This morning, while watching two episodes of the early-1970s sitcom “That’s My Mama,” I began reminiscing about the crush I had on the lead star, Clifton Davis.  Davis’ only competition in my young mind was Michael Jackson, whose posters adorned every wall in my pretty-in-pink bedroom.  Once I drifted down from the cloud-nine childhood fantasy of my marriage to Davis, I decided to do a Wiki-peek at Davis’ beginnings and current goings-on.  I was familiar with his acting credentials post-“That’s My Mama.”  For example, I was a die-hard fan of “Amen” (1986-1991), the groundbreaking prime-time sitcom that parodized the (Protestant) African American church, in which Davis portrayed the charismatic, dedicated minister, the Rev. Dr. Reuben Gregory.

As the main story arc charted the Rev. Dr. Gregory’s new career as a minister, another, parallel arc charted the church deacon’s daughter’s strategy to get her man — or, to put it more aptly, her man of the cloth.  Pictured in character in the above photo are (l-r) Davis as the Philly reverend with the legendary Sherman Hemsley as Deacon Ernest Frye and Anna Maria Horsford as Thelma Gregory (née Frye).  “Amen” airs in syndication on TVOne, and as I’m in the Northeast,  I set my DVR for 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

While conducting my Wikipedia research, I recalled that Davis sang in different episodes of “Amen,” but I was totally surprised to discover that he wrote the song “Never Can Say Goodbye.”  The melodic, midtempo song was first recorded by The Jackson 5 and became a big pop and R&B hit for the legendary band.  Years later, disco queen No. 3, Gloria Gaynor (Donna Summer taking the top spot, followed by Sylvester), covered Davis’ song.  Of course it’s the ever-popular anthem and karaoke mainstay “I Will Survive” that placed Gaynor in the disco pantheon.

I also learned in my research that Clifton Davis had been a songwriter before becoming an actor, and that revelation got me thinking about the TVOne program “Unsung.”  I view “Unsung” fairly regularly, and I realize that the show strives for objectivity in its profiles of Black artists, so that’s fine and all.  However, I’m wondering now that the show has been airing for more than two years, why it focuses predominantly on singers, musicians and actors.

I can understand why the network would want to limit its focus to these categories of artists (for the time being), but doesn’t art also encompass dancing, painting, sculpting and photography?  In no way am I attacking TVOne — although when I visited its website, some kind of “toolkit” attempted to attack my computer … hmm — but I ‘m trying to open up dialogue about which art forms get promoted more aggressively in the Black media.

In the realm of drama, Clifton Davis is but one example of a Black artist who is unsung.  Thus, I hope that the producers of “Unsung” come across my blog — since it appears they have ignored my missives — and consider expanding the thrust of “Unsung.”

Regular readers of the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog already are aware that I love to digress, so I will do that once again.  While there’s a sprinkling of actors profiled on “Unsung,” singers and musicians are featured mostly.  If it’s true that TVOne is responding to what its viewers have requested, then in this blog I’m appealing to those viewers, too.  What am I getting at in this double appeal (i.e., to the producers and viewers of “Unsung”)?  Well, how about:  I’m sick and tired of folks, no matter what the phenotype, thinking of all Black people as musically gifted.

There’s a line spoken by a white character, an executive sports agent, in “The Game,” which is a well-acted dramedy series (returning on January 11, 2011, and airing on BET) that takes a satirical look at the relationships between Black footballers and their agents, and at the romantic relationships of all involved.  I can’t recall the exact quote, but the character is replying to an underling (also white) who compliments Tasha Mack’s (Wendy Raquel Robinson’s) vocal talent.

In the episode, Tasha mistakenly thinks that fellow agent Rick Fox (who from 2008-09 portrayed a fictional version of himself on “The Game”) sabotaged her career, and so she tells him off in song.   Her boss joins her in singing Rihanna’s “Take a Bow,” mocking her and Rick’s situation, until she leaves in disgust.  When the underling comments on Tasha’s great singing voice, his boss shrugs it off by saying something akin to, “They [emphasis mine] all do.”

My detractors will say, “Oh, Chantale, you’re just being too sensitive,” or, “Chantale, Chantale, stop playing ‘the race card.'”  To them I say, “Hey, I’m just keepin’ it real.”  You see, at different times in my life I’ve been asked some of the most annoying questions, or have heard annoying comments, related to music by white people such as:  “You mean you never sang gospel in church?” and “How come you don’t play piano?”  These questions and remarks rank right up there, or I should say smell rank down there, with such asinine questions and remarks as:  “What was it like to grow up in the ghetto?” and, my favorite from 1996, spoken by my white manager:  “Your hair looks too fancy for the office.  You should get your hair braided, to look more corporate.”   That last comment was made by one of the white-feminist bullies to whom I referred in my Paris memoir on this blog, titled, “To Be Black, American, Female and Alone:  A Brief Paris Memoir.”

