‘The Game’: Season 4 Premiere Review

The Game

Tonight was the premiere of Season 4 of The Game, now airing on BET after having been cancelled by The CW.  The following review discusses the entire plot of the show so if you haven't seen it, go on 'head and bookmark my shit, watch, and come back.

Quick recap just to get us into the show:

  • Derwin and Melanie got married. Derwin's ex, Janay, had his baby.
  • Kelly and Jason divorced. Jason was dating Camille (played by the ageless Stacey Dash)
  • Tasha was dating Rick Fox, and got knocked the FUCK OUT by Kelly for setting up Jason and Camille.
  • Malik met his father, Chauncey, and bonded with his sister, Pucci. 

The show picks up two years later and, let's be honest, it is rough.

Mara Brock Akil has clearly wanted to do a drama. And that's not, in and of itself, a bad thing. Girlfriends succeeded largely because she expertly blended comedy and drama and the same was true for The Game when it was on The CW. So it makes some sense that The Game is now a one-hour dramedy shot with one camera. Such a move gives Akil more room to develop the characters and the show's directors the ability to shoot a more visually interesting show.

But it is clear that Mara Brock Akil is still figuring out the rhythms of a one-hour dramedy. She's spending way too much time on the melodramatic elements and not nearly enough time on the jokes or the characters. And Salim Akil's uninspiring directing – a lot of camera sweeps in to grab emotional moments and then really boring, static two-shots – is not helping.

This first episode is largely a disaster that destroys much of what was great about the show when it was on The CW. And the show itself felt inert. The former problem is worse because had the characters we loved been onscreen we could watch a few dramatically inert episodes with the hope that the show would eventually find its rhythms in the new format.

But Melanie's the only character who is exactly the same as the CW version. Melanie is still incredibly self-centered and everything she does flows from that*, which is refreshing given all that happens in this episode. It makes complete sense that Melanie would give DJ a paternity test. She never believed he was Derwin's, and more importantly, she simply did not want him to have a child with Janay.

The thing is though – the "he's not Derwin's baby" fake-out is just lazy writing. And worse, it undercut the character of Janay, who was always a mature career woman who didn't want or need Derwin for his money. She was in a lot of ways who Melanie would be if she grew the hell up. That was what made the love triangle so dramatically compelling. You could really see Derwin staying with a woman like Janay.

While tonight's episode does Janay no favors, it treats the other characters with such contempt you wonder what the hell was going on in the writers' room.

Jason and Kelly Pitts were never the best couple, but the CW version spent a lot of time exploring the fact that, though they did not marry for love, they grew to love one another. The BET versions are spiteful, hateful, and completely without redeeming qualities. The scene with Kelly and Melanie was so out of character it was painful and Kelly's anger at Tasha, still going strong after two years, felt forced (or driven by the fact that Brittany Daniel and Coby Bell are only recurring stars and clearly can only be in a few scenes due to a much smaller budget).

Jason was always rooted in a very realistic and well-rendered self-hatred, played beautifully by Coby Bell both for drama and laughs in the CW version, but here's it's almost pathological. That "eskimo" scene was offensive in the extreme. And it doesn't help that Salim Akil is directing both actors, who are naturally warm performers, to play their characters stridently. Coby Bell's natural comic gifts are wasted.

And then there's Malik, who has been touted as having the best storyline this season. Too bad we don't know what that storyline is. When we last saw Malik, he had divorced Robin Givens, reunited with his father, and met his wants-to-be-a-singer younger sister, Pucci. None of those developments are even mentioned in passing here. Malik just runs around being an asshole and Hosea Chanchez is given no motivation for such behavior so he is forced to play it straight. He's always been an asshole, but it was always played for laughs and with heart. His treatment of Tee-Tee in the episode was just mean-spirited and ridiculous. Clearly, there must be a reason for Malik's behavior but the show doesn't even bother to hint at it so we can connect with him.

(Aside – that scene where he walks right past Tasha Mack without speaking was just weird as fuck. That's his damn mama!)

Wendy Raquel Robinson – pro she is – works every scene she's in, but Tasha Mack has absolutely nothing to do. And they recast Jason and Kelly's daughter with an actress who looks 25 for reasons that escape me.

If Mara Brock Akil thought we watched The Game for the melodrama, then she fundamentally misread the show's audience. Turning the show into a late-night soap opera is a monumental mistake. It doesn't play to the strengths of the actors or make for an interesting show.

There is a lot to fix here, but I'm hoping that Akil works it all out. I'll stick around for a few more episodes, hoping she does.

 

*Yes, she gave up Johns Hopkins, but that was a selfish act in that Melanie wanted credit for it in a way that would give her carte blanche to behave however she wanted to behave.

53 thoughts on “‘The Game’: Season 4 Premiere Review

  1. Nicole McLean

    Great review. You’ve captured everything that I was thinking about the show. I’m going to stick with it for a few more episodes but its got to get better. With an entire hour, it should not feel so forced and so rushed. I want this to work…

    Reply
  2. tigger500

    Right. I am hoping that the show gets its footing in the next couple of episodes and they bring back Kelly, Jason and Malik cause those bootleg versions ain’t workin.

    Reply
  3. Nicole McLean

    I shared your post with my email group and many folks agreed that the comedy was sorely missed. One sister compared the episode to a telenovella. 🙁 Yikes. I hope that BET is listening because this is not what we were waiting for.

    Reply
  4. Lenora

    I agree with your review. Sloppy writing and overboard drama. I was wondering if I was watching reality TV. I’ll watch this season to see if it improves, but if not, I’ll just catch the old re-runs. Also, for the new show Let’s Stay Together, thumbs down.

    Reply
  5. Directerv@aol.com

    Did you watch the show from the beginning??? The reason why Malik has become a super asshole is because the new owner of the Sabers(along with the help of Ms. Mack) made Derwin the franchise player and Malik is now the has been QB. The new owner is a wealthy black male who has no qualms with throwing his wealth and status in Malik’s face so to repair his shattered ego he is having an affair with the owner’s wife and treats folks like crap. I thought the reason for his behavior was obvious. I will tune in faithfully every week like a true fan.

    Reply
  6. kim7nichols@yahoo.com

    I also agree with your review. It soo felt like a reality show poorly done! There was no real flow in any of the scenes, and can we just enjoy Melanie and Derwin for a while without all the drama! Whomever made the decision to cast Terrence J as Tasha’s new love interest needs to really re-think that. They simply have no chemistry and it just comes off fake and unbelievable.
    I really hope the writing gets better. Oh and Britt Bratt, where is she? The new Brittany, not a good look. She looks like a 20 something trying to play a 13 or 14 year old, not working! And Britt Bratt never had that much attitude.

    Reply
  7. thoughtsofsoutherngal

    I wish Akil reads your post and JDan’s because both of you are on point.
    I’m a fan of The Game. Been watching since the first episode. The first season started off rough but it got better with each episode. I hope this season is the same because the first episode just felt uncomfortable. I will continue to support. I’m still not convinced the writers are the original writers. It’s like all of the characters have changed. We didn’t get one funny line out of Malik. He acts like he has a stick up his butt.
    And the set looked really cheap.

    Reply
  8. loraine

    i thought the article was great too. it was spot on with everything. especially malik’s 2 dimensional performance. what reason do he have to be upset? he is at the top of his game. no pun intended.

    Reply
  9. loraine

    it is a very good article. as entertaining the show was last night, it does have its faults and the article is spot on. especially, malik’s character. i thought it was very 2 dimensional. what reason did he have to be upset? and he did not even speak to him mama. what was that all about. i also agree,janay’s character was a whittled down to nothing. hopefully the season will get better with time.

    Reply
  10. loraine

    i do agree, he is jealous of the new black owner who is more educated and richer than him. with that said, did he really need to do that to TT his assistant/cousin. that was unnecessary. also he did not speak to his mother. the cw version it was all about the bond he had with his mother and it was not even thought about in the revamp version. hopefully, they will flush out his character more. there was some character foreshadow when the NFL curse was mentioned.

    Reply
  11. Hhhkhv

    Yes , I love the game they need to step up; the premiere was good it just felt like they put to much work on the first episode

    Reply
  12. Kay Stan

    Two words were the theme of things missing last night ……Kelsey Grammer….good writing…..good casting…..good directing……good acting…..and Kelsey Grammer….Can we ever have a great sitcom that just so happens to have a majority black cast..(Cosby Show)…instead of black sitcoms that just so happen to be good? (Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Martin, Living Single, ect.) And for those who say it’s just the first episode…..think about how many times a BET sitcom is going to have 7.7 million viewers…(second in BET history only to the BET Awards post Michael Jackson’s Death) This was like a show premiring after the Super Bowl..This was the shows chance to gain new viewers instead it turned off old ones and probably confused new ones. They should have listened to Eminem’s “Loose Yourself” before writing this episode…”You only get one shot do not miss your chance to blow.”#GAMEOVER

    Reply
  13. Kay Stan

    Hell naw that wasn’t obvious…it was immature and pointless…..I thought 2 yrs passed….Malik still hasn’t grown the fuck up? When the show left off he had just found his sister and kinda had a relationship with his dad…..how do you explain the leap in character? and we just have to have a black owner who is all ignorant don’t we? Oh yeah that will justify Malik sleeping with his wife….Because that’s what would happen in real life yeah that’s believeble….true fan or not you are not gonna take horse shit, wrap it in a McDonalds wrapper and expect me to eat it like its a burger….

