Thursday, January 13, 2011

I'm Game For "The Game"

Will my friends make fun of me?
I remember when "The Game" premiered on the CW, if only because my sister was singlehandedly getting Wendy Raquel Robinson's clothes dry cleaned (only 2.1 mil viewers). I'd checked out a few episodes and bailed, simply because none of my friends were watching. It was a back-door "Chick Sit"(com), and I wasn't going to be the fish to get baited with the hook.

If I watch, do I have to hand over my Man Card?
This is the question that needs to be answered to get real men in the door. That's why studios sign meat heads like Vince Vaughn to do rom-com's, that's why Hank Moody beds a girl an episode, and that's why Martin Lawrence needed Marsha Thomason in Black Knight. Funny guys and attractive bodies are sure-fire ways to hook the strays.

I'm not going to lie...I wasn't trying to be the first guy to dip my toe in BET waters. Ultimately, the wave of excitement bowled me over and forced me to analyze the BET premiere. Hey, it's got athletes! I'm a sportswriter! You KNOW how much I like to analyze black sitcoms! I picked out the one-liners and keeper quotes, and circled my arguments such. Have fun.

I'd like to believe I kept my Man Card. You be the judge.
BET's "The Game" - Season 4, Episode 1
Derwin Davis drives up with sports car, arrives at the Essence photo shoot, points to the paparazzi and shouts, "Everybody out here better be a Sabres fan." (Crowd erupts) Inside, Melanie (Tia Mowry) is posing for the magazine, making sexy poses as Boss Lady from The Steve Harvey Show leads a one-woman peanut gallery. Jason appears to have made the transition to sports talk radio, Kelly is hosting a reality TV show and spending his alimony checks, and Malik is, umm...reaping the benefits of being a starting QB. The scene culminates with Derwin & Melanie posing for the cover, when Boss Lady exclaims:

“GAME ON B******.” (cut to intro)

Great cold open. We get snippets of our featured players, and enough rapid movement for us to cheese and vicariously revel in the glitz and glamour given our Hollywood icons. Then, we dug into our bowl of Spaghetti O's and realized how poor we really were. Sigh.

“I don’t know about you, but that looks like a cover I wanna have sex with.”
WHOA. We’re clearly on cable TV now. Even though the way Boss Lady described the Essence cover would make me feel like a horny teenager if I picked the magazine off a luncheonette counter.

“She WAS looking at my purse.
Oh NO…she was coveting what you GOT! Baby Mama 0, Wifey 1.”

And we have our A-story exposition! Derwin was on the outs, but rebounded well. He married well, scored a monster contract, and is assured career success and prestige for the foreseeable future. However, he’s fathered an (adorable!) son with the ex-woman, and has to deal with Black Sitcom Story Arc #1 – baby momma drama. And we have our rising action.

By the way, glad to see Tia Maury involved in black comedy again. It’s her calling, just like its DJ Steve Porter’s calling to make me laugh with press conference remixes. Let’s encourage her to keep doing these until she’s unsightly and tiresome (is Betty White still doing stuff?).
“I’m doing what most American women have forgotten how to do…I’m holding out until I get the respect I deserve.”
Chris Webber is excruciatingly awful at these cameo roles. I'd say almost pantheon bad, like Magic in the “Remember the Time” video. My boss and I argued about Webber’s vitality as an analyst: he’s got good insights, smart instincts, does his research, and is camera friendly. But I think he still wants (and needs) to make his cameo rounds, A few more of these should whet his appetite and put him on track to evolve into the next Charles Barkley, when Barkley becomes governor of Alabama.

“Does your mommy take you to the barber shop, or the salon? (Baby laughs in tub) AH HA! Avoiding the question! I think he’s hiding something…explain why he’s so yellow then?”
Light skinned jokes and kinky hair jokes. Classic. If any white folks made the trek over from the CW, the high yellow jokes definitely sent them right back to One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl.

