There’s always a formula when it comes to romantic comedy sitcoms — boy meets girl. Girl isn’t interested in boy. Boy is determined to win her heart and succeeds. Hilarity ensues. The formula does work, but it does become tiring when there’s no substance behind it. Having the hot-wife-bland-husband-with-annoying-in-laws can only take you so far on television nowadays.
Fortunately, for CBS’ Bob Hearts Abishola, which is on its third season, the formula had added something new and refreshing to the mix — some culture and color. Instead of the typical white couple falling in love and dealing with their daily struggles, sock business man Bob (Billy Gardell) falls for Nigerian nurse Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku) and wants to pursue a relationship with her, therefore, thrusting himself into the culture that comes with falling in love with a woman of color.
Given the nature of the series, it’s hard to trust a series to fully treat a culture — especially the immigrant experience — with respect, especially in a comedy. Even for myself, who had avoided the series due to a fear that the series was not culturally appropriate to Nigerian culture, was pleasantly surprised to learn the lengths at which the writers went to ensure authenticity, which included co-creator and writer of Nigerian descent, Gina Yashere (who also stars in the series as Abishola’s best friend Kemi). After viewing the series, with the assurance from writers of Nigerian descent, Bob Hearts Abishola is sweet and adds so much more to the standard sitcom formula.
“I’m not surprised [about the positive response to the series] because I just know that love is always the secret sauce,” said Gardell via Zoom on WBTV’s “With Love” TCA panel on Valentine’s Day. “One of the beautiful things our show does, without preaching, is just an example of love. Once you see that, it doesn’t matter if you married someone from Mars. Once you marry into the family, you’re going to get [the] crazy uncle, the drunk brother, [etc]. It’s about the merging of families and when you get past that difference and look for the similarities, it’s the common thread that we all share in this world.”
The series, which has been renewed for a fourth season, is the network’s fourth highest-rated comedy and is “huge” in Nigeria and South Africa. Olowofoyeku credits that to the successful storytelling from co-creator and executive producer Chuck Lorre and the Bob Hearts Abishola writers.
“Love is the one thing that we all strive for,” said Olowofoyeku. “It’s what unifies them. This is just a well-run operation. Everyone is on their A-game, including myself, living up to that standard. It’s not surprising at all. I think we will come to understand later on just how much of an impact the show is having because [of the] global effects that we’re not really accounting for right now.”
The beginning of the third season saw Bob and Abishola visiting her hometown in Nigeria and getting married in a traditional Nigerian ceremony. After two seasons of the evolution of the couple, the rest of the third season focuses on their marital relationship, which includes a possible baby.
Gardell explains that those conversations regarding creating a family are going to come up, which is important for every relationship.
“I think it’s important to know that you don’t want them as it is to know that you do want to have children,” said Gardell. “I think you know that nothing is finite. Everything evolves and in a relationship that grows healthily. You have to have those discussions and when you change your mind, you have to talk to your partner and see where they’re at.”
Whether or not Bob or Abishola are interested in the prospects of children, Gardell joked, “Can we afford it? Are we too old to be running around [with a child]? Are you going to be changing my diaper too?”
Bob Hearts Abishola airs on Mondays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS.