I Am Done with BET’s “The Game”, Finally

I missed last week's episode and have just finished watching the rerun before tonight's new episode.

And I'm done. Between this episode's treatment of Tasha Mack and the news that the show's stars, Tia Mowry Hardrict and Pooch Hall, will not be returning next season, I just can't.

I had hoped that Tasha and Pookie getting together would provide the writers an opportunity to resurrect the Tasha Mack that was so compelling on the CW's version.

But no. Now she is a sex addict.  It wasn't that she had distrust and anger issues with Coach T. It wasn't whatever broke her and Rick Fox up that has never been explained. Nope, now she's a ho. Now we are supposed to believe that she's always been motivated to pick men solely because of sex.  

Except nothing that the show has really done to date suggests this is anywhere near the case.

This is a manipulative, insulting and downright abusive and sexist treatment of the character of Tasha Mack. There is no reason for this to occur other than to create artificial conflict in the new relationship. But it would just be nice if the show would root these conflicts in the characters we know, rather than just try to be over the top and soapy.

I get that The Game is a different show from Girlfriends – which I believe to be the best black television show of the last decade – and I even somewhat kinda understand the desire to soap it up thinking that it would appeal to a broader audience even though it was a flagrant misread of the show's core  audience, but the treatment of Tasha Mack (and, to a lesser extent, Malik and Melanie) in the BET version is appalling and offensive in the extreme.

I didn't even watch tonight's episode. I'm done.

 

I'm sure folks have thoughts.  Share them with me in the comments.

‘The Game’: Season 5 Episode 18 Review

Thoughts on Episode 18 after the jump. As always, reviews of previous episodes can be found here.

 

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‘The Game’: Season 5 Episode 17 Review

So…life happened and I couldn't keep up with reviews.  But I've had a chance to watch all the episodes I missed OnDemand, as well as tonight's episode.

Before we get into tonight's episode, here are my thoughts on what I missed:

  • Overall, this back set of episodes is more consistently funny and traditionally sitcom-like than the first 10 episodes and most of Season 4. I think this has a lot to do with the end of the Tasha/Melanie feud, which lasted too long and sapped all the joy out of the show (what little there was). I am pleased, if cautiously so.
  • I am not sure that I understand why Derwin and Melanie would want Tasha to carry their baby. As a human with a Y-chromosome, I want to tread lightly here but: isn't it harder to carry a baby to term after 35? Why would they want a 40-something surrogate?
  • I still think Coby Bell is the series MVP and any scene he's in is going to be better than any scene without him, but the "friend" party did sort of raise the glaring issue that the show has gotten so far away from these people being friends and being in each other's lives that it, in some ways, makes no sense for this show to be on the air. It'd be nice if they found a way to reintegrate Bell into the show and find ways to have the five leads share scenes together.
  • These episodes have been good for the development of Derwin as this brand new balla who is basically feelin himself a bit too much. Not blocking for Kwan is a major, in some ways unforgivable, mistake and I'm glad the show treated it as such. I am really hoping the writers use this as an opportunity to ground him (and Melanie too, for that matter) because not having them as the heart and moral compass of the show is a big part of the reason the BET version is so off-balance. Pooch Hall – always the show's weakest actor – stepped up nicely in the Kwan episode.
  • I love the Tasha/Pookie relationship story. I think there is tremendous potential here. And who doesn't love the gorgeous and supremely talented Rockmond Dunbar. More of him is a good thing. Tasha Mack deserves more and so does Wendy Raquel Robinson.
  • Lastly, Loretta Devine as Grandma Mack? Genius! And so emotionally rich. She and Robinson had a great scene at the end of Episode 13.

So that's it for the episodes I missed. Thoughts on Episode 17 after the jump. As always, reviews of previous episodes can be found here.

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‘Jumping the Broom’: A Review

*Spoiler alert*

There are little things about Jumping the Broom that make you smile. 

How detailed Paula Patton's work creating a spoiled rich young woman whose optimism is really just a infantile belief that she can always have her way is. How awesome Julie Bowen's marvelously physical performance is. How Mike Epps somehow brings surprising nuance to a character that is broad on the page but becomes warm and real as he plays him. That Salim Akil manages to find work for not one, not two, but three grand dames of acting – Loretta Devine, Angela Bassett, and Valarie Pettiford. And, crucially, how Loretta Devine with just a look or reaction conveys so much about Pam Taylor that the script doesn't give you till the end.

That last point is really important because that failing of the script is what makes Jumping the Broom, enjoyable though it may be, the latest example of how class divisions within the black community are sometimes disingenuously portrayed in popular culture as just about working class and poor Black people hating on, and being resentful of, the success of upper middle class Black people. In life, we know that those class tensions work both ways.

While the film shows a little of Sabrina's family looking down on the Taylors, the film overplays Pam Taylor as, essentially, the antagonist of the film. It is clear that the script is unwilling to risk making Sabrina and Claudine unlikeable even as it somewhat revels in making Pam look quite monstrous. The Watsons' bougie qualities are nearly always conveyed in passing as if they are just quirks, but the Taylors are all written broadly for comic relief and are always shown to be alternately envious and contemptuous of the Watsons' wealth.

In other words, on the page the Watsons feel a little more like real people than the Taylors do.*

The script establishes rather well the relationship between Patton's Sabrina and Bassett's Claudine, which is critical in order for us to care that they turn out to not be mother and daughter. But the script spends no time establishing the relationship between Alonzo's Jason and Devine's Pam, I guess, assuming that we don't need to know why Pam so thoroughly dislikes Sabrina or why Jason would keep Sabrina away from Pam until the end. 

The film just relies on assumptions about the "overbearing single Black mother" to color in Jason and Pam's relationship and to give the audience something to assume is motivating Pam's behavior. It is not till after Pam nearly ruins the wedding that we find out why Jason has kept Sabrina away, that we find out how lonely Pam is, that we get any real indication of just how unhealthy their relationship might really have been before Sabrina came into the picture.  

That scene where Jason tells Pam off is powerful stuff, but it simply comes much much too late and, as such, it punishes Pam in a way that doesn't allow for us to consider her humanity. Which is sad because there really is dramatic potential in the strange, powerful, and sometimes unhealthy, relationships between Black men and their mothers.

 

*In fairness, this is a romantic comedy so no character is terribly well-drawn, but the fact that we don't ever even find out what Jason does for a living (other than that he was "promoted to vice president") is just one example of how the Taylors are underwritten.

Class Warfare

It's amazing just how powerful the images of so many talented black actors in one place truly are….

…because it almost distracts me from the fact that these talented black actors deserve way better than this romantic comedy nonsense.

I really really want better for Loretta Devine. She's an actress who can be downright luminous. I really enjoyed her on Fox's Boston Public, particularly in that first season when her unique ability to play flighty and exasperated put an interesting spin on her bipolar character, what could have been a really awful character.

But I can't imagine that this film will treat Black people's issues with class in an interesting way. Not when its shorthand is a light-skinned woman = money and loud, boisterous and rude = lower-class black.

All the characters will learn something by the end of the film – of course only so the two main characters can get married, which is stupid – because that's what these films are about. 

But it'd be nice if we could show this kind of diversity in black communities in such a way that we celebrate it and not make it about what is and isn't "authentically black."