• For Stale Ethnic and Political Humor, Look Sunnyside Up

    by  • September 6, 2019 • NBC, Paleyfest • 0 Comments

    Sunnyside

    This new comedy offers something to irritate everyone.

    Elected to the Sunnyside, Queens City Council in 2004, Garrett Modi promised to reform the city. Now, Modi has been unanimously voted out of office by that same council, after fifteen years of “partying with Wall Street douchebags and D-list celebrities,” and drunkenly threatening, trying to bribe, then vomiting on police officers. Looking for easy money, the disgraced councilman finds himself playing tutor to a motley group of immigrants. Touched by their regard for and belief in America, Modi changes his ways and vows to help the group become citizens.

    The first episode of Sunnyside featured frequent profanity and sexual innuendo, including a lengthy joke about Anthony Weiner and his illicit sexual activities while in office. Pilot episodes of programs frequently include more offensive material than do later episodes; but if Sunnyside continues on this trajectory, many parents would not find the program appropriate for children.

    The program also has plenty to offend both the left and right ends of the political spectrum. Former Harold & Kumar star (and Obama Administration Associate Director of Public Engagement) Kal Penn plays Garrett Modi, who takes plenty of opportunities to lecture viewers about the virtues of unchecked immigration and the evils of ICE; and Garrett’s replacement on the city council is a dead ringer for controversial New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez…facts which may irk conservative viewers.

    Simultaneously, while lauding immigration, the show’s depiction of the immigrants themselves is grossly caricatured and stereotyped: Drazen, a jolly, incomprehensible Eastern European (dragged away by ICE); Griselda, an overweight, middle-aged Latina who tries to hold down a dozen jobs simultaneously; Hakim, an Ethiopian thoracic surgeon who is delighted to be a driving a cab in America; and Mei and Jun, pampered, ultra-wealthy children of an Asian crimelord, who are unwilling to muster the effort to even study for their citizenship test, instead trying to bribe Garrett to take the test for them. This depiction of immigrants as wacky foreigners with strange ways is likely to annoy liberal viewers.

    With its tired combination of profanity, lowbrow humor, and stale ethnic stereotypes, Sunnyside seems an unlikely choice for families of any (or no) political persuasion.

    Sunnyside premieres Thursday, September 26th at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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    About

    Christopher Gildemeister is the PTC’s Head of Research Operations. He began as an Entertainment Analyst at the PTC in 2005. From 2007-2016, he was Senior Writer/Editor, responsible for communicating the PTC’s message to the public through newsletters, columns, and the PTC Watchdog blog. Dr. Gildemeister holds a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America.

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