By the way, "The Game" uses the laugh track like once a scene. What's up with that? Commit to the laugh track. Make it a sitcom with punch (Girlfriends), or embrace the drama route (New York Undercover). Going halfway makes it seem like there’s only writers and producers over-laughing in the studio. (Wait, that's all there was? Oops!)

“Or…I can just do this (opens towel).” (Dramatic pause)
(Next scene) “Girl, I am SO SORRY I’m late…”
Bow-chica-WOW-WOW! Terrance J! Making skinny guys everywhere proud!
By the way, the parental rating jump from TV14DL to TV14DLS from the commercial break gave the ENTIRE scene away. Also, it feels like the scene was only this long because the producers needed to stretch the premiere into an hour.

I hate when TV execs get in the way. It's like a parent telling their kid what to major in because they're paying for college. I'm averaging a great GPA. Don't interrupt my flow until I screw up.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen! I think that’s enough business for tonight. I need ALL of my man’s attention.”
Didn't know this then, but this may be the longest line Meagan Good has in the premiere. Not counting sexual grunts, Meagan Good probably says four lines the entire episode.

Sigh.

Meagan Good LIVES off her sexuality. She literally just embraced her sexual powers and hasn't worked on her acting skills at all. Every line she says now just drips with sexual innuendo, like “Well, I’ll try anything once…”. Come ON. And here I thought she was on pace for a big career post-Skeeter. She’s the Vince Carter of black actresses.

“OHMYGOD, OHMYGOD…this is my friend with the test results.
Ignore the speck, Melanie…it’s still a pretty picture.”

Best advice of the episode (for Melanie and the audience). Shortening this sitcom down to a half-hour should eliminate some of the flaws from Act 4, scene 1. Too bad I can’t ignore the cross fade dissolves, the awkward audience laughter, and my stupid impulse to jump through the TV and yell, "DNA puppets? What's up with that?!"
“Tee-Tee…how can I get caught when the rules don’t apply to me.”
Hmmm. This + Meagan Good screams all we need to know for now (we’ll revisit this later). By the way, how often do you think Malik in real life asked BET about borrowing that Ferrari after hours?

“Market and 4th, Tasha! MARKET AND FOURTH! I’ll be handing out ass-whoopings and lollipops, and I’m all out of lollipops!”
Money line from Kelly + Boss Lady smoking a Black & Mild? NICE touch, BET.

“You smell good...Why don’t you initiate sex with me?”
Most unintentionally funny comment of the night. Looks like a writer fell asleep at his desk, leaned on his MS Thesaurus Quick Key, and said, "Eff it, they're both sexy anyway." Definitely something Matt LeBlanc would say.

“As far as I’m concerned, DJ’s my son…Even though you should probably know he’s not yours. (GASP!)“WE NEEDED TO KNOW THE TRUTH DERWIN!?!? SHE JUST WANTS WHAT WE HAVE!” (punches wall)
Most spine-chilling scene in the premiere, and I still laughed. You gotta love Derwin’s intense acting face before he decks the wall. It’s like the director stopped after Take #1 and told Derwin to squeeze more eye drops out, look like he was just gutted with an epidural needle, and think about that John Singleton role hanging in the balance.
“What the hell was that? It all depends, is it still management?”
Just had to stop here to point out how the white club owner looks like Wally Szcerzbiak. So THAT’S where he’s been since the ’08 playoffs! Nassau County’s leading scorer everybody!!!!
“If you let the rumors circulate that THE Malik White was in your club having relations with a young (looks back) 'woman', and broke the sink…guarantee your club will stay hot for another six months....So let’s let the insurance adjuster handle it, right? He’s our man, he’ll fudge the report…you’ll get a better sink.”
How the hell did they get Tee-Tee across San Diego in less than 10 minutes? He’s running his Cluck Truck, bumping uglies with Natural Hair, and making moves selling street meat to construction workers. Think he'd be way across town cleaning up his truck, right? WRONG.

Also, if Tee-Tee hates Malik, why does he pick up his phone and cut across traffic to help a dude that treats him like an adult boy? Does anyone else smell what the Rock is cooking?