My point about “Unsung,” though, should be clear.  That is:  Black people are just as well-rounded within the arts as without.  As “Unsung” prefers to focus on Black artists, it would be wonderful and groundbreaking to view profiles of Black people whose art forms have been underreported if not unrecognized.  Here’s a sampling of unsung Black artists by category:  photography (e.g., Rashid Johnson, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Deborah Willis and Linda Day Clark), choreography (e.g., Judith Jamison and Bebe Miller), paintings (e.g., William T. Williams, Sam Gilliam, Mickalene Thomas, Louis Delsarte and Kehinde Wiley), sculptures (e.g., Allison Saar and Willie Cole), poems (e.g., Nikki Giovanni, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Rita Dove, James A. Emanuel, Lucille Clifton, Lady Lee Andrews, Quincy Troupe), novels (e.g., ZZ Packer and Tayari Jones), graphic novels (e.g., Lance Tooks), collage art (e.g., Kara Walker), and multimedia (e.g., Betye Saar, Lezley Saar, Faith Ringgold, David Hammons, and Adrian Piper).  Yet all of the above-named artists of color, covering a wide age range, are very much alive as of this writing.  When I was a journalist, I had the pleasure of interviewing and witnessing the art of some of the aforementioned individuals, and I only wish that they could be lifted from the shadows before it’s too late.

As with many forms of change, baby steps are needed.  For now, it’s worth repeating that TVOne’s “Unsung” does a fine job of profiling Black singers and musicians.   Songwriters do get tossed in the mix as commenters on the subject of the profile rather than any of them ever being the subject.  I’m not referring to songwriters who also are performers, such as Angela Winbush and Teena Marie.

I was happy to see Winbush featured, but surprised to find that Lady Tee is unsung!  And in no way is “Lady Tee” Black, just as Dusty Springfield wasn’t, yet she had a soulful voice.  (What, is Joss Stone destined for “Unsung” 20 years from now?)  True, back in the day everybody on the block and beyond wanted to think that Teena Marie was Black, but I did and still do give her props for giving shout-outs to Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni (“just to name a few”) on the smash “Square Biz.”

Another Black songwriter who is unsung is Leon Ware.  The Europeans love him and know who he is.  We here in the United States should, too.  Well, many of us over the age of 40 and Black or Latino or Black and Latino probably know who Leon Ware is.  I mean, the man penned “I Want You,” recorded by Marvin Gaye and later by Fourplay featuring El DeBarge and Patti LaBelle.  Yeah, that’s all, right?  C’mon, people.  Ware also shared songwriting credit with “T-Boy” Ross on “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” which was written for tween-aged Michael Jackson.  Jackson made it a hit, and the song later was covered by Marvin Gaye, Jose Feliciano and many others.  Gen Xers who know Ware’s name probably associate him with the song he wrote for Maxwell:  the groovilicious “Sumthin’ Sumthin’.”


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Above:  Veteran actress Mary Alice, who portrayed the mother in the original Sparkle (1976) as well as memorable recurring TV characters on “Sanford and Son” and “Good Times” (pictured here in 1993 at the 45th Emmy Awards’ Governor’s Ball) definitely is unsung!  Here on the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog, I have noticed searches for “Mary Alice” by readers who are curious as to what happened to this fine actress.  Why haven’t any roles been created for her and other Black actresses of her generation (including Lynn Hamilton – see her in the photo below) to claim?

Photo Source:

Above:  Veteran actress Lynn Hamilton, who portrayed “Donna,” the fiancée of entrepreneurial junkman Fred G. Sanford (Redd Foxx) in the landmark 1970s sitcom “Sanford and Son,” was phenomenal in John Cassavetes‘ Beat Generation film Shadows, but she’s still unsung!

Photo Source:

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While one might not expect a Black painter or sculptor to be featured on “Unsung” anytime soon, could we at least have a few more actors?  I’ve mentioned Clifton Davis (again, an actor who was a songwriter first), and here are other unsung actors:  Mary Alice, Carl Lumbly, Novella Nelson, C.C. H. Pounder, Ernie Hudson, John Amos, Sherman Hemsley, Marla Gibbs, Vondie Curtis-Hall, S. Epatha Merkerson, Richard T. Jones, Lonette McKee, Philip Michael Thomas, Forest Whitaker, Tyra Ferrell, Blair Underwood, Regina Taylor, Viola Davis, Michael Beach, Dennis Haysbert, Reginald VelJohnson,  Andre Braugher, Clark Johnson, Mekhi Pfifer, Jesse L.Martin, Giancarlo Esposito, Jeffrey D. Sams, Wendell Pierce, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Audra McDonald, Mykelti Williamson, LaTanya Richardson (who many folks still refer to as Samuel Jackson’s wife, and while that’s honorable, she should be respected as an actor in her own right).

