Back in ‘The Game’

Here’s something that never happens: A show that has closed shop and been off the air for two years suddenly returns, by popular demand.

“The Game,” which played three seasons on The CW and played in sporadic cable reruns since then, is back with a fourth season full of new episodes starting tonight on BET.

“We picked up two years later where people are living different types of
lives,” executive producer Salim Akil told reporters at the TV Critics press tour in Pasadena last week.

“Derwin, you know, is a completely different character living this balling life,” Akil says. “And Tasha is coming back stronger than ever. All the characters have changed like people would change in two years. Either you’re moving 
forward with all your goals and your wants and your 
needs, or there’s some things lacking, so we attacked 
it in that way.”

The characters — played by Tia Mowry, Coby Bell, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Hosea Chanchez and Pooch Hall — couldn’t really stay were they were anyway, his wife and fellow producer Mara Brock Avril says. “In all honesty, I think the 
sets were destroyed.”

But the changes made sense. “Derwin and 
Melanie, they couldn’t stay in that apartment any 
longer, so they were going to move. These things were 
gonna to happen. I mean, Malik has been building his
 house for three seasons now, and we finally get to see
 it this year.”

All of the originals are involved in the resuscitated show. “It was something that was very important 
to us, to reconstitute the entire cast for the show
 and to pick up where the creators saw the show going
two years later,” says BET executive Loretha Jones.

For the characters who had to recreate their roles, it was an easy fit.

Coby Bell, who has a role in “Burn Notice,” wondered: “Was I going to be able to jump right back
 into Jason? And it was like some old comfy shoes,
 man. It was like PJs. You know what I mean?”

“The chemistry was still there.” Says Weny Raquel Robinson.

And the tone of the show continues to be a laugh-track comedy combined with glossy, single camera drama, Avril says.

It’s because the show, Avril says, has “portrayed real life –
divorce, fame, how fame affects young men at an early 
age when you have $40 million, how a single mother can
raise a child in a world that is so alluring and keep
 him on the straight and narrow as much as she possibly 
can, and have her own life. You can’t do these
 stories without comedy, and you can’t do them without
 drama.

“And that is also consistent,” he says, “with the nature of 
how African Americans have lived in this country.
 Some of the things that we’ve sort of been through, we 
got through them because, one, we took them seriously 
and, two, we could laugh at them because they were
 completely absurd. And so when we deal with anything 
in art form, we deal with it in a truthful way.”

“The Game” returns tonight at 10 p.m. on BET.

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