Brainchild of Girlfriends’ creator, Mara Brock Akil, The Game is a spinoff of the long-running series Girlfriends. The game to which The Game refers is American football. Action revolves around a fictional NFL team, known as the San Diego Sabers. The macho heroes of the NFL, however, are not the highlight of this game. The starting players in this half-hour sitcom are the women behind the men of football.
Against a backdrop that seems as phony as the San Diego Sabers, The Game regularly trots out an assortment of women that include exotic dancers, groupies, and other hangers-on. The more permanent, and presumably more admirable, fixtures in the lives of football players are represented in the characters of a girlfriend, wife, and mother.
Melanie (Tia Mowry Hardict) is a medical student who chose University of San Diego over Johns Hopkins so she could be with her boyfriend Derwin (Pooch Hall). Kelly (Brittany Daniel), a former cheerleader and token white woman, is married to veteran wide receiver, Jason (Coby Bell). Tasha (Wendy Raquel Robinson) is mother to Malik (Hosea Chancez), the team’s star quarterback. Tasha once managed Malik’s career, but is now a successful sports agent in her own rite. Together, Melanie, Kelly, and Tasha form a rather obligatory alliance.
In addition to its regular cast, The Third Season features guest appearances from a number of celebrities. One of the season’s more memorable guest performances comes from Penny Marshall. As the inappropriately doting mother to retired NBA star Rick Fox, Marshall provides much needed relief to a comedy series that is begging for comic talent. Though Marshall’s performance is entertaining, her skills still cannot resuscitate the writers’ deadpan jokes.
Other notable guest stars include Rick Fox and Robin Givens. Both Fox and Givens appear in several episodes as washed-up versions of themselves. Or, perhaps I should simply say: they play themselves. Fox works for the same management company as Tasha, and the two become romantically involved. Meanwhile, Givens, in an attempt to jump-start her faltering acting career, marries the much younger Malik. Both agree it’s nothing more than a publicity stunt. Once married, however, Malik starts to have feelings for Givens, and wants to treat the relationship seriously. Givens, on the other hand, has no interest in romance. Much like her star persona, Givens is cold and calculating.
The Third Season finds Melanie and Derwin back together again after a recent breakup. While they were apart, and seeing other people, Derwin got another woman pregnant. Kelly and Jason are going through a divorce. Tasha and Malik, who have severed their business ties, and no longer live under the same roof, are busy redefining their relationship as mother and son.
In “Put A Ring On It”, Melanie and Derwin finally get engaged. After things go awry at their engagement party, Melanie stresses to Derwin that she really is a “strong, independent, smart woman”, but concedes that when it comes to him, she gets “stupid”. Melanie’s statement pretty much sums up the women of The Third Season. They’re supposed to be strong, independent, and smart, yet for the most part their characters are futile. They often resort to catfighting and cunning to negotiate life’s challenges.
Life’s challenges mostly revolve around breaking up with a man, getting back together with a man, or hooking up with other men. Lacking sufficient complementary comedy, these situations quickly become monotonous.
Consequently, in this season of this women-driven show, men come across as the more sympathetic characters. In fact, the best episodes of The Third Season are ones that focus on the men’s stories. “Stay Fierce Malik” and “Do The Wright Thing”, for example, examine the issue of homosexuality in the NFL. When Clay (Marcello Thedford), the team’s center, makes a sexual advance toward Malik it results in Clay becoming the league’s first recognized, openly gay football player. Like much of The Third Season, the episodes are short on laughs, but at least the acting is credible and the subject matter is compelling.
The Third Season was the final season for The Game on the CW network. In 2009, in an attempt to persuade the network to keep the show on the air, Akil and the cast of the show launched an internet campaign encouraging fans to submit online petitions to the CW. Though fans responded, the network did not. Since its cancellation, The Game has been airing on BET to high ratings. The Game has fared so well in syndication that BET reports on its website that it will begin taping new episodes that are scheduled to air in the fall of 2011.