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Dead Tree Alert: Game Changer?

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My column in the print issue of TIME this week looks at the success of the revival of The Game on BET, and how it suggests that the unfortunately-conventional wisdom of TV may be wrong: it may actually be good business to produce TV series featuring largely-minority casts, of the kind that big-network TV has been ignoring lately. (The Game’s ratings have cooled since its debut to 7.7 million viewers, but it remains one of cable’s most popular scripted series, and would be a big success by the standards of The CW, which canceled it.)

As I note in the column, it’s not like TV networks are oblivious to diversity at all; a lot of shows (Glee, Community, Detroit 1-8-7…) have multiracial, multiethnic ensemble casts. And occasionally a show like Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, will cast a minority lead, with white co-stars. The continuing scarcity, and skittishness, is in genres like family drama or sitcoms, which call for a cast largely of the same race, culture or ethnicity. What if today there were a South Asian or Muslim family breakout comedy, like The Cosby Show in the 1980s?

The Daily Show wondered that too, it turns out, and the above clip is the result. Have a look at “Allah in the Family.”

Update: By the way, for layout reasons, this was a short than usual column—about 500 words—which didn’t leave much space to discuss The Game itself as a show. I’ll admit I watched it only on and off during its run on The CW, but I did a lot of catch up with it (both new episodes and the reruns) in preparation for the column.

One thing that strikes me about the show is that it blends its comedy and drama elements like few other TV series on right now–which is to say, it doesn’t really blend them. You’ll get a really broad, pure-comedy joke, and then turn suddenly and really abruptly into a dead-serious conflict or melodrama. (This is most pointed, at least in the recent episodes, in the Malik storylines.) The only recent comparisons, in terms of comedy-drama mashup, I can really think of are Rescue Me or Glee, but obviously they’re far different in tone and format as hourlong shows.

As I said, though, I watched the show only occasionally since it premiered, so I don’t know how much of this has always been the case, and how much is a shift in the revamped version for BET. I know from my earlier posts we have some Game fans here, so tell me: what do you think of the CW vs the BET editions of the show?

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