That’s by no means an exhausted list of underrated Black actors, but  the laundry must get done today.  Then again, all the washing machines probably are stuffed with lazy tenants’ clothes, anyway, so I’ll state further that I cry out for the cardiac paddles when I see a photo of an unsung Black actor in the “In Memoriam” portion of the Academy Awards broadcast.  I had one of those shocking moments when I spotted Alaina Reed-Hall’s photo flash by on screen.  The first time I saw Reed-Hall was on “Sesame Street,” and I find it disturbing and sad that both she and Matt Robinson — who created the “Roosevelt Franklin” Muppet  (the Muppet banished from “Sesame Street”) — were unsung.

It’s hard to believe two other unsung actors are deceased:  from “All in the Family” and its spin-off, “The Jeffersons”:  Isabel Sanford (the ORIGINAL “Weezy”) and Michael Evans (who co-created “Good Times” with Eric Monte).  Sanford passed in 2004;  Evans, in December 2006.  Sanford was the first Black actress to win an Emmy for Lead Actress (1981).  Sherman Hemsley, actor of the stage (“But Never Jam Today” and “The Lottery” with Vinnette Carroll’s Urban Arts Company; and “Purlie,” which was his Broadway debut) and screen (“All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Amen”), died in 2012.


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You know, too bad TVOne didn’t think of expanding the focus of “Unsung” by the start of 2010.  Already we’ve lost a major yet unsung actor, Vonetta McGee, in July.  (My condolescences go out belatedly to McGee’s husband, actor Carl Lumbly.)

Beautiful, elegant and eloquent, Vonetta McGee is immortal for her roles in Clinton Eastwood’s The Eiger Sanction (1975), which also starred Eastwood, and the Blaxploitation-era horror flick Blacula (which scared the bejesus out of me at the time because I was a kid).  However, how many of us recall her role in Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger (1990), which starred Danny Glover?

The photo below shows Vonetta McGee paired with Max Julien in Gordon Parks Jr.’s classic western, Thomasine & Bushrod (1974).  I remember that film better than I do Bonnie & Clyde. I suppose the reason for that is:  As a young child, I was proud that the lead actors resembled folks in my family rather than the folks fleeing my suburban neighborhood.



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REST IN PEACE, VONETTA MCGEE (pictured above with her co-star in Thomasine & Bushrod, Max Julien, star of the seminal Blaxploitation film, The Mack)

Max Julien


“2 Talented 2 B 4gotten”  Copyright © 2010 Chantale Reve  All Rights Reserved

Article was first published on the Blah-Blah-Blah-Blah Blog on December 4, 2010.


Never mind the strange names — “Chardonnay,” “Malik ‘El DeBarge’ Wright,” “Tee-Tee.”  BET’s The Game, now in Season 6, is a gamble worth taking.

It appears I didn’t get the memo that several characters are Black history: “Derwin ‘Ding Dong’ Davis” (played with Emmy-worthy virtuosity by Pooch Hall [pictured above]) and “Dr. Melanie Barnett-Davis” (played by Tia Mowry-Hardrict, unevenly at first — when she was still “Med School” — and then, too late in the game, with conviction).  Now I’m banking on the following actors to score touchdowns of a simulated-carnal nature:

  • vivacious series lead, Wendy Raquel Robinson, who steals the screen as manager “Tasha Mack” (single parent of Malik, who’s portrayed to mama’s-boy extremes by Hosea Chanchez);
  • new series regular Jay Ellis (ain’t nothin’ regular ’bout the brotha, lookin’ like a buffed-up, taller Larenz Tate) in the role of “Bryce ‘The Blueprint’ Westbrook” — “Derwin”‘s replacement as pro wide receiver for the San Diego Sabers football team;
  • gentle giant Rockmond Dunbar, portraying “Pookie,” former gangsta and Tasha Mack’s current love interest (after blasting her from their past — repeatedly — last season like a real hitman should); and
  • recurring guest star Rick Fox.

I hope the married creative duo of director Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil — creator of The Game — don’t disappoint this time. I’ll miss “Derwin”‘s Ding Dong — I mean, his teammates teasing him with that nickname — but I’ll welcome rejuvenated passion from the loins — er, lines of Wendy and Rick. Hopefully their characters will be scorching the sheets with grown ‘n sexy passion. I’ll take any excuse for Tuesday-night aromatherapy to handle the heat. Talk about potent chemistry. Not that Wendy/”Tasha” and Rockmond/”Pookie” don’t possess it. After all, Rockmond’s got that gleaming dome that would make any woman want to sing Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean at the moment of climax.

And if Rick manages to outfox “Pookie,” and the latter gets written off the show, there’s always the porn route. Imagine the pussibilities: I Cream for Genie, Jackin’ the Beanstalk, Nights of Cabeza (in the Foreign Tongues category), Cocktale, and the one to rise above contenders for AVN Awards: The Sure-Shaft Redemption.

