Girlfriends has turned out to be a very successful show. It lasted eight seasons and one hundred seventy two episodes. Despite the lack of a proper final episode, it should have a lasting place in television history. In 2006, they ran a special episode which ended up being a backdoor pilot for the series called The Game. With the 4th season of this show currently in negotiations with the BET network, it was only fitting to start releasing Season sets. But would it be as good as the show that it spun off from?
Melanie Barnett (played by Tia Mowry) is in love with Derwin Davis (played by Pooch Hall). Melanie wants to go to John Hopkins medical school but there is one problem, Derwin has been drafted to play professional football by the San Diego Sabres. Melanie decides to forgo John Hopkins against her parent’s wishes and join Derwin in San Diego.
Once in San Diego, Derwin is forced to live with various hazing rituals as he attempts to get acclimated to the professional football lifestyle as a rookie receiver. Melanie tries to study her books but soon finds herself trying to fit in among the rest of the Sabres girlfriends and wives. The group of women is collectively known as the Sunbeams, with their president being Kelly Pitts (played by Brittany Daniel). Kelly is married to Jason Pitts (played by Coby Bell) who is the star receiver for the team.
The other major relationship on the show is that of the quarterback, Malik Wright (played by Hosea Chanchez) and his mother, Tasha Mack (played by Wendy Raquel Robinson). Malik is a hot dog quarterback who doesn’t want to play the pocket and use his running skills while his mother manages him in life and his career.
As the season opens, Melanie finds herself in the middle of constant ridicule from the other wives, girlfriends, and mothers since she believes that Derwin will always be faithful to her and never steer her wrong. At the same time, Derwin is juggling football, becoming a local celebrity and staying focused with Melanie.
As Derwin starts catching more and more balls throughout the season, ladies come out of the woodwork and are attracted to him. As the Sabres are poised to take it all, can the three players keep it together both and off the field? At the same time, can Melanie fit in with the Sunbeams and keep Derwin from pursuing other female interests?
The show isn’t bad. It’s got a ton of personality. The major characters, Melanie and Derwin have a lot on their plate. Melanie is trying to juggle medical school and the Sunbeams and her life at home of a rising football star. Derwin is a talented football player who is getting caught up in the life of football and unfortunately falls down some along the way.
The relationship between Malik and his mother Tasha is interesting since Malik constantly wants to party all the time and hook up with a different girl almost every night. Tasha, still in her prime wants to keep Malik as her client but also wants to branch out and form her own management service. Her involvement in Sunbeams is minimal but she remains the best friend of Kelly Pitts.
Then we got the Pitts, Kelly and Jason. Jason is the franchise but on the downside of his career so he tries to do all he can do to keep his place within the team while questing for the one thing that has alluded him season after season, a championship ring. He’s also notorious for being a cheapskate which doesn’t sit well with his wife, Kelly. Kelly is president of the Sunbeams and takes care of her six year old daughter, Brittany (played by Erica Gluck). She’s also never too far from an alcoholic beverage.
It’s a pretty funny show, the jokes are swift and the balance between football and relationships is pretty good; with fairly equal focus on both (though the relationships do get more focus during the offseason). The show also mirrors a real football season including what players do during the offseason. I remember a couple of tv shows that never really dealt with the offseason and treated the show as it was played 52 weeks a year.
Despite the show having promise, there is one problem I really have with the show and that’s about the money. I understand that these players make millions of dollars and like other celebrities, they do think about it, a lot. But when almost every show acts elitist and snobby in some form or fashion, it might be time to take a step back. Take this obvious example, episode 5…it’s Brittany’s sixth birthday.
The whole episode is spent as basically a whine fest because Brittany can’t have an expensive birthday like the other kids. Kelly whines to Jason who actually tries to instill some good values into Brittany about friends and people that only want you for your money. But what happens? They basically spend 22 minutes making Jason look like a cheapskate and he eventually gives in. The only saving grace is that he uses comp tickets to send them to Disneyland.
Furthermore, there are many other episodes where money is tossed around like it is paper. In episode twelve, engagement rings become the focus. People are getting looked down upon simply due to the cost of the ring and not the weight of the gesture. It creates a huge disconnect from the show to the fans of the show. Your average consumer is typically not spending cash in this manner and therefore doesn’t feel the need to sympathize with the individuals in the show when things go wrong.
The show is presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and actually looks pretty good. The picture is strong and despite the careful art of never really showing the field (except in tiny highlights or what not), they do a good job of conveying the assumed situation. Everybody looks good and with a small line of improvement, heck maybe the idea of passing for Sunday Night Football isn’t too far from reality. (Okay, that’s a stretch)
The audio is more impressive in the technical aspects than the actual presentation. Sound is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital (2.0 mix also included). Understandably like most sitcoms, the dialog is the most important thing at the end of the day. The dialog is very clear and everybody can be fully heard. Crowd noise (when the situation is focused on the game) isn’t really prevalent and you won’t feel like you are at a football game all that much. For situations off the field, some light surrounds are used but rarely.
- Spin-off Episode from “Girlfriends” 21:24: Episode #133 of Girlfriends. The only real involvement from the Girlfriends cast is Joan Clayton as Melanie is related to her as a first cousin. It’s a good episode but it is very much fodder for setting up the eventual series.
- ”The Game”: Interview with Mara Brock Akil 2:27: The creator of the show, Mara Brock Akil talks about how the pilot episode came to be.
- Mara Brock Akil Comments On… 1:44, 1:37, 1:51: More comments from Mara as she talks about the episodes: To Baby…Or Not to Baby, The Iceman Cometh, and All-Star Blues.
- “The Offseason”: Interview with Mara Brock Akil 2:09: A last batch of comments from Mara as she talks about the importance of having an offseason in the show.
To be entirely truthful, the first few episodes of The Game I couldn’t stand. After a while, it is one of those shows that grow on you. They start fleshing out the characters more and you feel a real camaraderie among the cast. The stories start getting better and you feel drawn to the cast. My only hope is that the relationships stay strong and it doesn’t go down the road reckless abandon. I still have issues with the snobby attitude and elitist nature found often in the episodes. I understand the nature of the sport, but it doesn’t always have to go down that road or at the very least it shouldn’t be the focus of the majority of the cast.
The disc is pretty good, and fans will not be disappointed by the video or audio. The extras are light and some commentaries would have been useful in learning more about the show. Some interesting trivia as we close out the first season for those out there, but the show has a ton of guest stars with the first season alone showing players such as Jerry Rice, Nick Swisher and Ephraim Salaam. This show is a recommended lightly for women and men will be drawn in by the football. But keep in mind, despite the fact that show has an emphasis on football, the major draw is relationships in sports.
The Rules of the Game
How Tasha Got Her Groove Back
Brittany’s Super Sweet Sixth
Rift and Separate
Mi Casa Es Su Casa
The Trey Wiggs Episode
The Trey Wiggs Fallout Episode
There’s No Place Like Home
It’s Hard Being Kelly Pitts
To Baby…Or Not To Baby
The Iceman Cometh
Out of Bounds
God Bless the Girl That’s Got Her Own
You Say You Want a Revolution
The Big Chill
The Many Lies of Derwin Davis
When the Chickens Come Home to Roost (Parts 1&2)