Like many other TV viewers, I had a standing Tuesday night appointment with BET. I’d been watching “The Game” since its backdoor pilot episode on the CW back in 2006 (It’s a spinoff of the late “Girlfriends”, which I still miss sorely) and was a staunch supporter of its return to BET since its 2009 CW cancellation. Many (like writer Bene Viera) were disappointed in the show’s direction throughout its latest season. Something about Tasha Mack smoking a black had folks in a Twitter tizzy. But I kept my mouth shut and continued to watch faithfully, hopeful that the arcs of Derwin Davis and Company would come full circle by the season’s end. I was banking on the rebirth of “The Game” as a sure win. But after last night’s season finale, I feel like I’ve been played.
I watched the clock as I watched the show, wondering how they were going to wrap up an entire season in 30, 15, 10, 2 minutes. They didn’t. I was frustrated for a while until I realized that the show is great for a Tuesday night appointment and it’s on the cusp of some great storytelling. It’s just. not. going. there.
Case in point: Despite appearing to have it all, Melanie struggles to find herself. During one scene in the season ender, she and Derwin are sitting in the office of a fertility doctor. She insists that the doctor call her “Dr. Melanie Barnett-Davis” but when he asks her which hospital she works for, she shrinks and says “Melanie is fine.” I always wondered why she never pursued her medical career and why she seems embarrassed by the decision. Why can’t we get the inside story on that scenario? It’s one that easily highlights the varying definitions to be a woman, to be a wife, to be independent, to be secure, and to have it all. Throughout the season, I always felt like Melanie was trying too hard to ingratiate herself with the Sunbeams and prove herself to, well, everybody. I still want to know who she is. Does Melanie really think she’s enough?
I was struck a few episodes back when Jason quit his hotshot TV hosting gig to actually parent 13-year-old Brittney, who blamed her weed-smoking, teenage tantrums on her parents’ divorce. There was an opportunity to demonstrate how a man could stand up for his daughter, even when he’s from a world notorious for groupie love and fame-seeking vamps. How could he juggle this responsibility with ex-wife Kelli who, this season, was seen as nothing more than a short-haired reality-show star whose daughter called her a hypocrite? Kelli is also a woman trying to find herself, seeking a place in the world that is no longer defined by her cheapskate husband.
I was eager to see the end dynamics of Malik and Derwin’s relationship. After Malik’s stint in rehab, he seems to expect Derwin to put his own successful career on the line in the name of friendship. Derwin’s been conflicted by this, but in the season finale, the best he does is ask Melanie to do the dirty work of probing Tasha about whose career Tasha is going to focus on, Derwin’s or her son Malik’s. The scene ends with Melanie firing Tasha as Derwin’s manager and Tasha throwing Twizzlers at Melanie, calling her a “fake ass”. But shhhh…don’t tell Derwin. Melanie hasn’t told him that she actually fired Tasha. Nor has she mentioned anything to him about a mystery abortion that might be causing infertility issues, one that serves as the season’s cliffhanger.
I wonder if the show’s writers feel that they need to skip the pith for the sake of fitting an episode into 30 minutes, but the most successful shows are ones that make us think, make us ask questions, and force as to re-examine our own realities. And while the show does that to a degree (Go on admit it, how many of us know somebody who’s done – or needs to do – a secret paternity test on their child?), it leaves me with many more questions to ask about the story. “The Game” sets itself up to address the real-life dichotomies that exist in marriage, the challenges of maintaining a successful career, and the presets that temper family and friend relationships. But it’s. just. not. going. there.
There’s such potential for a rich, multi-faceted story with dynamic characters. I love the drama and humor but I want to care about the characters too. Drama will get us to the show. Depth will keep us watching. Next season, I hope they take it there.