In the fall of 2006, my Monday nights consisted of stretching out on my comfy beige leather sofa in front of the TV for a new show about the lives of women involved with professional athletes. It wasn’t salacious reality television or a show centered around the groupies who jump from baller to baller. It was a new quality sitcom of incredibly talented Black actors with a storyline so compelling you’d talk about the episode the next day at work with co-workers. If like me you didn’t own a DVR and missed an episode, you’d do a quick YouTube search hoping someone had posted it so you wouldn’t be clueless at work the next day when everyone excitedly reenacted the previous night’s episode. This was before the days of massive reruns on BET; it only existed on the CW. I along with millions of viewers had fallen in love with television again.
“The Game” aired during a period when Black sitcoms were nearly nonexistent. Long gone were the days of the 90’s when there was a saturation of quality Black television on a number of networks. “Family Matters,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “A Different World,” “The Cosby Show,” and “Living Single,” had slowly dwindled and been replaced by the phenomenon of reality shows. The executives in three-piece suits no longer considered positive representations in the form of Black sitcoms profitable.
Hope came in 2000 when UPN aired Mara Brock Akil’s critically acclaimed television show about the friendship and lives of four diverse Black women. “Girlfriends” was our very own “Sex and the City” so to speak. But different. “Girlfriends” had an eight-year run before it was abruptly cancelled. I’m still trying to picture Joan as a wife, Lynn as a rockstar and William and Monica as parents. I want my season finale damnit! But I digress. Luckily, Mara Brock Akil had more creative juices in store for us in the form of “The Game.”
Everything about “The Game” was impressively well put together. The storyline was intriguing, the writing was poignant, the cast’s chemistry was authentic and the characters were relatable. In each episode we were given just enough to keep us tuning in week after week. Derwin’s (Pooch Hall) charisma made us love him even after he cheated on Melanie (Tia Mowry). Melanie was a loose canon with her ditzy moments as the ultimate outsider of the infamous Sunbeams. Tasha Mack (Wendy Raquel Robinson) had the no-nonsense, sassy, keep it all the way real approach to life we adored. Malik (Hosea Chanchez) and his ultra arrogance was stereotypically archetypal as the star quarterback. Kelly (Brittany Daniel) was the only White woman on the show, but she meshed with the others naturally, though we all silently wished she would strengthen her spine to stand up to her controlling, frugal, douche bag of a husband. And Jason (Coby Bell) was funny, but we hated him for the way he treated his wife. All the other characters whether reoccurring or cameos fit perfectly into the nook of Akil’s well-designed puzzle.
In 2009 the network switched the day of week “The Game” aired on a number of occasions. I had suspected switching the night of the week would cause ratings to decrease, and the network would later use this as an excuse to cancel the show. My suspicions proved to be correct when the show was cancelled in May of 2009.
Fans of “The Game” made sure our voices were heard through signed petitions and online campaigns demanding the resurrection of the show. We were passionate about its need to be on television. Though the CW cared very little about our cries, other networks heard us loud and clear. Two years after its cancellation, the fourth season of “The Game” aired on BET with nearly 7.7 million viewers.
It has been eight weeks since “The Game’s” big comeback, and it’s plainly obvious the show’s direction has veered off the smooth path onto a dark road with large cracks and potholes.
I’m not one of the bandwagon fans who only heard of the show once BET started to play reruns. “The Game” had been watched in my one-bedroom apartment since its inception. I take no pleasure in writing this: something ain’t right.
The beloved sitcom once known for its witty well-written script has turned into a drama filled soap opera. Melanie is bringing random women into their marriage for a surprise threesome. Kelly is an over the top reality star trying to remain relevant sans the attachment to her professional football player ex-husband. Malik is the heartless pill-popping bastard gone rehabilitated and reformed. Tasha Mack is now a walking stereotype with her doo rag, blonde weave, paying for said hairstyle with a knot full of cash, smoking Black n Milds and weed. Sneaky Derwin is grilling burgers playing house with his baby’s mother all while lying to Melanie. Brit Brat is a 13-year-old half naked dressing, back talking, weed smoking brat. And Jason is actually becoming the only character we can half way stand. What happened to the likability of the characters?
The plot of the show is frustratingly predictable. Drama has replaced both comedy and suspense. And the acting seems forced. Perhaps the actors are overacting to compensate for a bad script. It’s all a bad mixture resulting in an intolerable explosion.
When “The Game” was picked up by BET the budget was cut drastically, which has resulted in Brittany Daniel’s occasional appearances. Cuts were also made on the production side causing less of the original writers to return. All of these factors have contributed drastically to the decline of “The Game.”
In all honesty, I’d rather have a bad show with the possibility of improvement than eliminating the show altogether. “The Game” is basically all we have in terms of semi-positive representation on television. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I want the “The Game” circa 2009 back. ASAP!