Is “The Game” Over?

If y’all recall, when CW canceled “The Game” and sparked allegations of injustice, I said it wasn’t all that big a deal, because the show had middling ratings compared to the network’s other offerings. It also received an opportunity to execute a series finale that adequately wrapped up the open plot arcs: Derwin married Melanie in the hospital chapel while Janay and Derwin Jr. chilled in the maternity ward; Jason chose Stacey Dash over Kelly (who wouldn’t?); Rick Fox reconciled with Tasha and, in light of her firing from Irv Smiff’s office, she’d decided to be an entertainment manager; Malik was still a raging jerk, but he’d found his oft-mentioned father, so we had reason to believe he’d make some necessary attitude adjustments (well, the most optimistic among us believed it, anyway).

There wasn’t much left to flesh out. The closest thing to a cliffhanger was Kelly clockin’ Tasha for introducing Jason to Stacey Dash and declaring their friendship over. That was hardly anything to reboot a show over.

Regardless, “The Game” is back, this time on BET.

Now, I’m aware that the mere mention of BET throws some of us into a self-righteous tizzy. And to be sure, the series redux premiere had a few touches some bloggers considered typical BET trademarks: a fried chicken truck? Tasha, previously not known to smoke, puffin’ a Black? Terrence J?

But whether or not BET trades in stereotypes isn’t the question. Nor is it, really, about the significantly diminished quality of an already borderline-soapy/campy series.

The question is: what now?

When the show premiered on BET — promoted ad infinitum with actor interviews and a catchy airdate (1-11-11) — it garnered the highest ratings ever for an ad-supported cable sitcom.

But gone were both the style (lowered production costs seemed to yield threadbare sets, bad weave/dye jobs, and embarrassing wardrobes) and substance of the series die-hard petitioners for its return remembered.

The storylines set up for the new season don’t seem to have much traction: Melanie’s still insecure and whiny, viewing Derwin’s son as a threat to her camera-ready dream for wedded bliss; Janay is prosecuting Derwin for child support, offended since Melanie geeked Derwin up to believe DJ wasn’t his; Malik is an alcoholic, alienating himself from the few people who still love him, especially T.T.; and Kelly’s running through Jason’s money, chronicling their divorce fallout via reality TV.

In many ways, this is where you’d expect these characters to be at this point. Melanie has “delayed” her residency, now that Derwin’s the team star; she currently chairs the Sunbeams. Jason’s been fired without notice (which seems right because… wasn’t he practically Favre-ing his way through, two years ago)? And Malik’s alcoholism stems from a kind of fading glory, following an injury. Kelly and Tasha have shortest shrift of all, plot-wise; both seem shells of their former selves–and what ever happened with Rick Fox? (In real life, he’s cradle-robbing cohabiting with actress Eliza Dushku; a throwaway line about Rick ditching Tasha for a younger woman would validate her bedding Terrence J. The old writers would’ve gone there, which leads me to another point.)

Even though the original cast (save “Brit-Brat,” who’s now being played by a teenager who couldn’t resemble the sandy-haired tween of the original series less) is still in tact, the characterization is off. The dialogue: both in writing and in delivery, is off. The actors are a bit rusty embodying these characters; the writers are either different than the original crew, constrained by BET’s inexplicable prohibition of “offensive language” (which obviously hampers a show about the sensational lifestyle of cocky professional athletes and their significant others), or some combination of the two.

With all the problems plaguing the re-envisioning of the series, will its high ratings hold? And if they do, how will the showrunners know we need more: from the performances, the storylines, and the hair/makeup/wardrobe departments?

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slb (aka Stacia L. Brown) is a writer, mother, and college instructor in Baltimore, MD. Check her out here: http://stacialbrown.com and here: http://beyondbabymamas.com.

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