Why I’m (Probably) Not Watching “The Game”

26 Jan

Last year I posted on the return of The Game (yes, it has been a year since it (re)debuted on BET) and offered a critique of the ways in which the characters morphed to fit BET programming, which compromised the integrity of the characters that fans had fought and petitioned for.  After The Game came back on I was disappointed in the ways in which originally nuanced characters had been re-written as the typical black tropes: women who are angry, ghetto, untrustworthy, money-hungry, vindictive, and promiscuous.  And men who are selfish, ghetto fabulous, wreckless, and drug-addicted.

I tuned in a few weeks ago for the new season and I watched again last week (not because I was particularly interested, but it was pre-set to record on the DVR.  I watched it over the weekend because there was nothing else on TV while I was waiting for playoff football games to start).  Every week I am hopeful that the writers will fix what is not working—but these characters have no character.  (SN: I was not impressed seeing Nene Leakes on BET—Bravo is plenty!)  You can tell that things have completely turned upside down when the “deepest” character on the show is Jason Pitts (not sure how I feel about his newly discovered blackness—but at least he is being reflexive and somewhat responsible.  Last season he quit his job in order to focus on fathering his daughter, and this season he seems to be having an epiphany about his racial identity, and the issues surrounding it—his conversations with his “new black wife” sound like therapy sessions).  Meanwhile, Melanie and Tasha are at each other’s throats, Derwin has gone from charming choir boy to selfish superstar, and Kelly is M.I.A.  Maalik’s mommy issues tend to always lead him into detrimental relationships that are doomed from the start.  His tryst with the bosses wife has landed him on the bench and nearly bankrupt, and his infatuation with the model (did we even know her name?) had the Robin Givens-esque vibe of unreciprocated interest. And then there’s Tasha, I didn’t think the sexy Sapphire could get much louder or overly-dramatic.  I was wrong.

The newly emergent female characters are flat, at best, and those that are rounded out with a background and personality only serve the purpose of furthering problematic black woman representations.  One of the newest Sunbeams from last season, for example, is a former stripper groupie turned football wife who’s largest contribution to the group has been teaching the women how to shake their asses for their men (not to mention suggesting threesomes–because of course sex is what gets and keeps a man–side eye).  Then, we discover in this week’s episode, thanks to Tasha’s nonchalant and retaliatory comment to her, that she doesn’t have custody of her children (can you say Jezebel stereotype?).  Brandy, (or should I say Chardonnay) the newbie this season, seems to fit the sassy Sapphire stereotype (with the ghetto, named after alcohol name) who’s anger and attitude make her a younger version of Tasha Mack.  Her purpose seems to be to help Jason get over his fondness of white women and get in touch with his “black side.”  Smdh. 

I am clearly not the only one disillusioned and ambivalent about The Game.  In the article, “The Game Doubles Down on Melodrama, Eliminates What Fans Loved,” Tyler Lewis states: 

“If Mara Brock Akil and BET want to make a black nighttime telenovela where the cast never interacts with one another, where the relationships established in the first three seasons are thrown out in favor of separate, unconnected, over-the-top storylines for each of the five leads, then it should decide on what kind of show that is and settle on a consistent tone.  Because I do think the ship has sailed on any hope that The Game will be the show that folks wanted to be brought back. I think the audience has accepted it (and, likely, moved on). The producers should commit to it.”

Their ratings have dropped significantly, from 7.7 million viewers when they re-launched last January, to 5.3 million for the season 5 premiere on January 10, 2012.  This week’s show only garnered 2.88 million viewers.  I suspect that the downward trend will continue… how many episodes and chances will fans give before they find something else to watch on Tuesday nights? (I for one will be tuning in to White Collar, I have a hella crush on Neil Caffery). 

None of the characters have the same innocence and likeability they used to.  Perhaps if they weren’t already rich in previous seasons I could believe that money changed them… or perhaps the writers are trying to depict the extremes of newfound celebrity and the ways in which it can go to your head and dismantle your relationships (clearly possible and realistic, look at T.O. )—but would this be true of everyone?  I understood Jason’s arrogance–and Maalik’s personality was already eccentric and extreme, but it seems like no one gives a damn about anybody else anymore, and given the previous relationships they had with each other, that is not only unbelievable, it is unfortunate.  Watching The Game has become like watching Basketball Wives (Miami or L.A.), or some other petty reality show that glamorizes selfishness, opulence, and fame for fame’s sake.  

Is it BET?  Do the writers need a re-up?  Does Kelly Pitts need to make a return (I’m not really feeling Brandy)?  Am I naive for thinking we could go back to the way things were?  I’m not sure what the remedy is, but there is definitely a problem.  I guess time will tell if the season and show is salvagable.

I am not going to say that I will never watch The Game again (there is a reason reruns and marathons show at insomniac hours), or that I am not hoping it somehow survives (the actors aren’t writing the scripts, and they have to eat), but I damn sure erased it from my DVR recording schedule.

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10 Responses to “Why I’m (Probably) Not Watching “The Game””

  1. Tameka January 26, 2012 at 9:42 AM #

    I happen to watch this show 1 time and was disgusted. Where is the love at??

