I have a friend who drinks too much, and when he‘s over the limit he begins to sound like a stereotypical old Black uncle, like a character out of a Tyler Perry film.
“If ‘if’ were a fifth, we’d all be drunk,” he philosophizes.
“If ‘if’ were a spliff, we’d all be high,” he rambles.
He trails off, and then fades to black. The night is officially a wrap.
I don’t like to play the game “If,” but I will for BET’s The Game. I am deeply invested in this show, the brainchild of creator Mara Brock Akil. And I’ve heard (and read) some grumblings about the female characters on it. My biggest fear for the show is that people will begin to tune out, and the hard-won victory to get The Game back on the air will make us all look flaky. We ask, we receive, and then we complain. I’d rather we voice concerns, get them fixed, and keep The Game on the air.
I didn’t get put on to The Game until it was in re-runs and I caught a marathon one Sunday afternoon that had me hooked. There were plenty of potential clichés, plot-wise — a football player and his college sweetheart enter the world of professional sports. But Melanie Barnett wasn’t a basic groupie, looking for a come-up with an athlete. While her man gave his all on the field, she gave her all in med school.
Melanie and her man had their ups and downs, but they were together for love. And Melanie had her own life, or at least the “Sunbeams,” a group of NFL WAGs (wives and girlfriends) and, er, a mom who gave her a sisterhood of support. Her close friends Tasha and Kelly gave Melanie interests and a perspective outside of her relationship. How, after The Game was pulled and then a petition to bring it back to TV appeared on my Facebook feed, could I not click it, sign it, like it and share it?
I’ve invested in this show and I want to love it as much now as I did then. But right now, the portrayal of the women is killing me. The strong female characters that sucked me into the show and made me cancel my Saturday errands to watch re-runs just don’t have the same, well, strength. Tasha Mack used to be a hustling woman on the come-up, looking to make a name for herself as a formidable businesswoman in a male-dominated world. But these days she does more blunt (or cigar) smoking, cursing and nouveaux riche “ball-ing” than anything else. Always unlucky in love, she’s now just tragically love-less, reduced to a punch line. In recent episodes she’s been paying a prostitute for pleasure (remember “Cockroach” from The Cosby Show? Him). Kelly, a.k.a. “the White girl,” is a non-factor; she no longer exists on the show.
Melanie, once my favorite character, has become friend-less and obnoxious, an M.D. with no practice and a life that revolves solely around her husband, his business dealings, and the perks of his profession, since she doesn’t have one of her own. After five seasons she’s lost herself in his world, something she once swore she would never do.
I know this is a drama and that well-mannered, civilized people don’t always make for compelling TV. But is asking for female characters that are dramatic and likable asking a lot? The women of The Game once walked that line so well, making the show must-see TV. But these days? Not so much. I wish it would be again, so I can tune in for pleasure, not obligation.
How would you like to see The Game changed?
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk