Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"The Game" on BET - Rejuvinating the Black Narrative

On the 11th day of the 1st month of the 2011th year, millions (7.7 to be exact) of viewers across the continent gathered at their televisions for a highly anticipated event: the return and rejuvination of The Game.

And I’m not talking about the Raptors.

(The Cast L-R: Coby Bell, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Hosea Chanchez, Tia Mowry Hardrict, Pooch Hall, Brittany Daniel)

Thanks to day-long marathons, relentless reruns, massive Twitter-ing, casual conversations, and online petitions, the return of the 4th season of the BET program was a huge ratings bonanza. In fact, it set a ratings record for original programming on BET.

I was right there on the bandwagon, wondering how Melanie and Derwin’s marriage was going, if Kelly and Jason would rekindle their flame, what was up with Tasha Mack and Rick Fox, and of course, even curious about TT, Janay, and the Sunbeams.

The show was taken off the air in 2009, and I became a rerun fan. Just like I did with Sex and the City, Friends, and the countless other shows I never truly appreciated until they were old news and in syndication.

And I got sucked into Sex and the City, Friends, and the other pleasant scripted television shows because I could relate to the women. The stories. The experiences. And when I say relate, I mean I could truly appreciate the characters, the other 30-somethings, and the anecdotal familiarities that came along with them.

But The Game was a different kind of recognition.

The Game brought back an old familiar feeling. The characters spoke to me on a different level. Not on the level of being rich, living the glamorous live of professional athleticism, not the beautiful homes, and the wine drinking. This brought back the feeling of days past, when there were a few good quality television shows that reflected a less popular demographic: the black narrative.

We had it with Living Single. Maxine’s love/hate relationship with Kyle; Khadijah hooking up with Scooter, and the cute Overton and Sinclair.

Then there was A Different World, watching Denise Huxtable and Dwayne Wayne, Jaleesa and the crew get through the challenges of college. That program made university life look so appealing and like a must-have life experience.

I won’t even take it back to the Cosby Show or Good Times level: I’m just thinking about the predominantly "black" shows that have had an impact post-childhood/80s. The television shows that defined a new generation.

Remember looking forward to watching Martin every week to see what crazy ish he would be up to? Having him run into Shanaynay in the hall; trying to figure out where Tommy actually worked, or seeing Bruh-Man (from the fif floor) sneak into the window?

Even Girlfriends was pretty good. I wasn't a huge fan, but it definitely had relevant topics, and interesting storylines.

I’ve missed having a good SCRIPTED show to look forward to. And while race shouldn’t be a factor in whether or not a television show is going to be great or not…it does feel a little bit more special when there’s a cast full of black faces. It’s hard to explain, but it does make a difference when you get to see black characters represented in great storylines. It rarely happens in an ensemble cast, even though the majority of popular shows are pretty diverse in casting.

Representation is SO important.

But most importantly, I love a great story. So I’m going to commend the creator Mara Brock Akil, and the producers Salim Akil (Mara's husband) and Kelsey Grammer, for giving The Game enough intrigue, great scripts, and believable characters.

Highlights of Episode 1 and 2 (Season 4)
--Seeing Derwin and Melanie actually married, and moving on to the next stage of their relationship after all that drama. Loved seeing the dramatic acting as well!
--Tasha Mack being her regular hilarious self:
--Jason being true to character: corny but funny.
--Robin Givens was gone.
--Seeing TT step out of Malik’s shadow, finally having some character growth.

WTF Moments Thus Far
--What was Tasha Mack doing with that pickney Terrance J? So not believable, and kinda made her seem less confident and more cougar. Someone please bring back Rick Fox. RICK…..FOX!
--How did Brit Brat go from being a cute kid to a rude teenager? Fail.
--Will Meagan Goode ever have a likeable role/character…ever? Why was she there?
--Why did Malik have to be so mean to TT? Makes me not want to care about what happens to Malik's character.

Apparently we as television viewers really needed this event. The audience has spoken. I hope the rest of the season lives up to this phenomenal hype. I hope that this is just the beginning of bringing back good writers, good characters, and entertaining television for the ‘urban’ demographic.

P.S. Can someone please tell the people who run BET programming in Canada to actually watch the channel from time to time, as to better coordinate their abrupt commercial breaks and mood-killing transitions. Ridiculous!

~Written by Stacey Marie Robinson, Kya Publishing

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