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Series / The Game (2006)

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Back in 2006, The Game was one of the first TV shows that debuted with the newly-merged The CW network. The series centers on a trio of football players who play for the San Diego Sabers, and the women who support them. Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall) is the engaged rookie receiver who's trying to resist the temptation filled life the NFL offers, while veteran quarterback Malik Wright (Hosea Chanchez) already indulged into those same perks by building his own strip club and sleeping with enough women to fill a personal library of amateur porn. Aging wide receiver Jason Pitts (Coby Bell) has already experienced his fair share of the high life, but with his years in the league being numbered, he’s obsessed with winning an NFL championship ring to escape his father’s shadow. Jason’s also determined to avoid bankruptcy that affected his father and indirectly, himself, even though his actions are placing a strain on his own family.

The women are various modes of supportive, even when going through their own personal crises. Melanie Barnett (Tia Mowry-Hardrict), like fiance Derwin, is practically wide-eyed when adapting to the world of professional sports, along with the additional pressure of finishing medical school and eventually practice medicine. Former teen mom Tasha Mack (Wendy Raquel Robinson) doubles as Malik's manager, and often puts herself in compromising situations to support her troubled dating life, her career, and her son. Ex-cheerleader Kelly Pitts (Brittany Daniel) is often forced to balance her family life with her husband Jason and their daughter Brittany while navigating her way back into the working world and becoming more independent. However, obligations to her family and the Sabers organization often impede her in the worst ways.

The series ran for three seasons on The CW, before being canceled. BET then picked up the show for five additional seasons, and while Tia Mowry left after season 5, the show gained Lauren London, Jay Ellis, and Brandy as regulars. When The Game returned on Jan 11th, 2011, nineteen months since the CW’s cancellation, the ratings hit an unprecedented 7.7 million viewers during the premiere, the largest viewing audience for a sitcom premiere in cable history. The numbers dwindled to a steadier 4.4 million, come the season four finale, but it’s still much higher than the CW broadcasts. In fact, The Game’s ratings on BET often matched, or even ''surpassed'', those of the CW’s lineup at the time.

Moral of the Story: treat your audience like they matter, and they’ll reward you.

The series is a spinoff from Girlfriends, and shares the same universe as Moesha and The Parkers.

In 2021, the series was revived on Paramount+ with Wendy Raquel Robinson and Hosea Chanchez returning and a new cast of characters and a new setting in Las Vegas. However this was canceled after two seasons and removed from Paramount+ after Paramount removed The Game and other series as part of a content write-down.

Not to be confused the internet meme "The Game," which you just lost.

This show provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: At the end of season three, Kelly started falling in love with Jason again after he fought off her crazy boyfriend. Even with Jason's new relationship souring any possibility of the divorced couple re-uniting, the door was still open. Come season four, Kelly's happily divorced and shows no signs of wanting to be married to Jason again.
    • In a more literal, punny sense, the last minute of season four: when Derwin asked Melanie if he aborted his child.
  • All Men Are Perverts: The reason many ballers' wives claim they have to be that much better in bed in order to keep their men from straying, because of all the temptation out there for the picking. Malik pretty much screws anything that walks (including the girlfriend of his best friend Tee Tee for the crime of not giving him a ride home), except for the few attempts at having a dedicated relationship. On the other hand...
  • All Women Are Lustful: ...the women aren't exactly chaste either, especially in season four. The wife of the Sabers owner regularly cheats on her husband with Malik, and threatened to blackmail him when he refused her advances overtime. Women in lingerie often appear in Derwin's hotel rooms. The girlfriend of Tee Tee, Malik's best friend, screws Malik behind Tee Tee's back for no good reason. The Game is pretty much one of the only shows that exhibit lusty behavior on both genders.
  • Always Second Best: How Chardonnay feels when Kelly makes her return in season 7.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: After all the infighting, arguments, backstabbing, and punches to the face are done, most of the main characters do wind up coming to a moment of reconciliation with each other in the end.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Malik was willing to fight a group of sleazy men when they act inappropriately with his sister.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Jason doesn't date black women despite being black himself.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor Kelly. Jason's authoritative attitude and insecurities keep rubbing off on her throughout the first two seasons. During one season one episode, she was so exhausted from Jason's repeated demands, that she had an anxiety attack.