[Note to the real RICK … FOX (with your fiiiiine self): Avoid “Single Ladies” — your eroticism would be wasted. While LisaRaye was hot on that show, your chemistry with her fell flatter than a reverse boob job.]

Elsewhere on The Game … Newcomer Lauren London (as “Kiera Whitaker”), though a comely addition to the show, has got to bring it dramatically. Lips and hips aren’t enough — unless you’re Chaka Khan, but Lauren doesn’t yet have acting-wise what Chaka’s still got in lungpower. Is L.L. capable of delivering divaliciousness to the addiction that is The Game?

Although she already spouts more lines than tour de force Brandy Norwood (what’s up with that?!), L.L. could never embody “Chardonnay.” Head swiveling like a charmed cobra and Ferragamo shoes on her pedicured feet, Brandy as “Chardonnay” is the most effervescent player on The Game — after “TASHA” … “MACK.” No newcomer to TV series (“Moesha” was a sista, a one-name wonder that slapped down “Sister Sister” like a clap of thunder), the beauteous Brandy keeps it (and the show) real portraying “Chardonnay” as a hollaback girl gone glam.

Brandy sparkles in her limited role as sassy bartender married to cocky ex-jock “Jason Pitts.” Special guest star Coby Bell, as footballer-turned-sports-analyst “Jason,” sure is dreamy, strutting across the small screen like a big, stiff tawny dick. I wish that Coby’s “Jason” were a main character, rather than a “special guest star,” because, with Wendy Raquel Robinson’s “Tasha,” he anchors The Game in the satirical realm of dramedy. His sports broadcast often is hysterical, mostly because Coby is great at deadpanning. It’s good to see that he’s (“Jason” is) excellent at another kind of balling, a form of “exercise” (and for some, exorcism) — judging by the “pushups” he was doing on/in his beloved “Char” in Season 6’s opener.

Viewing tonight’s season kick-off, “The Blueprint I, The Blueprint II,” I was transfixed over the artsy freeze frames juxtaposed with Ciara‘s wayward catwalk, which would make a cop toss a Breathalyzer past any checkpoint. I’m a straight woman, but her gams had me leaning sideways like a bowling pin in a weak spare, though with the shocked expression of the broad aboard the doomed ship in the Brooklyn Navy Yard of Hitch’s Saboteur. Director Akil’s flashy aesthetic also was memorable as employed in last year’s well-cast but poorly re-envisioned remake of Sparkle.

That it took more than a decade to make after Aaliyah’s death does not instantly induct the updated Sparkle into the Black Cinema Hall of Fame. That our beloved Whitney Houston — whose music and acting career probably would’ve been resurrected after its release — never got to attend its premiere in her earthly form is what makes Sparkle 2012 matter. I may have purchased my ticket, but I didn’t buy the nonsense of three somewhat privileged, definitely sheltered, middle-class young Black women who really needed after-hours sleazy gigs to make money to get out of the … oh yeah, missing was the inner city and tenement home life — and the somewhat absent mother because she was a maid by day — of the iconic original film.

Back in the early ’70s, Hollis, Queens, the NYC suburb immortalized in Run-DMC’s “fried chicken and collard greens” line (but for this writer, legendary for the prominent White Castle on Hollis Boulevard), for all its middle-class folks, was grittier than the suburb in which the sisters in Sparkle 2012 reside. I recall that a bike ride home from that Hollis W.C. was like a death trap; my mother and I worried more about getting a flat tire and walking the rest of the way than getting sideswiped by a Pontiac. Back then there was no drive-thru at that White Castle, but drive-bys weren’t unheard of. So next to Hollis, Sister and Her Sisters were living in luxury.

While I’m bitchin’, also missin’ was a soundtrack as emotive and essentially Black and transcendent as Aretha Franklin’s collaborative magic with Curtis Mayfield, who was the maestro of the soundtrack (an urban heaven and hell conveyed through music). Every track on Aretha’s album (I loved her turban) was a gem — from “Jump,” with her trumpet-like gospel shouts, to “Hooked on Your Love,” with muted horns evoking Bacharach on the beach and the Queen of Soul’s sensual vocals bumpin’ with the bass under the boardwalk. Any references to junkies, smack and getting smacked around were lost on my tween self. But I donned my mother’s long satin gloves before the needle skidded to “Hooked on Your Love” and, swaying in front of the hallway mirror, struck a seductive pose each time Aretha and the backup ladies paused between “What can I do” and “with this feeling?”

No need to travel back to 1976, though. I’ll take En Vogue’s 1992 version of “Something He Can Feel” (the stunning video homage, too) over the macarena-like mechanics led by the anorexic-looking (in 2012’s Sparkle) Carmen Ejogo. Carmen’s lackluster performance and skeletal appearance didn’t live up to the exoticism that her name seemed to promise. She just made me run two flights down to the concession stand to buy another hotdog. I was glad to show my financial support for a Black-made and -cast film, but, daaaamn, those franks are expensive! I may not be able to sing worth a coughdrop, but I have no trouble giving him something he can feel. If only I could stop singing that old Ballpark franks jingle as I write this sentence. OK, I’m kidding. I’m really asking, “Where’s the beef?”

My beef, my disappointment, with Sparkle 2012 was precisely the reason that I didn’t publish a critique of it back in mid-August, when I had plunked down the twelve dollars to see it (twenty more for the hotdogs and beverages). I didn’t want to discourage people who perused my blog, and my faithful readers — people of all persuasions — from checking out and financially supporting the film. Heck, it took more than a decade for the movie to get made. However, nearly eight months later, it’s safe to say that Carmen Ejogo was better portraying Sarah “Sally” Hemings, mistress to Thomas Jefferson. What I didn’t hear during that TV miniseries but did notice in Sparkle 2012 was Carmen’s British accent. I could cite a long list of Black American actresses and singers who would’ve been appropos for the role. You know, it’s like the casting of Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, Emma, etc. — friends kept swearing to me that she was English. Not even the more inclusive “British”; they had placed her birthplace firmly in England. Well, you know what they say about us Americans and geography. Meanwhile, I was countering my friends’ comments with, “She’s not just sliding through time portals; she’s slipping in and out of her fake British accents.” [An aside: I admire most Brits’ American accents — no matter which regional dialect — in film, though not as much as their natural accents. A few of my favorite British actors disguised as Americans in many films and TV programs: Idris Elba, Linus Roache, Kate Winslet and Rachel Weitz. But I would never accept anything but a ruggedly charming Scottish accent from still-sexy Sean “retired ‘007’” Connery!]

What was the casting head of Sparkle 2012 thinking? I challenge anyone reading this piece and shaking a finger at me right now to check out Lonette McKee‘s bold curves in the 1976 original. Sure, Irene Cara and Dwan Smith were pretty — as are Jordin Sparks in the title role and Tika Sumpter as “Deloris” (Tika’s gorgeous, resembling a Julia Barbie doll in the flesh, life right down [or up] to the Twist ‘N Turn legs circa 1967). Lonette was stunning, though. And nooooo, not because she was “light, bright and damn near white,” as that sickening phrase of colorists goes. Rather, Lonette had star written all over her face, body and attitude.

Meanwhile, back in the 21st century …

Please, somebody write a kick-ass script for Tika Sumpter! Maybe if Tika had been cast as lead singer of the girl group, I would’ve found the Sparkle re-don’t more tolerable. (Almost nodding off in slow parts, I kept telling myself: Stay awake for Whitney. Stay awake for Whitney. I would’ve tried There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. But that may have proven too tempting, despite Payless penny loafers for ruby slippers.)

Sparkle 2012’s filmmakers took the original movie’s casting of a light-complexioned and biracial woman literally. What, figuring that such a move would be more bankable than switching it up for a change? Their choice promotes and perpetuates colorism. I noticed they didn’t leave the death-by-smack subplot in the story, yet they made the dark-complexioned sister (“Deloris,” IMO the prettiest of the siblings) the rebel. Ironically, Tika turned it out on The Game (Season 5) portraying … a substance-abuser. And she was priceless as “Jenna Rice.” Perhaps Tika, in the role of “Jenna,” never had a chance to win an NAACP Image Award for her unforgettable bump ‘n grind with and subsequent dumping by her “babe,” fellow alcoholic “Malik,” in Season 5’s closer, but her fallen supermodel was a long-legged study of pathos and empathy. “Jenna” was a prima donna who had robbed herself of her diamond tiara and never found the balance to keep it atop her pretty little head. I can’t prove whether the following was deliberate, but “Jenna”‘s wobbly gait near the end of Season 5: Episode 22 was the antithesis of Ciara’s killer strut through the corridors of the hotel in Season 6: Episode 1.

One more note about the lackluster Sparkle remake …

The filmmakers had the gall to kill off Mike Epps‘ serio-comic character. Really? Never mind that I can’t recall the showman’s name or that I found his Sambo behavior ill-placed (It bothers me that the 2012 film Sparkle appears to take place during the late ’60s, yet despite the emergence of the Black Power movement as symbolized by “Deloris”‘ Afro, Epps’ comedian emcee seems to be stuck in the Chitlin Circuit’s earlier era.) My point: these days, although we have progressed from murdering the Black character early on in a horror flick, we nevertheless depict people getting chainsawed and incinerated on screen. Yet we can’t display the consequences of intravenous drug use. Honestly?