    Reply
  14. Me Me

    WOW, somewhat of a shock seeing as though everyone I’ve bumped into & conversed with has been pleasantly pleased with the season 4 premier (including myself). But to each its own, this is what makes for diverse, stimulating adult conversations. I’d 1st like to mention that the show will not be one hour all season that was strictly for the premier, the remaining episodes are 30mins. So that may help combat the issue that some of you are having. As far as the epsiode itself, Im feeling like it was great. You can’t give up all the goods on the 1st night lol- so of course viewers are going to be left w/ some questions (i.e why is Malik so angry/bitter? why is he walking pass his mother without so much as a hello when they used to be best of friends? What DOES Janay have going on w/ herself since she was the independent, career-obtained,’not-needing-Derwin-for-a-thing’ woman) etc etc.I had these same thoughts but instead of chucking it up to poor writing or lack of character dimension, I assessed that to mean i’ll be in for an entertaining season as those answers are revealed.
    I think Mara Akil is well on her way to “figuring out the rhythms of the dramedy”- Hell, she got us up here dissecting her show as well as sharing & writing our thoughts…Until next week

    Reply
  15. Kimberly

    What are yow talkin about the game was good last nite it’s been 2 years give them A break the game Is the best support them do you want them 2 be off the air again and by the way 7.7 million viewerS

    Reply
  16. Kimberly

    Yow is haters……yes the characters has change but it kind of makes it more interesting Tasha is still a loudmouth lol and I can’t wAit 2 nxt week ….leavin me on the edge of my seats ….I hope melanie tell Derwin about da baby ….the game us back and it’s here to stay……..dont give up people ……u already jumping 2 conclusions on the 1st show….u have 2 watch the whole season 2 really judge the show ….and last nite episode was the best I luv the game and I’m goin 2 support unlike these stupid dummys in the world

    Reply
  17. makeda

    great review. i agree w/ everything, except for the fact that you forgot to mention how SEXUAL it’s gotten! the game was in many ways a family show. there were hints to grown up behavior but now it’s just flat out soft core! i hope they change that too

    Reply
  18. Not satisfied.

    I agree with all your points, but one. I disagree with the fact that Melanie’s character had always been selfish. I thought she was more sensitive,focused- although she rightfully lacked maturity in the past episodes–after all she was still a student and did not have much life experience. They turned her into this evil woman…The DNA test plot is just to soap opera-ish. I just think they ghettofied the show. I think if the plot does not change…it will only appeal to a few, and not the mass. Too bad!!

    Reply
  19. Not satisfied.

    I agree with all your points, but one. I disagree with the fact that Melanie’s character had always been selfish. I thought she was more sensitive,focused- although she rightfully lacked maturity in the past episodes–after all she was still a student and did not have much life experience. They turned her into this evil woman…The DNA test plot is just too soap opera-ish. I just think they ghettofied the show. I think if the plot does not change…it will only appeal to a few, and not the mass. Too bad!!

    Reply
  20. Serk

    Did I miss something in finale of the CW version because we last saw Tasha with Rick, almost reconciling their differences, hinting to a revival of their romance. So what happened??

    Reply
  21. Bana

    Great article. I think you will have to wait until the fifth season for changes. They have completed season four. They can not incorporate your thoughts until season five. I can see where they are trying to go with Malik. Malik is extremely cocky and jealous of Derwin. Jealousy causes people to behave terribly, Melanie is a great example. She doesn’t understand she is his wife, she won. He could have made it work with Janay. Jealously can causes people to lose almost everything in order for them to learn who has their best interest at heart. The sad thing everyone will not forgive them.
    I have a explanation for the crappy camera shots and lightening. Wendy Raquel said, the scenes were shot in a Guerrilla film making style. Guerrilla film making -refers to a form of independent film making characterized by low budgets, skeleton crews, and simple props using whatever is available. Often scenes are shot quickly in real locations without any warning, and without obtaining permission from the owners of the locations. Wendy also said that in the previous seasons they performed an entire episode but now they may perform a scene from episode 1, 5, and 12 in one day. Maybe that is the reason the episode was not cohesive