  • Break the Haughty: Jason in season 2; Malik in season 4. Both of them get better though, despite avoiding Sudden Humility (their Jerkass simply got toned down). Derwin seems to be headed this direction in season 5 after he intentionally missed a tackle and exposed the Sabers' rookie quarterback to a season ending (and possibly career ending) injury. Despite Derwin denying the act, the press and fans savaged him for his presumed actions.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Malik has called Tasha out numerous times for either not properly doing her job as his manager or her dubious choices in her personal life.
    • Brittany has called out both her father and mother for their selfish nature.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Tasha: "I got your [X] in my trunk."
    • Derwin: "That's what up."
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The show started out as a standard sitcom, but eventually became a full-blown dramedy, and heavy on the drama side.
  • Character Development: A fair amount overall.
  • Chubby Chaser: Malik is into plus-sized women.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Malik may be a womanizer, have his own built-in strip club, and prides himself on his own library of amateur porn, but he doesn't take lightly to women being treated like dogs by other men. When Malik's half-sister was about to be taken advantage of by men more lecherous than himself, he brought in her father to help get her away from the guys. When Malik witnessed the Sabers owner diss his own wife in public because of her Stripperific outift, despite the fact that she planned to blackmail Malik, he still felt bad for her.
    • He also wouldn't sleep with Melanie when she threw herself at him in grief, knowing that she would regret it horribly later.
  • Convicted by Public Opinion: Given how the show is focused around the NFL, the press and fans often perceive the players' actions differently from what viewers see them do in their everyday lives, or assume the worst of their actions when things go wrong for the players and/or their respective Sabers team. In the latter category, this is taken to the extreme when Derwin left the Sabers' rookie quarterback vulnerable to a knee injury by blatantly missing an easy tackle. The media and Sabers fans intensely express their disdain for Derwin afterward, especially when some reporters brought up the disagreements between Derwin and the QB prior to the injury. Ironically enough, this happened during a post-interview game the Sabers won, despite the team getting trounced in a Curb-Stomp Battle before Malik came in as the backup QB.
  • Cool Old Guy: Jason in season 4. Before that he was the Quickly-Demoted Leader.
  • Crapsaccharine World: One of the better examples portrayed in scripted television. The world of professional sports looks very sheen and high class on the surface, but on the business end, questionable practices and shady internal politics often rear their ugly heads. The San Diego setting also brings home a high quotient of beautiful women, which makes it hell for the engaged/married players. But even these temptresses come with their own agenda, as many of them aspire to get impregnated by a Sabers player for child support. Backstabbing is quite common amongst businessman and players, simply to reach their aspiring goals (and may come with a cost for those who abandon their friends along the way). For players who act wisely on and off the field, they won't have many regrets come retirement time, but with the number of people chewed up and spit out by the perils of the professional sports life, it's the exception more than the norm.
  • Darker and Edgier: The fourth season, most notably. Even then, it's not too drastic.
    • Perhaps most noticeable with Malik's friend Terrence (or Tee Tee) who practically never had a serious, dramatic line pre-cancellation, recieved a subplot where his girlfriend cheats on him with Malik.
    • Season five, though far less depressing, went even further this direction.
    • The whole show is this compared to the series it technically spun off from, Girlfriends.
    • It got to the point that in the BET seasons, the laugh track feels forced, inappropriate, uncomfortable, and out of place amongst all the heavy drama. As early as season six, the laugh track was ditched completely, and humorous moments are now very few and far between.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Averted. The only bisexual woman shown turned out to be pretty modest and respectful, even with her open-minded sexulity.
  • Disappeared Dad: Chauncey wasn't around to be a fatherly figure to Malik.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Unfortunately, played straight when Tasha visits Malik's father, Chauncy. When Tasha visits his place one too many times, Chauncy's wife thinks he's cheating on her. When he runs outside and tries to explain that he didn't, she punches him in the face. He comes back, holding his left eye, and cue Laugh Track — portraying this as humorous.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Happened in season 4 when Parker (played by Meagan Good) blackmailed Malik into sleeping with her by saying she would tell everyone he raped her if he didn't. Of course, as Malik is a football player, this would destroy his career and his life completely, especially as he did many questionable things already. After they slept together (the show never acknowledges this as rape, even with the look of despair on his face), she hits him in the back of the head and makes him go another round. Cue Laugh Track. She never got called out on this, got a Freudian Excuse, and at first even walked out of it relatively clean — much cleaner than Malik himself did... until season 5, where it's revealed that Parker was divorced and financially cut off from her husband.
  • Dysfunction Junction: So much that it really makes you wonder how any of these people are still friends, let alone speaking to each other, after all the backstabbing.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Malik may be a womanizing bastard, but he draws the line at abusing women, and goes Above the Influence when dealing with a grief-stricken Melanie.
  • Fanservice: Good lord, yes. The gratuitousness goes to extremes at times, and makes one wish that The Game aired on HBO or Showtime. Viewers of both genders can scope out a reasonable amount of eye candy, though the male viewers have more to pick from.
  • Flanderization: Yet another reason, among several, for why the fourth season bugged fans. Kelly acted vapid for her reality show and threw away all sense of dignified independence that she fought too hard for seasons earlier, daughter Brittany became much brattier than her younger self, and Malik became the resident Jerk Sue. In contrast, Jason, who used to be the Jerk Sue, became the most chivalrous, selfless reasonable character in the cast.
  • Freudian Excuse: The reason why Jason is such a tightwad is because his footballer father was horrible at money management to the point their family had to move to save any kind of finance.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: In season four, Jason discovers that Brittany is selling drugs and stealing money, which Brittany attempts to use Jason and Kelly's divorce as her excuse. Jason quickly denounces her claim, stating that even though he and Kelly aren't perfect, that doesn't mean Brittany's criminal behavior is warranted.
  • Gay Aesop: Malik has one in season 1 when one of his Sabers teammates is outed (by a homophobic Malik) and the Sabers make a decision to stand by him. However, most of the teammates only do so for publicity. Thankfully, Malik realizes how messed up his previous behavior was and apologizes to said teammate.
    • To be fair, Malik had spent an entire episode dealing with the fallout of his ex-wife (Robin Givens) "outing" him to the press to save her own image, with the team and even Tasha roasting him. Then after a night hanging with his teammates at home, Clay hangs back and, misreading friendly behavior from Malik as overture, Clay grabs Malik from behind and kisses him on the neck, prompting Malik to throw him out. Then, when Malik does out him, Clay tries to lie that Malik made a move on him. Clay is in a vulnerable position, and while his sexuality deserves understanding, his reprehensible behavior is very much glossed over.
  • Genre Shift: The started out as the usual Three Cameras-type sitcom before shifting to a single-camera dramedy in season 3. This was in part due to trying to fit The CW's focus on hour-long dramas such as Gossip Girl towards the late 2000s, but the series was canceled away. When it was revived by BET, the show stayed a dramedy.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: A zigzagged trope as no one is truly good or bad, but flawed women who have their own reasons for having or not having an abortion.
    • An aversion — Melanie became impregnated with Trey Wiggs' baby, but couldn't deal with having a child at that point in her life, so she had an abortion.
    • A played straight version — Tasha admits that during her Teen Pregnancy with Malik, everyone wanted her to abort him. Even she thought about doing so for a moment, but ultimately opted against it.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: All of the characters, including the main cast, have their own fair share of flaws and moments of petty cruelty and/or moral lapse of judgement. However, none of them are portrayed as fully evil and are only trying to do what they think will help them and their loved ones survive in the dog-eat-dog world of sports.
  • Heroic Bastard: Malik was born out of wedlock between Tasha and Chauncey. And despite his Jerk Jock nature, he's a decent guy underneath it all.
  • Hide Your Gays: Subverted by the Sabers organization when they found out one of their players is gay. The feeling of camaraderie becomes less fuzzy when the viewer realizes most of them are doing it for a publicity boost instead of truly accepting his sexuality. Malik comes around, despite him getting hit on by the player while he was also accused of being gay.
  • Hot for Teacher: Malik for his physical trainer, Yana. Heck, he even admits to her he can't be friends with women without sex being involved.
  • I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Tasha (episode Breakthrough) takes a celibacy class so she can avoid having sex with a man she is attempting to build a relationship with. Pookie, however, is unaware and attempts to be romantic, all the while Tasha is confusing him with her body language and comical displays of avoidance.
  • It's All About Me: A common flaw that the main cast shares together — they don't care about the outcome or who gets hurt as long as they achieve their intended goal.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Most of the cast may be straight up jerks or more assholish than usual, but they also make observational points about certain things, especially in regards to another person's flaws.
  • Jerk Jock: Malik is the best example. Jason, in most instances, is a ridiculously close second. Derwin picks up shades of this toward the end of season 4.
  • Just Friends: A subversion. Derwin tries to tell other that this is his relationship with Drew but everyone (sand Melanie) can see something is going on. Needless to say, Derwin does have sex with Drew.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Jason pawning off Kelly to seduce a potential partner. Needless to say, this was the last straw that pushed Kelly to get a divorce.
    • Melanie lying about D.J. being Derwin's biological child despite finding out otherwise.
    • Malik sleeping with Tee Tee's girlfriend in season four out of pure spite. Why? Because Tee Tee couldn't give Malik a ride home.
    • Tasha nastily digging into Melanie's infertility problems right after winning a legal dispute.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Malik is a notorious, serial womanizer but each season has him genuinely fall in love with a woman only for the relationship to not work out for whatever reason.
  • Laugh Track: Used here just as often as other TV comedies. Season 4, however, doesn't use it as often. By season 6, it's altogether done away with.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Malik. He's a Jerk Jock with a libido problem but he's pretty decent and isn't as sleazy as some of the other men depicted.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Malik may be a grown man, but Tasha will still have his back.
    • Janay was justifiably and quietly enraged at Melanie for swabbing D.J. behind her back and then lying about the results.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: The fourth season's central conflict that Melanie has with Derwin, Janay, and D.J. is a nagging feeling that D.J. isn't Derwin's biological child. As such, she secretly swabs D.J. to get a DNA test and the results show that neither Derwin nor D.J. are related. However, Melanie receives news that the lab made a mistake and they are related, but she keeps it to herself until Janay was about to deliver the news.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Melanie. Tasha even calls her out on this.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Derwin during the whole Love Triangle with him, Melanie, and Drew. He tries to show that he and Drew are just friends but his actions speak louder, and he ends up sleeping with her. He still loves Melaniso it was a Moment of Weakness more so but Drew was left hurt by Derwin not being more clear on his feelings.
  • Meaningful Rename: A downplayed version with Tasha. Her full name is "Latasha" but she went by "Tasha" because she wanted to stand out.
  • Mind Screw: The opening minute of season five, which shows a flash forward of Derwin, Malik and Jason's circumstances. Derwin's plot picks up from finding out about Melanie's abortion last season, Malik thinks his model girlfriend died from a drug overdose, and Jason suddenly wakes up in Mexico and finds out that he's now married. Needless to say, this made many fans go "WTF?", especially with Jason's plot.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Malik's ex, Robin Givens, implies on live TV that he is in the closet, which the former greatly denies. This leads to an actual gay Sabers team member to accidentally come out.
  • Momma's Boy: Malik and Tasha have an incredibly close relationship. This is justified since Tasha was single mom who had Malik as a teen with her baby daddy (Chauncey) walking out on her, and none of her family or friends sticking by her. However, it's deconstructed in "The Interview", as the psychologist analyzes on how both Malik and Tasha are unhealthily co-dependent on each other.
  • Mood Dissonance: Tee Tee has a habit of jumping in with a humorous line at the end of otherwise serious scenes.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Let's see: Derwin Davis is a superstar wide receiver, feuds with quarterbacks, wears #81, and is an alumnus of a Division 1 FCS schoolnote . Now, who has those same traits?
  • Only Sane Man: Tee Tee is also the only character that seems to always have himself together, while at the same time keeping other characters from going off the rails, with one exception that wasn't even his fault.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Notorious playboy Malik, who never hid his attraction to her, refuses to sleep with a naked, willing Melanie since she's only doing it to get some emotional relief from assuming Derwin cheated on her again with Drew.
    • In season four, Jason is noted to love his game show because it allowed him to be a Troll. However, he calls his boss to quit said job to better look after Brittany, when he discovers her criminal-like behavior.
    • Jason is often the one football player to try not to get into any kind of violence, on and off the field. However, in his most serious and personal moments, he had resorted to said violence. One example is when Kelly's jerkass boyfriend calls Brittany a "bitch" and another when his ex-teammate lets it slip he was going to reveal the steroid scandal that he and Jason were in.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Jason beats up Kelly's crazy boyfriend not only for scaring Brittany but for also calling her a "bitch".
    • Derwin is fiercely protective over D.J. and was furious at Melanie for lying about D.J. being his son. How angry was he? Derwin was close to asking for a divorce.
  • Parents as People: Kelly and Jason love Brittany but do let their selfish, egotistical nature distract them from being attentive parents.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Distraught after thinking Derwin was still cheating on her with Drew, Melanie decides to sleep with Malik to feel better. However, the notorious womanizer doesn't take advantage and gives her words of encouragement.
    • Even with him being more of an asshole in season 4, it's Malik who manages to convince Derwin to not jump the gun and divorce Melanie after the "swabbing D.J. incident".