In addition, love how Wally Szcerzbiak rolls the mop in, Malik grabs it and hands it to Tee-Tee, and walks out with the girl he was boning (Meagan Good). Pretty sure that’s the definition of "getting played" in the dictionary.

Tee-Tee, its OK to hit "Ignore" when Malik's name pops up on your Droid. We won't judge you.

“Just wearing a vest and tie in a dimly-lit park…what could go wrong?”
“You stink, smelly. You stink of desperation, with your Duran Duran hair, your spray-on tan, and your skanky clothes…probably gonna get attacked by a pair of Eskimos.”
“The Game” gave Jason the BEST lines. Period. His lawyer deserves a cigar and a raise.

“I DIG you. I dig talking to you, I dig hanging out with you…you know I dig DIGGING you.”
"Wha????? WHO STOLE THE 70s THESAURUS OFF COSBY'S DESK?"
By the way, here are our storylines so far:
A-plot: Is it mine? (Derwin + Tia)
B-plot: Will the boss catch me? (Malik + MG)
C-plot: Look! I'm robbing the cradle! (Boss Lady + Terrence J)
D-plot: I hate you! No, I hate YOU! (Jason + Kelly)
E-plot: Treat me like a MAN! (Malik + TeeTee)

And that's without all the in-drama bound to happen. If the show wants mileage, congratulations. There's more happening this hour than in a classic Bret Hart-WWF Royal Rumble. They can milk an easy 40 episodes out of this.

“I tell you no one’s playing anyone...Even a garbage can eats a steak.”
Terrence J is right, Boss Lady. What does that mean?

“Your hair may be a little different…but you know what? We got Indian in our family, right?”
We can now add "Indian hair jokes" to the list of things that make white CW watchers go, "Whaaaa???"

“Listen son, listen to me. Be aware of women alright? They’ll get you with the okie doke EVERYtime…just don’t want you to fall with ‘the banana in the tailpipe’ like your Dad.”
Roped me in with the Eddie Murphy reference from Beverly Hills Cop. NICE. This is how you keep your fringe male viewers from changing the channel. Typical Girlfriends move.

“Mike Vick? Cover…broken fibula. Donovan McNabb? Cover. Torn ACL. Brett Favre? Cover…torn bicep. Hey, well…Ms. PacMan did it, and she’s fine…so maybe you will be too!”

Another Jason line. So far, he’s on the fast track to become my favorite UPN athlete since Flex Washington. Even though the video game jinx is a SUPER old and clichéd theme, he banks it home with the Pac Man line. No reason to doubt why they picked him as the starting QB for the mock pro team. Wait, he's the WR? Then how did he gain 2,500 yards last season?
“I can take him…I need to put some work in on my dissertation anyway...Yeah, Let your little wing-tern take me. Hey, look…her’s name Allison, she used to be my intern AND NOW SHE’S MY LIFE PARTNER!...Hey, I appreciate you baby.” (Yells) “FYI, we are GAY! AS IN HAPPY!”
Tee-Tee lets his girl drive home with a known sexual predator. Nice. This is the same guy that openly admitted the rules didn't apply to him, like the rule NOT TO BONE your best friend's girlfriend. For a guy who convinced Wally Szcerzbiak to drop the charges, TeeTee's sure stupid.

Also, who the heck STARTS working on their dissertation past midnight? Forget that...how the heck do you have time for Ph.D. research AND a full-time job shelling fried food from a chicken truck? You couldn’t have predicted the future sex scene faster if Ron Jeremy walked by with a trey of finger food at that very moment.

“Come ON, I’m not trying to steal your show! I’m just reminding you that I AM the show…anybody want to get a reaction of THAT?”
I know it’s the D-story, but Jason’s nailing more punch lines than Ludacris post-Crash. He's the only guy who worked on his acting during the hiatus. The Wil Chandler of the Game, if you will. (Knicks!)