  2. Asha January 26, 2012 at 9:45 AM #

    I was feeling this way when I watched The Game this season. I knew it was headed for some BS when last season’s finale had Derwin glaring at Melanie for a previous abortion. This season has none of the depth (or humor) the Girlfriends or the first few seasons of The Game had. I remember that last season, I saw Salim Akil’s name a lot. I wonder if Mara Brock Akil gave the show to him and a group of bad writers? Thanks for this post. You took the words out of my mouth. And I will try White Collar too:)

    • rboylorn January 26, 2012 at 11:53 PM #

      good points, cf! & i felt like the ways in which they handled the abortion storyline was problematic and rushed. i wish they would have made it more about melanie and her complicated choice/s, instead of about derwin and his pride/feelings/jealousy.

      one of the problems, since moving to BET, is that every episode feels so rushed and unfinished. they introduce a key issue and then the next week it is almost like it never happened, fast-forward and fade to black (no different, i guess, than fast forwarding two years without letting us see/witness/get a feel for the tragic and drastic transformations that all of the characteres went through on their way from the CW to BET.

      sigh. it will be interesting to see what happens. but in the meantime, we can transfer our attentions to WC. (I think crunktastic turned me on to it. definitely one of my favs :)

  3. mala January 26, 2012 at 10:22 AM #

    it has gone to shit.

    i remember watching the first epi of the re launch and thinking is this a dream sequence? when will the screen fade to black and melanie will wake up screaming in bed.

    blk folks cant have nun nice for too long.

  4. Tiffany Reese January 26, 2012 at 4:05 PM #

    At the end of the day I think its BET thats the problem. The Game went from having like 22 episodes a season to 12 and although Brittany Daniels said she’ll be back, it’ll only be recurring because BET didn’t want to pay (or couldn’t) for her to be on full time. They have so much going on in thirty minute episodes that everything feels rushed.

    Its really sad how bad its gotten because it was one of my favorite shows. I was all about Tasha Mack!

    By the way Dr. B the model’s name was Jenna:-)

    • rboylorn January 26, 2012 at 11:44 PM #

      tiffany,

      thanks for the model’s name… she was such a non (and temporary) factor i couldn’t remember it. :)

      it seems that if BET can afford to hire brandy, they could bring brittany daniels back. but again, i am probably just being nostalgic and assuming that things are not quite right, because all of the characters from before are not there. but truth is, even in the episodes that featured “Kelly”… it was all a hot mess.

      BET + The Game = Hot Mess :(

  5. Tiffany January 28, 2012 at 6:42 PM #

    There is no game without Kelly. Never really cared for all the Black ghetto drama….it is worse. I like Brandy but after listening to her and Jason I turned and will not be turning back. Really stupid show. Black people, we can do better.

  6. the cat ate it January 29, 2012 at 10:27 AM #

    Is it BET, though? Perhaps I’m naive, but I just have a hard time imagining that the “standards” of Mara Brock Akil and her writing team nosedived because BET executives asked them to flatten characters and heighten drama for the sake of a “new” audience. I have a hard time imagining it because I didn’t find the standards to ever be especially high. This is to say, I never saw a quality episode of “The Game” (nor its sister show “Girlfriends”) in all its time at CW. The acting has always been terrible, the writing, the individual plot lines, the production – everything – failed quite miserably in serving what would have been a reasonably strong premise. It was like they started where the last heartbreakingly thin seasons of A Different World, Living Single, and the Cosby Show left off.

    My defense of BET has never been without dilemma, but I just challenge folk to work harder (i.e. be more specific) in their critiques. They do such little original programming, it’s hard to imagine what people find so troubling. The worst of the network – BET: Uncut and Comic View (a program for which i REFUSE to accept undercooked wholesale critiques, though I imagine it might have been one of the major references for the network’s supposed buffoonery) – ended their runs, no pun intended, close to six years ago. And the programming that’s been attempted since then hasn’t been that bad: American Gangster, Hell Date, Iron Ring, Baldwin Hills, College Hill, Harlem Heights, Sunday Best, the Terry Crews series, the Keyshia Cole series, the Monica series, and the Tiny/Toya series (like, for real crunkfeminists? i WANT somebody to discuss how, magically, the insertion of male figure TI into a semi-heteropatriarchal scene of “legitimate” family suddenly turns the “trashiness” of Tiny/Toya into an adorable urban pastoral scene? gtfoh).

    Now there are three sitcoms, a video countdown show, and three awards shows that only air once a year. That’s quite a bit of pressure to put on a network, is it not? The problem, perhaps, is the dearth of programming that make the stakes of its quality so questionably high. Why don’t we lob such harsh critiques at ourselves in other contexts? When folk want to trash the, um, trashiness of majority-black reality television or token presence on popular sitcoms, we don’t blame the network. It’s Hollywood or the Machine or Network Television as an abstract whole…

    All this to say: Agreed! The Game does suck (though, as a sex-positive feminist, I feel compelled to mention that there’s nothing wrong with sucking). But perhaps it’s not BET’s fault. Maybe it just, i dunno, always sucked.

  7. Danielle January 29, 2012 at 11:05 AM #

    I will support this show but I see where she is coming from. One of the reasons I started watching the show was the image of a Black woman who was a medical student. This has completely changed. It seems like the more drama the better. Sad to say that Black sitcoms are very scarce and positive Black sitcoms are non-existent. Hopefully in the near future my daughter can watch TV and see a Black “Annie Walker” character and be inspired! (For those who are unfamiliar with Annie Walker, she is a white CIA agent on Covert Affairs.)

  8. Elle est noire January 30, 2012 at 11:21 PM #

    I have seen this show, and while I am not a big fan of it, I have to say that it had it’s moments. I found the portrayal of it’s Black female characters interesting. I find it disturbing that there is all this gushing over Kelly and yet the Black female characters are getting called all kinds of “Ghetto” and whatnot. I never liked Kelly, never saw a need for her to be on the show, and am glad she is gone to be perfectly honest. As for the “Ghetto” business, well Black women like that exist. They are not criminals, and their behavior is no justification for raciomisogyny against them. I will look for Black female roles whereever I can find them, and in that sense, I am thankful for BET.

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