    • When Derwin finds out the Sabers traded him, the usual Trollish Jason comfortingly escorts Derwin to a private room to vent.
  • Plot-Relevant Age-Up: Brittany was about eight or nine years old at the end of season three. In season four, now she's closer to thirteen or fourteen, and barely resembles her previous self.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: The show's premise and characters were established in a season 6 episode of the UPN sitcom Girlfriends, in which Melanie is depicted as the cousin of that show's lead character Joan Clayton.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Kelly went off to "find herself" halfway through season 4. She wouldn't return until season seven.
    • Melanie and Derwin were put on a Long Bus Trip at the end of season 5 and were replaced by a new couple. They both make one final appearance in the series finale.
  • Second Love: Subverted with Chardonnay. It looks like Jason is moving on from Kelly as he and Chardonnay's love begins to deepen but as soon as Kelly returns and helps him avoid his steroid use being exposed he spontaneously kisses and her and then comes to a Love Epiphany that he's still in love with her. At his and Chardonnay's wedding renewals.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The biggest complaint of season 4.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Interesting example, since at the end of season 3, Brittany was about nine (she was six in the pilot episode). After the two year timeskip, she should be 11, but instead, she's 13 with no explanation given. This is because Brittany's new actor is older than the old Brittany, and the fact that there is no possible way the new Brittany could possibly pass for an 11 year old. Not that she passes for a 13 year old any better...
  • Special Guest: Done frequently with one shot appearances, though Rick Fox stars in 13 episodes as Tasha's business-partner-turned-love-interest.
  • Straight Gay: The sole gay Sabers player who eventually outed himself comes off as this.
  • Stripperific: Justified, since many females prowl the beach with skimpy bikinis, or are rap-video vixens or actual strippers. Good luck staying faithful with these women all around.
  • Team Mom: Tasha. Not that she tries to be but considering she's the only middle aged female in a cast consisting primarily of 20 and 30 year olds she usually falls into this role.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: For a show devoid of N-Word Privileges, this word gets uttered quite often. Debase racial language? Unacceptable. Sexist insults? A-okay.
    • Though BET cuts off the word during reruns of seasons one through three, and then eliminated the word entirely after season three, the seasons produced by the network itself.
      • Not quite. Tasha's pre-title screen line in the first episode of season four was a beyond-emphatic "Game on, BITCHES." It was bleeped in re-runs.
      • In season four and five, the characters mostly tip toe using the word directly, but the viewers can fill in the blanks themselves. Averted in one season five episode, with Melanie and Tasha gratuitously using the word in a heated argument, though later rectified via an Anvilicious statement about how the ladies shouldn't use a word debasing their gender as a passive greeting. invoked
  • Time Skip: Because of the show's almost two year delay between the end of season three and the start of season four, there's an eighteen month skip between them. There's some since of Canon Discontinuity though, since not all of the storylines made it intact.
  • Token White: Kelly.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • Both Derwin and Melanie start off as wide-eyed, friendly newbies in season 1 but become more manipulative, selfish, and immature to an extent by season four.
    • Malik was already a bit of jerk in the first season but he increases his drinking, sleeps with the Sabers president's wife, and spitefully has sex with TT's girlfriend. He gets better.
  • Tsundere: Tasha Mack. A large part of her tsuntsun personality comes from her younger days as a single mother surviving on her own, so being fierce was her defense. Although this works when she is going up against people she doesn't intend to have a relationship with, it sort of backfires when she wants to pursue a relationship.
  • What the Hell, Hero??: Tasha, in season 6, cheated on her boyfriend and childhood friend, Pookie, with her old flame Rick Fox. The way she strung both men along and the way she treated Pookie throughout the whole thing just to avoid telling the truth comes across as this.
  • What You Are in the Dark:
    • Malik has a naked, willing Melanie in his bed after her disastrous date with Derwin. What does he do? Refuse to sleep with her and gives genuine comfort.
    • When Melanie receives news that the first tests were a mistake and D.J. is Derwin's biological son, what does she do? Hide the truth from Derwin. She regrets it the next episode.
  • With Friends Like These...: Seriously. How are Melanie, Tasha, and Kelly still on speaking terms after all their arguments and underhanded actions? Kelly even got so pissed at Tasha once that she knocked her out cold.
    • Not so much the case in season five between Tasha and Melanie. After Melanie (through Derwin's request) cut her business ties with Tasha, because of Malik's behavior, they didn't let the incident go. They get better though.