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Can Mara Brock Akil Change The Game?

Producer and cast of network TV's only black show campaign for expansion to a one-hour time slot

If the show keeps its half-hour time slot, it begs the question of how the other half-hour would be filled by The CW. However, the fact that The Game deftly blends comedy with serious dramatic themes and does not have a studio audience favors Brock Akil’s proposed expansion to an hour-long format.

Mara Brock Akil

Mara Brock Akil

The Game is ripe for an hour format because the show has already evolved into a single-camera style, the subject matter often takes a dramatic turn due to our desire to remain authentic to the subculture of professional sports, and the serial nature of the relationship arcs have turned the show into somewhat of a nighttime soap opera, leaving our dedicated audience starving for more and, in some instances, dissatisfied with the nineteen minutes of air time they are currently getting each week,” Brock Akil explains. “The hour format would also allow us more time to juggle the compelling story lines of our current cast members, while making way for new characters in the world of football, which we all know is larger than life and full of drama.”

With the cancellations of other CW shows with urban themes, including Girlfriends, One on One, All of Us, and now Everybody Hates Chris, The Game would be the last show on network television with a predominantly black cast. (Tyler Perry’s House of Payne is on cable’s TBS.) In its first two seasons, The Game averaged more than 2 million viewers each week. This season, after being moved to its current Friday-night “death” slot, average weekly viewers fell to 1.68 million. Between seasons two and three, The Game’s ratings in the 18-49 demographic fell from .96 to .07. The CW moving Chris and The Game to Friday nights, when everybody is getting ready to go the club—I mean (ahem), Friday night worship service—probably didn’t help the ratings of either show, to say the least.

To say that Brock Akil’s bid is a bold one is an understatement. Network television has a decades-long track record of limiting black shows to half-hour sitcoms—if it has any programming with black casts or urban themes at all. And with few exceptions, even these shows have been treated shabbily—pimped as a quick way to build viewership (African Americans watch more television than most other groups), shifted to the most difficult time slots, and then unceremoniously dumped as networks fill out their line-ups with “mainstream” programming featuring black and minority actors as secondary characters at best. Past attempts at breaking the 30-minute sitcom time barrier for black shows with anything approaching authentically written, high-quality, hour-long dramas featuring black actors in principal roles and culturally diverse themes have been few and short-lived.

Keep an eye on Brock Akil. Come mid-May, when The CW is slated to announce its new fall lineup at upfronts in New York, she could literally change the game. I, for one, hope she succeeds.

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Alfred A. Edmond Jr. is the editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com

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