Fashion Note: Jason’s wearing the same sweater-vest from the earlier scene. The things you find out with TiVO.
“Allison?!? That wasn’t just some random girl man…THAT WAS MAH GIRLFRIEND!” (pouts, runs away)
Poor Tee-Tee. Like I said on Twitter, you get no credit for seeing this coming, like someone who gets hyped solving Blue's Clues with two clues already given. Side Note: Love the random bouncer at the top of the steps eating a sandwich while asking Tee-Tee for chicken. By the way, he's not FAT...he played football in college.

“I made a mistake. I ran it again, ran it a few times…it IS his baby. I’m so sorry…I’ve been working on no sleep. You’re lucky you don’t have to do this residency, it’s KILLING me.”

“I’ll talk to you later.” (B.O.B’s ‘Don’t Let me Fall’ plays)

Someone just lost a best friend. Ouch. But that’s why you don’t get a resident doctor to run your paternity test on the cheap. Didn't you see Scrubs Melanie? Young doctors work hard!

Also, the B.O.B. song just BLARES in. No rising fade, no audio editing. Come ON.
MY RATING = C+
"Game" brought a lot to the table. We need a good black sitcom like Paul Pierce needs a shave. Unfortunately, the show also took an equal amount OFF the table. No transition music. No bumper shots. Dissolve-cut over jump cut. YIKES. Did BET just round up sponsors and ask the AV Club from Hampton University to do their best? (Shots fired)

"The Game" is like your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving who bakes a new sweet (peach cobbler!), but brings a new sweet - with her two kids (surprise!) But we need that crazy uncle in our lives, just like we need "The Game" on our TV menu. Sounds like a C+ premiere to me.

Can't wait till next week.
M.B., II

4 comments:

  1. "By the way, "The Game" uses the laugh track like once a scene. What's up with that? Commit to the laugh track. Make it a sitcom with punch (Girlfriends), or embrace the drama route (New York Undercover)."

    Man I've been saying that the show is too damn quite since the first season! I'm like, where's the background sound? The music, the laugh track, the crickets, SOMETHING! All that stuff you never notice in a TV show, but when it's not there, you notice that something is definitley off...

    "Does anyone else smell what the Rock is cooking?"
    LOL!!!

    "I’m just reminding you that I AM the show…"
    I disliked Jason more and more every minute. I'm also not understanding the writers' sudden compulsion to make all the show's male characters unapologetic douchebags....

    Some of the best blogs I've read this week have been about this show. Here's another good one you might like: http://www.verysmartbrothas.com/a-minute-by-minute-recap-of-the-season-premiere-of-bets-the-game/

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  3. I almost choked on my smoothie when I read the Spaghetti O's comment. I'm serious. I disagree about the humor and the drama. Life is humor and drama. So this just may be a better new way for art to imitate life.

    I agreed with many of your points and had a few laughs. I only saw half of it so. I had "the game" on my dvr I gave up hope of it ever coming back. I think Kelly and Jason may get back together. They should also go back to the original little daughter not a short adult- that is what she looks like. Tasha earned that beat down and I support that instance of TV white on black crime. I would jack that chick up too... if I wasn’t such a lady.

    The changes were not noticeable to me in the second half. This article was also very informative and I may watch TV with different eyes now:) The Game was always low budget and it seems to have increased greatly in budget so I noticed that. Not the same quality as the bigger boys but the content was good when I was not turning my head… Quite risqué! Even more so than before but hey, I guess they wanted to come back with an even bigger bang. The man card was held by a thread. Simply because the above article was about analysis and mainly because you said the sports theme drew you in Dare I say decent read... :)

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  4. GREAT review! A few things:
    It's not completely abnormal to start writing the D post-midnight. Hampton AV?! I have a Hampton journalist imma show that to...hilarity it was. Tee-Tee analysis = on point. I agree about Jason. YES the crazy uncle comparison is right. I just hope said uncle never beats our butts for posing as internet thugs....(See that video...yeah, that one)

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