I highly doubt that people are as excited for Season 5 of The Game as they were for Season 4. I know I wasn't, given how uneven Season 4 turned out to be, but I was curious to see if some of the problems from last season were ironed out and if Season 5 might return the show to its pre-BET greatness.
Find out what I think after the jump. Reviews of Season 4 can be found here.
I wonder if Mara Brock Akil has been taking notes from Jenji Kohan on how to evolve a show so much that it doesn't even resemble what it first was.
Weeds started out as a funny dark comedy about a suburban widow who sells weed to her neighbors and then over the course of seven seasons became a melodrama of the first order. In the first couple of seasons, it was a fine entrant into a class of filmmaking that explores the issues "perfect suburbanites" hide behind their manicured lawns and SUVs. But Weeds in Season 7 is like an entirely different show with the same characters.
Well – The Game in Season 5 is an entirely different show from The Game Season 1 with the same characters. And in the same way that Weeds 2.0 pales in comparison to Weeds 1.0, The Game as a melodramatic telenovela is just not as compelling as the dramedy of its early years.
The Jenna overdose story is just wrong. There is a way to tell jokes in the midst of tragedy, but The Game fails at it. It doesn't help that Jenna, as a character, is still a cipher. We don't know who she is. We don't care about her. And we don't believe that Malik really cares about her as much as he suggests. And in the end, the story just trivializes drug abuse in a way that is really uncomfortable to watch.
I really liked the way the "Melanie had an abortion" storyline developed though because it was played seriously and was rooted in so much of the history of Melanie and Derwin and who they are as people.
I believe that Melanie would abort Trey Wiggs' baby because she didn't want to lose Derwin, even though they were already broken up due to his infidelity with Drew Sidora. I believe that because Melanie is the woman who gave up Johns Hopkins to follow him to San Diego and, apparently, gave up practicing medicine to be head of the Sunbeams. I also believe it because Tia Mowry Hardrict is really good at conveying the conflict borne of Melanie's devotion to Derwin and the underlying resentment of him as a result of that devotion.
And I believe that Derwin would be angrier at the fact that the baby was Trey Wiggs' than the fact that it was aborted. And I believe that going through the process of juggling his relationships with Melanie and Janay at DJ's party and understanding what that must be like for Melanie – not to mention knockin Wiggs' out – would be enough to start him on the road to forgiveness.
Jason's "woke up married to Chardonnay" storyline is pure sitcom, but at least it succeeds at that. Coby Bell remains the show's greatest asset and he gets lots of great moments in the episode. His rant to Brandy's Chardonnay at the bar is classic Jason Pitts, classic The Game, and hilarious. His dramatic monologue about where he believes his color and race issues come from was equally as good.
But none of this adds up to a cohesive whole. What bothers me about the season premiere is that the show has doubled down on its new format, but it just isn't pitched quite right. The tone that you need to make this new telenovela style work is not here.
Unlike Weeds 2.0, The Game is still trying to have it both ways – it's still trying to hold onto The CW version, even though the show's structure, tone, characterization, and plotting have changed dramatically in this new BET version. In other words, the show simply cannot blend the earnest tone of Derwin and Melanie's storyline with the melodrama of Tasha Mack and Malik and the sitcom hilarity of Jason Pitts to create a show with a clear identity.
If Mara Brock Akil and BET want to make a black nighttime telenovela where the cast never interacts with one another, where the relationships established in the first three seasons are thrown out in favor of separate, unconnected, over-the-top storylines for each of the five leads, then it should decide on what kind of show that is and settle on a consistent tone.
Because I do think the ship has sailed on any hope that The Game will be the show that folks wanted to be brought back. I think the audience has accepted it (and, likely, moved on). The producers should commit to it.