“Bob Hearts Abishola” is Not Your Typical Boy-Meets-Girl Sitcom

Within the next few weeks, the annual lineup of new fall television programming will descend onto the major networks. The roster features plenty of tried and true formats, including courtroom procedurals, family dramas, and of course, sitcoms. But CBS is aiming to put a fresh spin on the standard half-hour comedy formula with a show about a compression sock salesman in Detroit who falls hopelessly in love with his cardiac nurse, as he recuperates from a heart attack. While the premise sounds like the typical “wacky romance” blueprint of so many sitcoms past, the object of Bob’s affection is what sets the show apart: she’s an immigrant from Nigeria with her own hopes, dreams, and interior life.

Bob Hearts Abishola, which premieres on CBS on September 23, 2019 follows its two titular characters as they develop a complex relationship both in and out of the hospital where they meet. The show is the brainchild of Chuck Lorre, who created the megahits Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. Gina Yashere, a British comedian whose parents were born in Nigeria, co-created Bob Hearts Abishola with Lorre and appears on the show as Kemi, a friend of the eponymous nurse Abishola. Folake Olowofoyeku, who plays Abishola, credits Yashere with using her own experience as the child of immigrants to lend nuance to the show. “Gina infuses a lot of her story into the character of Abishola,” Olowofoyeku explained recently in an interview with The Calgary Herald. And since Olowofoyeku immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria herself to attend college, she is acutely aware of the importance of immigrant representation to audiences. “Having an eye on the ground, I can see that [Lorre and Yashere] are very meticulous about the show being true to the Nigerian immigrant story. They’re not trying to cut corners.”

Part of what makes Bob Hearts Abishola so unique is the portrayal of Abishola as a relatable everywoman with her own identity. In addition to exploring her budding romance with Bob, she is shown navigating her new life in Detroit while living in a small apartment with her protective aunt and uncle and parenting a young son who is having trouble fitting in at school. And while the show highlights elements of Abishola’s Nigerian culture, the overall message is clear: she is, above all, an American – one who easily could remind us of a real-life friend, co-worker, or neighbor. The theme of respect for immigrants is at the core of Bob Hearts Abishola, and comes at a time when American attitudes towards immigration are becoming more positive than in decades past. Perhaps that’s why CBS is banking on the show becoming a hit. As television audiences continue to be bombarded with political rhetoric about border walls and “bad hombres,” they might just prefer to change the channel to something that reminds them that America’s diversity has always been one of its greatest strengths. [See Romantic Comedy ‘Bob Hearts Abishola’ Breaks Ground for Immigrants by Melissa Hank, Calgary Herald, 17.Sep.2019.]


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