Choice is a privilege that its beneficiaries often forget to exercise. For instance, I chose to watch the season finale of BET's The Game and then instantly cursed that decision as if my own free will had nothing to do with it. Same thing goes for the show's supposed Cinderella season at BET.
Tuesday's finale, entitled "The Right to Choose," played out much like the rest of the disappointing fourth season: too much melodrama without any meat. Suddenly Melanie has an abortion secret that is more cheap shot than cliffhanger. After getting all Zen with a married man and summarily fired by Melanie, Tasha is set on re-energizing Malik's flatlining career. Meanwhile, the Sabers' quarterback is more concerned with his crack-addicted girlfriend. Jason is still a jerk and Kelly is just gone.
This year I have no clue what the locker room or writing-room talk is over at The Game. If it's something like, "Make every character a cheap cliché," then, well, I can't fault the quarterbacks for making those melodramatic plays on the field. Like any fan, I wanted my favorite team to make me proud to say I chose to spend time staring at them do their thing once a week. Instead I've been deleting episodes of The Game from my DVR as soon as they're watched.
No one could ever accuse me of following sports, but I was a professional cheerleader a lifetime ago (Go, Nets!), so my rah-rahs have always been louder than my boos. I wanted to love The Game again. The first three seasons weren't transcendent, but they weren't Tyler Perry, either.
Back then, all the players knew their goals. There was something for "the people in the back" to root for. Melanie was a bourgie black girl trying to balance her dream of being a doctor with the idea of being a football wife. Her man, Derwin, was a rookie trying to fit into the locker room. Malik just needed to grow up, and his mama, Tasha, needed to figure out not what she could do but what she wanted to do. Team captain Jason wanted a championship ring at the cost of his wedding ring.
But you can't call plays from the stands. We can yell, we can shake our fists (or pom-poms), but without a clipboard, we're useless. Sort of. The Game was brought back to life by its fans after the CW canceled the show in 2009. A year later, BET announced that it had struck a deal with the show's parent company, and the network began debuting new episodes in 2011. Fans did that. We gave the show CPR, but can we give it something else? Pointers, maybe?
1. Bring Kelly Pitts back. Without Kelly as Jason's emotional center, his snarky one-liners make him out to be more of the court jester than a man struggling with a forced retirement.
2. Somebody — anybody — get Melanie a stethoscope. For three seasons, all Melanie could talk about was medical school. Her nickname was "Med School"! But at the drop of a diploma, "the legacy" (i.e., Derwin's football career) is suddenly more important than "Doctor" Melanie Barnett-Davis' own dreams.
3. Cut Tasha's weave, please. When Tasha finally lost the "long hair, don't care" look in Season 3, I figured she'd tone down her "I'll cut you" rhetoric along with her tresses. Not so. Four seasons later, Ms. Mack is right back where she started — fake mane and no man.
4. Malik could use a makeover. I never understood what Malik Wright wanted or needed on the show. First he had to get out from under his mother. Done. But since that turned out terribly (rehab), now he's back at square one. The man needs a hobby.
5. What happened to the Sunbeams? The entire premise of The Game was wrapped around the Sunbeams, the charitable arm of the Sabers run by the players' wives. That's where Melanie met Tasha and Kelly, who became the threesome whose wine guzzling poured a lot of heart into the show. Without that center, The Game has spent much of Season 4 spinning its wheels.
In an entertainment age dominated by a constantly shuffling roster of reality shows, die-hard fans are hard to come by in television. Still, like the painted faces in the crowd during March Madness, some folks make the commitment. Sure, The Game is just a TV show, a half-hour dramedy in a packed midseason lineup. But it was our show, and if it wants to make it to the finals at this year's up-fronts, I hope the show starts listening to what the fans have been shouting from the stands.