Sunday, May 30, 2021

What I’m Watching: United States of Al

United States of Al: Season 1, Episode 9 “Birthday/Kaleeza” (B+)

One of the most rewarding elements of this show is the way in which it identifies assumed parts of American culture that just don’t exist the same way in Afghanistan and manages to find meaning in them rather than just basic comedy. I wanted to ask what date of birth Al had printed on his passport or whatever document he needed in order to fly across the world to the United States, but I realize that’s not quite as relevant as the idea that he has never celebrated his birthday or given its occurrence any weight. I like the way Hazel sees the world and encourages Al to do the same, and though she got into a noise-making fight in the store with him, she was the more mature one when Lizzie had fun sucking helium to get her voice to be high-pitched. Riley’s attempt at magic was unfortunate and it was very clear to Al and the audience where he was hiding the tiny handkerchief, and Freddy’s bowling ball stunt was far more impressive. Riley is occasionally mature, and acknowledging, however begrudgingly, that Freddy was going to be sticking around was a big step. I enjoyed Art’s response to Riley warning him not to hurt his back while lifting something that the joke was on him and his back always hurt, and it’s good to have him around for his one-liners. Al taking so long to make his wish and looking around happily was a sweet way to punctuate this episode’s message and this show’s heart.

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