First thing's first – BET is foolish for not pre-empting all of its programming to air the State of the Union. The speech was boring as shit, but BET should have aired it. #FAIL.
This week's episode of The Game was built around two fights – the ongoing one between Malik and his best friend/former assistant Tee Tee and the one between Melanie and Jazz, Juvon's wife (played by Tae Heckard). And how the show handled both of these storylines exemplifies the best of The Game as we have known it and the worst of what is really endemic to this particular season.
So far, it's hard to really know how to respond to Malik Wright this season since there is no throughline in the three episodes of this season so far for Malik's character. In the premiere, we are led to believe that the Sabers are treating Malik terribly and that's why he is being an asshole. In the second episode, Malik's story is not advanced and he's basically the Malik from the CW version. And in this third episode, Malik the Asshole is back and we are led to believe that the fight between Tee Tee and Malik signals that the change in their relationship is the root of Malik's anger and general asshole-ish behavior, not the Sabers' treatment.
The problem of course is that the dramatic writing for this storyline is sorely lacking, which is truly unfortunate because Hosea Chancez is goin for it. But the show has yet to give us a real glimpse of the other side of Malik's anger, to ground the character's behavior in a real emotional place. There is no vulnerability in Malik Wright, nothing that helps us to understand what is going on. The scene where Malik calls Tee Tee is supposed to be that moment of vulnerability, but as good as Chanchez is in the scene, it comes a bit too late I think. Had that scene come before the big blowout between the two men, both scenes might have had more weight.
It also doesn't help that Barry Floyd (who plays Tee Tee) is a terrible actor. He simply didn't deliver in the big scene with Chanchez and the directing – a close-up of Floyd's unexpressive face and a really pointless tracking shot of Floyd's exit were terrible directing choices – only made him look worse.
The fight between Melanie and Jazz though captures The Game at its best because it is the kind of story that the show has used in the past to reveal something essential to understanding who the characters are. In this case, we are reminded that Melanie is a snob who truly believes she's better than everyone.
At this point, it is frustrating that Melanie is so oblivious that she doesn't see any similarities between her and the other Sunbeams. Melanie is living off of Derwin, having decided not to practice medicine (for reasons that the show really has to start to explore and probably should have hinted at in this episode) and so she's, at least in effect, the same as Jazz. Jazz makes that point nicely to Melanie (as does Tasha).
Tia Mowry Hardrict does a great job of keeping Melanie from being totally insufferable. Her inate likeability and her commitment to Melanie's unattractive qualities is a key reason that character works. Though, as the new Sunbeam President, she is strangely channeling Brittany Daniel in that first scene with the Sunbeams.
Overall, this was not as strong an episode as last week's. The smaller budget has created challenges that at this point I don't think will be shaken out in this season. The writers are having real difficulty writing to Mara Brock Akil's desire for more drama and writing around the challenge of the recurring status of Brittany Daniel and Coby Bell. Their absence in this episode was not just noticeable, it was glaringly apparent. The show has to handle their absences more smoothly. Just ignoring the existence of Kelly and Jason Pitts in episodes that the two actors are not appearing is not gon' cut it. Their characters are so central to the show's identity that they must be acknowledged in some way otherwise the show will just feel unbalanced from episode to episode. Hopefully BET will give the show a slightly bigger budget for the fifth season and shoot during Bell's hiatus from Burn Notice (not doing those two things would be a monumental mistake.).
Couple of other thoughts:
- It was nice to see Bumper Robinson as Juvon and familiar faces among the Sunbeams. It's a small bit of continuity, but given what I said above it matters.
- It was nice that Malik and Tasha actually had a scene together.
- The "Malik needs an assistant" story didn't really work (mostly because the actress playing the assistant was just terrible), but Tee Tee's "dyslexic chimp" joke was the episode's funniest line. Floyd's deadpan delivery clearly works so much better for comedy than it does for drama.