This excites me:
I have been lost without a great Mara Brock Akil show on my television. Welcome back, ma!
Mara Brock Akil is, in my view, a genius. And The Game was – and likely will be again – the funniest show on television. I don't care what anyone says, nothing on Cougar Town, Modern Family or any of these brought-the-white-family-sitcom-back-from-the-dead sitcoms is anywhere near as funny as one Tasha Mack "now what now?" or one Malik Wright "Girl Melanie" or, shit, even a corny ass Derwin Davis "thas wassup."
Hollywood and most of America thinks Shonda Rhimes is the great black television success story of the 21st century. And that's because we still think black success = crossover and that we should only pay attention to something's greatness, or consider it to even be great, if a lot of white eyeballs or eardrums are on it.
The Game is a majority-black show with only one white character, but there is more diversity in one of its episodes than most any other network show with a diverse cast. And that's because Akil has spent the last decade revolutionizing – while y'all weren't noticing – how you portray black people on television, starting with Girlfriends, the single greatest black television show since The Cosby Show, and, in its own way, a superior show to even that one.
Akil was smart and understood that a black comedy would get produced more quickly than a black drama, so she sold Girlfriends as a comedy and then proceeded to do what so many other great television comedy producers did in the last decade – she found the drama in it. Like Scrubs and Sex and the City, Girlfriends was absolutely brilliant at upending the assumptions of what a 30-minute comedy is supposed to do.
But more importantly, she understood that breaking sitcom convention meant that she could make Joan, Maya, Lynn and Toni into three-dimensional black women, something that had never been done on television before. The warts and all presentation of these four amazing women, of course, meant that black people often took issue with the show*. The characters started out as types (again, because Akil was working within sitcom conventions) and then Akil just broke everything apart.
And yet it was still hilariously funny.
The same is true with The Game. The comedy is uproarious, but the drama is deeply heartfelt. And Akil, just like she did with Girlfriends, has given actors – some who have worked before and some who didn't much – an opportunity to show they have some skills. Particularly, she found in Tia Mowry Hardrict a gifted actress, in Coby Bell a gifted comedian, and in Wendy Raquel Robinson an actress of astonishing depth and comic timing who can break your heart and make you double over with laughter, sometimes in the same scene.
The Game, like Girlfriends, is black. But, honestly, that sentence does not capture what it is I really mean, so lemme try again: Akil has figured out how to make black people human on television. There are no stereotypes. There are no archetypes. There are familiar elements and there is an understanding of how her characters had to have come from somewhere. But all your essentialistic beliefs about what a black show does is destroyed and rebuilt when you watch a Mara Brock Akil show.
That sounds hyberbolic, but it really isn't.
*There has always been something incredibly frustrating to me in the fact that a lot of black women play the "which Sex and the City girl you are" game and yet seem willfully incapable of finding anything of themselves in the Girlfriends girls. I have a Y-chromosome so I won't overstep my bounds, but it seems to me that the Girlfriends girls hit a lil too close to home in a way that makes sisters not want to say they might have a lil of those women in them.