Chuck Lorre’s dangerously unusual new sitcom is a surprisingly nuanced and authentic take on opposites attracting — especially when one of the opposites is a Nigerian immigrant.
This recap of Bob Hearts Abishola (CBS) Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”, contains spoilers.
I don’t think I can count high enough to take account of all the ways that Bob Hearts Abishola (CBS) could and perhaps should have gone wrong. It’s about a lonely white guy romantically pursuing a mostly uninterested Nigerian nurse. That premise, courtesy of Chuck Lorre? It’s a gamble for sure, but I’m pleased to share that the gamble really paid off. After Bob Hearts Abishola Episode 1, this is immediately one of the best sitcoms airing right now; a funny, unique, and surprisingly authentic depiction of cultural differences and the American immigrant experience.
I can’t speak to that authenticity entirely, being white and English, but as someone who grew up with friends of Nigerian descent, I can tell you without question that the titular Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku) is immediately recognizable as the no-nonsense, education-obsessed hardworking mother — a stereotype, maybe, but one that, in my admittedly limited experience, is accurate about 100% of the time. The secret weapon of Bob Hearts Abishola is that it mostly couches itself in Abishola’s perspective, and that of her family — seventh-grader son Dele (Travis Wolfe Jr.) and meddling Aunt and Uncle Olu (Shola Adewusi) and Tunde (Barry Shabaka Henley) — and friends, including her hilarious bus-riding confidante Kemi (Gina Yashere). These characters often communicate in subtitled Yoruba. Among them, Detroit sock salesman Bob (Billy Gardell) feels very much like the “other” you might have expected Abishola to be treated as.
Indeed, everything about Bob — perhaps most especially his mother Dottie (Christine Ebersole) and bickering siblings Douglas and Christine (Matt Jones and Maribeth Monroe), all of whom help him run his exploitative business — feels like a transplant from a different, worse show, except for Bob himself, who is supremely likable in a way that also feels surprising. Bob Hearts Abishola walks a very fine line with the character, careful to make him sympathetic and charming without his advances seeming out of order. The delicate balancing act occasionally slips into easy gags or a bit too far towards stalking, but never for long, and never in a way that feels malicious. The fact that the central dynamic works at all is impressive — that it works so well is nothing short of miraculous.
There are so many ways this can get messed up that I’m hesitant to heap praise on it that I wouldn’t be comfortable having to eat a few episodes down the line, but Bob Hearts Abishola Episode 1 was genuinely charming and funny and different in a way that positions it in a unique space among other network sitcoms. It is, as far as I can tell, a great show, and I sincerely hope that it continues to be one as it progresses.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.