Any non-genius could’ve imagined retaining the domestic-abuse and drug-abuse arc and updating “Sister”‘s demise by incorporating the devastating physical, emotional and psychological effects of AIDS. Back in ’76, AIDS wasn’t known or, if so, hadn’t yet been reported. Now the disease is still a pandemic — no matter how seldom the major news media mention that. And, yes, for those of you who haven’t yet viewed the original Sparkle on TVOne or on DVD, McKee’s “Sister” actually dies, and her gradual demise and her funeral feel realistic. On film nowadays, we show to exploitative effect the guns and gore, but a syringe and hyperdermic needle … naaahhh.

But back to The Game

I wish the writers of The Game would stop playing us and allow Brandy to saaaang. But, please keep on giving us those smoking lovemaking scenes between her “Chardonnay” and Coby’s “Jason.” And don’t even think about writing off the latter because, Mr. and Mrs. Akil, you will lose most of your viewership. You’re already taking a chance dropping your 18-34 demographic by cutting loose Pooch and Melanie. That would’ve been like writing off (releasing from the contract of) “Joan” and “Maya” (Tracee Ellis Ross and Golden Brooks) from your long-running sitcom “Girlfriends.” Damn, y’all, I know The Game‘s a spin-off of “Girlfriends,” but would you consider a reunion episode of “Girlfriends”? If you do, no awkward replacements, such as Goapele for Tracee or Meagan Good for Golden!

Lastly, Ciara (not only her legs) was phenomenal in tonight’s episode, but filmmaker John Singleton (playing a fictional version of himself) looked haggard spouting idiotic lines opposite L.L.’s “Kiera.”

© 2013 Chantale Rêve
All Rights Reserved


[“Diss”claimer:  I don’t follow the sport of football; nor do I understand the game.  No double takes.  You’ve read correctly.  And while we’re at it, I don’t follow basketball either.  Chantale’s a non-stereotypical sista.  To me, the Super Bowl is the grand championship for either leather-ball grippers or three-hole-fingering pros.  And no, the latter doesn’t refer to extraterrestrial arousal; that would be the foreplay to a lesser-known tournament:  the Super Ball.

Seriously, though, I’m an armchair cyclist, and I don’t mean spinning class.  (Cue the opening bars of “La Marseillaise.”)  Come July, my glutes will be glued — not literally — to my sofa while I fantasize rolling past cheering, inebriated, French-spewing spectators through château country, cursing the rain as I pedal up le Col du Tourmalet and then edging out my all-male competition the nearer our wheels spin toward Napoléon I’s arch at la place Charles de Gaulle.  Of course, I’m referring to le Tour de France.

While I plead a case of total ignorance to the sport of football, I have a passion for a TV show that does more than a passable effort of satirizing the lives and predicaments of professional football athletes.  Yes, I am referring to “The Game.”  (Can you hear the aggressive electric guitars of the theme music right now?)  In today’s blog post, I will be plugging the show with wild abandon.  Not pulling the plug, which some very unwise TV people did several years ago — but now I’m getting ahead of myself.]


In 2010, I joined the waves of fans who clamored for the return of “The Game.”  We made some noise and way past prime time.  We produced more noise than a global flash mob of thrash-metal guitarists, but we did so via our keyboards, utilizing social-media channels and e-mail.  Yeah, we raised hell as well as Black Entertainment Television’s then-shallow estimation of its core market.  We proved that a quality dramedy with a nearly all-Black ensemble cast was a sure bet rather than a high-risk gamble.

When “The Game,” which was created by and is executive-produced by Mara Brock Akil (she’s also the creator of “Girlfriends,” of which “The Game” is a spin-off), returned with swagger to the BET network on January 11, 2011, we “Game” fans shattered TV viewership records.  How does 7.7 million viewers sound?  Yeah, we made history and left seasoned TV executives’, marketing pundits’ and journalists’ mouths agape.

When we rallied for the return of “The Game,” not only BET but also major advertisers listened.  To Us.  I’m not saying that most of the fans are Black, although I do believe so; but when one considers that in the United States of America, Black people are invisible, I think it’s fucking amazing that, abracadabra, all of a sudden a whole lot of White folks were able to see us.  Not really us, though, but our green.  Our money.  Even still … baby steps can effect change.  Yes, our voices were heard.  To borrow from Dr. Spock, the Vulcan, not the pediatrician:  It was only logical.

Black people, African Americans, are still a minority of the U.S. population.  After all, we can’t count as “Black”  or “African American” the thousands, if not millions, of American-born citizens who ignore the one-drop rule.  We also can’t count the others who have no knowledge or awareness or documentation of their African-slave great-great-great-great-great grandmothers.  Yet Black citizens and non-citizens disproportionately spend their salaries on consumer goods — essentials and doodads.

