"Game" Over: BET Surely Knows How To Screw Up A Good Thing
Before I ever walked through the doors of the Black Entertainment Television offices on 555 w 57th st. as the Executive Editor of Music, I was pretty sure that BET had been personally responsible and conscious of each and every failure it has ever had. After my year tenure and my publicized departure, my concerns were affirmed. But if there was a silver lining of hope for the network it had to be when they acquired the rights to resurrect “The Game.” They built up anticipation for the show’s return after it was unceremoniously canned by the CW by running an endless stream of episodes. Those that never watched instantly became fans and those who were already fans could watch an entire season on a Sunday and fall in love all over again. The network had yet to acquire the show before I left, but I do recall how well those reruns performed on the network.
The plan was, dare I say, brilliant.
An African-American sitcom/drama that people adored but perhaps never got a chance to watch in its entirety was beaten into our subconsciousness until we wondered aloud “How could they cancel this show? It was pretty good!” Petitions formed online to bring the show back and when BET made the announcement at their April 2010 upfronts, people rejoiced. Not only did the fans bring back a show that they felt was cancelled too early, but they brought back a black show that was adored by African Americans and devoid of the negative stereotypes we’re used to seeing on television. When black folks see a decent representation of themselves on the television, they’ll watch. Go figure.
Most applauded the return. However, the asshole cynic in me was just wondering how long it would take for them to screw it up. Given BET’s track record for pitiful programming outside of “106 & Park” and their award shows, my faith that they could do the show justice was about as strong as LeBron James’ 4th quarter clutch gene. With such a strong viral campaign, “The Game” was destined to do big numbers when it returned on January 11, 2011. Nobody was quite sure how big those numbers would be. When the hour long season premiere aired and BET saw the return, their eyes lit up.
A whopping 7.7 million viewers.
It became the #1 ad-supported sitcom telecast in cable ever viewed. To put it in perspective, the show’s final episode before being cancelled only did 1.8 million viewers. It was a huge victory for the network and it proved that African Americans on television not named the Cosbys could pull in viewers. I was impressed but I kept waiting for “it” to happen.
For those that actually watched the premiere, something was amiss. It wasn’t exactly the same show that we once knew. Sure, people expected change, but the characters and their personalities shifted drastically. Despite the huge numbers, reviews were mixed. Some felt the show took on too serious of a tone, others felt like their head was spinning from the loads of drama packed into one episode and there were still those that
enjoyed held out hope after what they saw. But as the season progressed, those concerns were magnified. Everything from the off-track laugh track and inconsistent storylines to Melanie’s transformation and Tasha’s over-ghetto attitude plagued the season and prevented it from being great. I watched, part of me hoping it got better and the other part feeling like Skip Bayless when his polarizing views on King James inability to win a ring were confirmed. Every episode was progressively worse. Malik was mad all the time, Tasha was possessed by the ghetto goddesses to do ungodly ghetto things and Melanie became some materialistic castoff of VH1′s “Basketball Wives.” It was pretty pitiful and, in our opinion, failed miserably.
Oh yeah, just what in the hell happened to the game of football? Isn’t that what “The Game” was supposed to be about? You know, the “game” of football? Jason’s overgrown daughter Brittany (how did she age so fast?) was discussed more than football. Some new hot shot quarterback with a lousy acting pedigree was brought in to save the Sabers but, alas, nobody cared. But I digress…