All, the early ’90s! I spent my time counting the days until my military service ended by drinking as much beer as possible until I got to the bright red circle on my calendar. But when Martin Lawrence (House Party) pitched an idea for a sitcom with an African American cast, Fox picked up the show and added it to a then-fledging group of shows that balanced themselves between evening soap operas and raunchy family comedies.
Martin tells the story of Martin Payne (Lawrence), successful host of an urban radio station program in Detroit. His girlfriend is Gina (Tisha Campbell, Boomerang), whose best friend Pam (Tichina Arnold, Everybody Hates Chris) disapproves of him. And Martin’s boys, the guys who will always have his back are Cole (Carl Anthony Payne, The Cosby Show) and Tommy (Thomas Mikal Ford, Q & A), who bumble around a bit, but their loyalty is unquestioned.
Overall, the show’s story structure isn’t anything special, there’s a dilemma, and either Martin or Gina is put into a bit of a pickle that they have to pull themselves out of. Yet it managed to bring the stories of black oppression to prime time television, which is to be commended. Good or bad, the laughs are hilarious, maybe more for the black viewers than white, but introducing that dynamic into everyday black life was new for the time.
And let’s face facts, it was a show with a young, funny black man that was put on in prime time, so a lot of athletes and entertainers of the time (not to mention other times) flocked to it with good reason. Old-school faces like LaWanda Page (Sanford and Son), and original Saturday Night Live player Garrett Morris had recurring roles in the show. Kim Fields (The Facts of Life) was a bit younger face, as was Lark Voorhies (Saved by the Bell). Contemporary comics like David Alan Grier (In Living Color) and the legendary Richard Pryor (Silver Streak) appeared. In terms of kitschy things, take Jon Gries is recently known as Uncle Rico of Napoleon Dynamite, but he also appeared as the reclusive, uber-smart Lazlo in Real Genius. The guy has got his legacy for unique roles down, you’ve got to hand it to him.
What, you were expecting something special for these episodes? You’re going to get a two channel stereo mix and like it, young man! As an aside, the stereo mix sounds fine, and there’s music that comes through the show constantly and it all sounds fine.
Full frame love and attention for the homies and beyotches. But there’s a lot of color piping through it and it looks good, and for being 15 years old, it’s held up quite well.
There’s about 10 minutes of bloopers that are full of cursing and swearing, and some other flubs that are cleaner but still funny. Lawrence also provides some commentary to the greatest hits of Season One, and talking about how the casting was pulled together both on the female and male sides, the guest stars during the season and some of his favorite scenes. It was a nice recollection, but probably would have been better with a reunited cast commentary with an episode or two, unless everyone’s not on speaking terms or something. Oh yeah, I forgot, Campbell was getting unwelcomed advances by Lawrence.
It’s a little bit sad to see the kind of issues that Lawrence has had over the last few years, and the movies that he’s made or appeared in are downright horrible, but at one point he managed to be THE funniest young black comic out there, and Season One of Martin helps show off his comic talents, along with his willingness to take on different identities. It’s a keeper for fans of the entertainer, and those who enjoyed Chappelle’s Show will probably like this.