In a country bestowed with the gift of the Statue of Liberty, where Black people’s humanity continues to be devalued (true, sometimes by Us) and where we are relentlessly demoralized (sometimes by one another) — from schools and workplaces to banks and supermarkets — we try to delude ourselves and boost our self-worth by piling on and in things.  We whittle down our paltry paychecks by purchasing unappraised jewelry, expensive cars and toxic junk food (a list of things by far from complete) as if any of those items can comfort  Us through the deliberate, psychological offenses  that we experience in everyday transactions, and overtly and subliminally in and from the media.  However, if U.S. Black consumers suddenly were to decide not to live beyond their/Our means, the U.S. surely would suffer a Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Depression.

So, y’all, screw those medical-news stats about not eating after seven in the evening and about obesity’s takeover of America, for Madison Avenue counts on Us to crave juicy, no, greasy, hamburgers after ten o’clock.  (Do you know where your insulin and BP monitors are?)  Ooh … diabetes and hypertension!  Yummy!  Have I crinkled a nerve?  No worries; just think about crunching French fries by moonlight — or by TV light — and awakening with indigestion at dawn.

By now you may have surmised that I have nothing but love for ya — and for “The Game.”  Wrong.  Well, I do have nothing but love for ya, but I have a bone to pick today about intragroup cattiness.  By no means is this a rah-rah-shish-boom-bah post about the popular show.  While both the writing and acting in Season 5 — the current season — are the best since the series’ early years, now and then a character rubs me the wrong way.  Now and then, a character, in this case “Tee-Tee,” utters a line that registers a WTF?  Writers of “The Game” episodes would best beware not to alienate fans who cherish or otherwise appreciate Black icons who paved the way for Black artists’ enjoyment of, and wealth from, mainstream celebrity.  Case in point:  last week’s episode (Season 5, Episode 17) titled “A Woman’s Right to Choose Herself.”

During that episode, Wendy Raquel Robinson‘s “Tasha Mack” seeks barside counsel from Barry Floyd’s “Tee-Tee” (alias “Terrence”) a childhood friend and lackey of Tasha’s son, “Malik El Debarge Wright” (portrayed by Hosea Chanchez).  When wingmeister Tee-Tee isn’t ducking flying grease inside his “cluck truck,” the entrepreneur with slim build doubles as a street-wise philosopher.  At the swanky bar, Tee-Tee tries to convince love-starved, hypersexual Tasha to change her mind about serving as a surrogate mother for “Melanie” and “Derwin Davis”‘ fertilized embryo and to choose the love of “Pookie” (played by Rockmond Dunbar — one of the most gifted guest stars on “The Game” thus far).

The twist in the Melanie-Derwin-Tasha story arc, which inherently punishes career-oriented women, is that Melanie [played by Tia Mowry-Hardrict], when she was still med school student Melanie Barnett, had had an abortion.  By forging an identity through her pro-footballer boyfriend-turned-husband, Melanie lost her way and her scruples (especially when she tried to ruin the lovelife of Derwin’s babymama, such as screwing around with the paternity test on her son, “D.J.”), and abandoned her medical goals.  Now that her fertility is a gigantic question mark, she is experiencing an existential crisis.

Fans know that “The Game” has its misogynistic moments, although many more occurred in the show’s first era. Then again, the series is a satire about male athletes.  Feminist rants aside, I want to focus on an unnecessary meanness within Tee-Tee’s advice to Tasha over drinks at the bar.  He tells her that he’ll be Gayle (King) to her Oprah (who else?), to which Tasha agrees.  If the writer(s) of Episode 17 had left the Oprah mention there, I wouldn’t have been inspired to pen this post.  Then Tee-Tee pauses pensively and mutters, “Sensible in life, not in love — yeah, you Oprah all right.”  Ohmmmm … my … God, I thought to myself.

Look, writers of “The Game”:  Oprah Winfrey has come a helluva long way from new-car giveaways and other types of focus on material excess.  She need not apologize for being wealthy.  Brava to her for transforming herself into a self-made billionaire!  Now that her inspirational, Emmy-winning program “Super Soul Sunday,” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN — how ingenious), kicks off each new week with spiritual uplift, Oprah has attained the status of guru.  And one day, she’ll rise to the firmament as a deity.  She isn’t the kind of hammy life coach that sometimes makes me crave bacon when my remote gets stuck at Dr. Phil’s show, however.  Nuh-unh, Oprah is an earthy guide.

Prior to Oprah’s launching of OWN, I had perceived the gifted actress as a talk-show host, albeit a megasuccessful one.  Then “Super Soul Sunday” began shining with its neo-hippie aura on my already bohemian life.  (Cue Seals & Crofts’ “Hummingbird.”  Mmm, mmm, mmm … Oh, how I love that song.  Really, I do.)  “Super Soul Sunday” segments feature legendary gurus that don’t even get upset when Oprah interrupts their effusive explanations for the meaning of life, which makes for great comedy when my eyes aren’t glossed over in spiritual transcendence.   Oprah, if you’re reading this:  Meditation is about being in the moment, so let your guru guests have theirs … and then some.   We don’t want you mushing up what the spiritual teachers are saying until it’s pablum.

