Tyler Perry has created an empire. Stand-up tours… movie studio… and now he’s thrown his hat into television with the sitcom, House of Payne, on TBS. One can’t deny Perry’s power in Hollywood. His movies are constantly at the top of the box office and his stand-up tours are always sold out.
So can Perry make it in what is perhaps the hardest medium to succeed? The sitcom?
Big personalities and powerful people have entered the realm of the sitcom and promptly had their lunch handed to them. Names like George Foreman and Emeril Lagasse come to mind. Luckily for Perry, he’s just a producer on House of Payne so any potential humiliation from cancellation will not be filmed for all to see. But the fact that the show has two seasons already in the books proves that it’s at least somewhat successful. However, the question remains. Is House of Payne any good?
I laughed out loud a bunch of times during each episode, but I couldn’t get over the show feeling very forced at times. The laugh track is annoying, and shows like The Office and My Name is Earl have proved that ditching the laugh-track can be instantly funnier due to the comedic goldmine that is the awkward silence. But this is not what House of Payne wants to do. It wants to make you laugh once every minute with telegraphed dialogue and situations.
The show also falls into the typical sitcom set-up when C.J. (Allen Payne) and his family are forced to move in with his uncle Curtis (LaVan Davis) when his house burns down. The difference is, however, in the way this is executed. C.J.’s wife, a drug addict, burned the house down by accident while doing drugs. Points are awarded for this tough subject matter and how it’s dealt with.
Despite these standard sitcom drawbacks, the lone reason House of Payne works is the cast.
LaVan Davis plays Curtis as if he was a distant relative of Archie Bunker, a stubborn curmudgeon always looking for alone time in a house full of family members. At times Davis shows flashes of Tracy Morgan, and the laughs come from the delivery alone. Curtis could show a little more heart to become more of a rounded character, but he’s always harmless.
Allen Payne (Jason’s Lyric, The Perfect Storm) is likable as C.J., who must deal with the newfound reality of losing his house because of his drug-addict wife. C.J. is whiny at times, but overall, comes across as a loving father and husband.
The rest of the cast plays off each other nicely, but all of the characters are never able to break free from the sitcom mold, and their range of emotions flip between “sitcom funny” or “a very special House of Payne” kind of serious.
Overall, House of Payne is a return to the family sitcom in an era when shows have turned to a group of friends (Friends, How I Met Your Mother) for laughs. To its benefit, House of Payne is very familiar (Roseanne, The Cosby Show and All in the Family come to mind) and somewhat funny. The cast is also very game. The downfall is that a sitcom about family is usually corny, but that doesn’t mean that laughs can’t be had.
NOTE: After researching House of Payne on IMDb, I noticed that this DVD set is actually the second season of the show, despite the DVD being called Volume One: Episodes 1-20. I learned that the first season was run on local networks (not TBS) and are not featured on this set. It is unknown if the first season will ever be released on DVD.
House of Payne is filmed in the standard definition 4:3 format and looks very much like a sitcom. There are no flaws with the picture. However, this disc is best suited for small-screen televisions.
Surprisingly, House of Payne comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The downside is that because it’s a sitcom, all the soundtrack has to do is handle dialog, the laugh track, and some theme music. However, all of this is handled well, and free of distortion.
The House that Tyler Perry Built is a fluffy 12-minute interview with Tyler Perry, discussing what he wanted to do with House of Payne. He repeatedly says that he wanted to make the show familiar, adding equal parts Roseanne and All in the Family, and shaking it up with some serious issues like drug addiction.
House of Payne is a familiar look into a family that uses humor to deal with tough situations. At times it’s “sitcom corny” and at times it’s “sitcom funny.” While it may never be mentioned in the same breath as sitcom greats such as The Cosby Show, Roseanne, or All in the Family, House of Payne is an entertaining way to spend a half hour. I just wouldn’t recommend buying the set when you can watch it for free on TBS, unless you’re a huge fan of the show or Tyler Perry.