    Reply
  22. bambii

    the 1st episode wasn’t that good, they need to bring back Rick fox, stacey Dash, that fine ass Roman dude and bring back the little girl who played Brittney the new girl over acts and to grown. I hate seeing that little sassey black kid rolling their head and eys’s. I felt like I was watching a movie not a show..I didn’t laugh not one time. Kelly having a reality show idea is stupid and the make up on the actors look to hard. the show needs to step it up. come on BET we are counting on you!

    Reply
  23. tigger500

    Fair points. I just thought the dramatic rhythms of the show were not there. And it’s ok. This is her first time doing a more dramatic episode (even the Toni wedding episode of Girlfriends was still mostly a comedy even though it was an hour and had that big dramatic fight).

    Reply
  24. Bana

    I agree with you on Janay. She didn’t want or need him for money but she wanted him. I believe women who get pregnant is day and age want to get pregnant. There are various forms of birth control to prevent pregnancies. I know they are not 100% safe but 99.9% is close. If a woman believes she messed up on her bc pills she should use a condom.
    In the episode with Hill Harper, Derwin said he thought Janay was on birth control. She smiled and got up from the table. They had only been dating for a few months. I’m trying to understand why she lied. It is definitely both of their fault. Derwin believed Janay because they were in a relationship. As a pro athlete, Derwin should have been smarter. The woman in the episode “Turkey Basting Bitches” said she napped her man the old fashion way, she told him she was on the pill. Women trap men for various reasons. Janay had money but she knew Derwin was a good dude. His love for Melanie’s crazy self was preventing their relationship to grow.
    We never saw Janay after the final break-up. I just assumed she got over him since it had been two years. When Janay said “your girl” had that bag but it looks better on me, it made me think. It reminded me of a little friendly competition. Remember when Melanie kept telling Derwin “Your girl”, she was jealous of Eggs. If your over someone you should not feel the need to compare yourself to his new girlfriend/wife. He is the one who lost on a good thing, she has nothing to do with it. Those are just my thoughts.

    Reply
  25. Kay

    you know what I’ll give them this first half of season 4 because they’ve already recorded 13 episodes, so they cant really go back and do some editing. I will watch about 3-4 episodes and if i see that it’s just not cutting it for me I will switch between watching it on television and online, wherever my mood takes me. But if by the second half of the season they didn’t heed our comments and just cant get it right, then I’m done, because i did NOT sign up or help to bring them back for this! lol

    Reply
  26. MsJRene

    I totally agree! I think to deviate so drastically from what made fans (I have been an avid viewer since 2006 when The Game’s pilot episode was ran in Girlfriends time slot) fall in love with the show is incredibly foolish. I think that her shows have a knack for perfectly intertwining drama and comedy. There has to be a balance of both. This premiere episode was very disheartening for so many reasons. It is just OVERLY dramatic.

    Reply
  27. John

    You said EXACTLY how I felt.
    But in some ways, I’m not surprised that the show is a mess now that it’s on BET. BET has a way of messing up everything. The show was MUCH better on The CW.

    Reply
  28. Chelsea

    I love the show but the new episodes are to much. Yo can tell that BET has the show now. It seemes very low budget. It also felt like I didnt even know the characters that I watched for 3 seasons straight. I hope they srep it up because I planned on making Bad Girls Club my monday show and The Game my tuesday.

    Reply
  29. notpleased

    I watched all of the episodes of the new season so far and honestly you’ve said everything I was thinking. I hate that they’re trying to stress this as a drama. What I loved most about the last seasons was the humour in how cheap Jason is and the jokes between the girls. I noticed that the latest episode (where they find their daughter pictures) they’ve tried to change the format of the show a bit as they brought back the laugh track. Let’s hope they bring more of the old format back. The one thing I disagree with you is that I think the only character that stayed the same is Tasha. Melanie seems so much weaker now as a character, the old Melanie wouldn’t put up with so much shit. What made the show interesting to watch before was how “normal” the characters seemed, but now that they are all so dressed up all the time and walking around with their iPads, its just not as fun to watch.

    Reply
  30. karin

    i tuned in faitlfully, but i am still very dissapointed with the story lines 🙁 its just so empty an i am not connecting with the characters like i used to 🙁

    Reply

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