Jokes aside, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying “Super Soul Sunday” at the start of that day, which ends (on television, anyway) with “Finding Your Roots,” a documentary series about ethnic and cultural identity on PBS hosted by Professor “Skip” Gates that features interviews and big reveals based on genetics tests and genealogical research.  Now every Sunday is quite meaningful.  You see, I remind myself of my purpose when I awaken, and I wonder who the hell I am before I fall asleep.  Just in case I never open my eyes again, this thing called life is just a dream.  [Update, August 2012:  I thought the “Finding Your Roots” series would continue through the summer.  I hope it returns in the fall.  C’mon, PBS.  I’ve donated enough money, cumulatively speaking, over the past decade, to get more than a tote bag.  I know I’ve gone naptural, but gimme my roots back!]

Getting back to okra.  I’m sorry; I was craving some gumbo.  Yaya!  Getting back to Oprah …

For a few weeks recently, she was following up the spiritual programming on Sunday (including “Master Class,” a series of first-person profiles by iconic people such as Sidney Poitier, Jane Fonda and Jon Bon Jovi) with a Monday-night program featuring one or a group of motivational speakers.  The latter was the case when Oprah hosted Deepak Chopra, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Iyanla Vanzant and Tony Robbins in one show!

I find much inspiration viewing “Super Soul Sunday,” the format of which calls for an interview with an iconic spiritual teacher in his or her natural environment; an indie film that involves love, spirituality or metaphysics, or a combination of all three; and social experiments/sketches by members of SoulPancake.  All of the positivity in that 11 a.m.-to-2 p.m. programming block anchors my being in the universe so that I can enjoy a guilty pleasure such as “The Client List” — starring the multitalented Jennifer Love Hewitt as a reluctant hooker in the guise of a massage therapist — on Lifetime late on Sunday night and then survive the psychological challenges and resist the temptations of the coming workweek.  [Update, August 2012:  Now that “The Client List” has wrapped, so to speak, this attention whore has to wait until 2013 to find out what’s going to happen to the Texas hoes?  WTF!  The only wrapping that would’ve satisfied me?  How about more tape on Jen’s boobies.  In the last few episodes, I was thinking:  Those editors must’ve had close calls with wardrobe malfunctions on the set.]

Again, back to Oprah …

I’m not trying to portray OWN as all meditation bells and incense.  After viewing the episodes documenting Oprah’s India visit, where people living in abject poverty pelted her with roses — a sign of honoring a person of renown — as she barely squeezed through the narrow lane of tiny houses, I was appalled that she opted to dine with an affluent Indian family high above the slums.  Why couldn’t the she dine with the other loving family that she had visited earlier (in TV time), on the floor of their one-room dwelling?  It was like, one minute:  Look at the poor people living on top of one another.  Then, the next minute:  Wow, where can I find these fab chargers in the U.S.?  Oprah didn’t say either of these statements, of course, but the camera captured her discomfort level not long after she had strode through those sprinkled rose petals.  She glanced about the impoverished family’s abode, and the communal, outdoor shower with disdain.

On the other hand, when Oprah sat at the table of the upper-class Indian clan, she looked glam but snobbish.  Talk about being hippocritical.  The contrast of living conditions in India, her dinner location choice, and, in general, the in-your-face disparities and racism of the caste system in India, all made me cry.  I’m talking boo fucking hoo.  And don’t get me started on the glitterati party later on in the episode, where, after making an entrance on elephant with friend Gayle’s daughter, she was led around by an aging, tugged-and-lifted socialite and introduced to Bollywood actors.

On another, less emotional matter, hawking material things are unavoidable on any network; even the PBS network airs car commercials.  What puzzles me, however, about OWN is Oprah’s decision (if it was hers) to sign off on vast blocks of negative and oddball programming.  These back-to-back (and sometimes knife-in-back) crime shows are more morbid fascination than punishment and redemption — and strange medical and sociological fare.  Let’s see, there are “Cuff Me If You Can,” “Deranged,” “Unusual Suspects,” “Nothing Personal” and “My Mom Is Obsessed.”  My personal fave, though, is “Unfaithful:  Stories of Betrayal.”

 So Tee-Tee of BET’s “The Game” wasn’t completely wrong in saying that Oprah is sensible in life, for gurus have stacks of bills — in both the physical and virtual realms — to pay, too.  However, as to whether the goddess of gab and green is sensible in love?  Well, that’s none of Tee-Tee’s, my or Our business.

© 2012 Chantale Rêve

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