of Al hasn’t made the cut.
The multi-camera sitcom ran for 33 episodes across two seasons and followed the friendship between Riley (Parker Young), a Marine combat veteran struggling to readjust to civilian life, and Awalmir (Adhir Kalyan), an interpreter from Afghanistan looking to make a new start in America. The core setup was complicated by the real-life fall of Afghanistan, which happened just as the show’s second season was entering production.
Arguably, this cancelation doesn’t come as a huge surprise. From the very start, the show faced an uphill battle to stay on the air. It was quickly labeled “shockingly racist” for its casting of a non-Afghan actor in the lead role and was also criticized for its perceived romanticizing of the war in Afghanistan. Executive producer Reza Aslan responded at the time that four of the five Afghans on the show were played by people from the country, and that they also had four Afghan writers/producers working on it.
Its critical reception didn’t help much, either. United States of Al earned a rather poor 31% on Rotten Tomatoes, with most critics noting the show’s good intentions but criticizing its execution. However, viewers seemed slightly more receptive to the sitcom and it enjoyed a more respectable 54% audience score. Presumably there just weren’t enough people watching for CBS to greenlight a third season.
Curiously, this cancelation news comes before the show has actually finished airing its current season. The 22nd episode of season two, named “Chaos /Aashob”, is due to premiere on May 19, but it will now serve as a series conclusion. However, it was written and filmed before the show’s fate was sealed. Fingers crossed it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger.
While United States of Al may be over, Lorre still maintains a strong relationship with CBS, where his Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon continues to be a staple of the network’s comedy lineup. The spinoff show was given a multi-season renewal last year which will take it all the way up to season seven, and further seasons after that seem likely given its popularity.
If you think this cancelation is harsh, the CW just canceled 7 shows at once. And be sure to check out our guide to the 11 new shows and movies to watch this weekend on Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max and more.
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Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.