Before I recommend it to people, I always have to make one thing clear: The Game is weird. Maybe that's just my opinion, but the BET dramedy, which is coming to an end in its Season 9 finale on Aug. 9, has one of the strangest histories and tones of any series I've ever seen. But even so, there are plenty of reasons to miss The Game, and to be disappointed that it's ending, even if now does seem like a good time. Creator Mara Brock Akil is already working hard on Being Mary Jane (which all Game fans should check out, if they haven't already) and nine seasons have aired — far more than other deserving series.
Plus, The Game's writers, cast, and crew have all been building to this finale for almost a year now, and I think they've done a good job of piping the fan service in so slowly, you don't even realize that's what they're doing. This isn't a surprise cancellation, so I think hashtag campaigns would be out of place here — the best way to pay tribute to The Game is to count out all of its best qualities and most lovable quirks.
1. It Kept Black Sitcoms Alive
Before they were cancelled in 2009, The Game and Everybody Hates Chris were two of the unfortunately few successful comedies on TV with a predominantly black cast. But The Game's success on BET after the cancellation has been attributed in places like The Washington Post to the eventual resurgence of shows with diverse casts, like black-ish.
2. It Put The Spotlight On A Ton Of Talented Black Women
From Tia Mowry to Lauren London, the show may have occasionally stumbled when casting, but usually wound up with strong performers who just don't usually get the chance to star in sitcoms, let alone those that sometimes have dramatic underpinnings like The Game.
3. It Knew How To Expand A Character
I think some showrunners are afraid of starting with a somewhat superficial character and then fleshing them out out over time. However, that's what The Game did time and time again. Take Pookie, for example. He went from the flat archetype of an ex-con to someone with hidden depths and vulnerabilities.
4. I Swear It Helped Inspire Cookie Lyon
Seriously, whether consciously or unconsciously, I would bet anything that Lee Daniels or Taraji P. Henson took a big dash of inspiration from Wendy Raquel Robinson's performance as Tasha when creating Cookie. As much as it pains me to say it, Cookie is the better character, even after just one season (sorry Tasha!). But that streetwise, constantly quipping and constantly scheming quality has always been a huge part of Robinson's performance.
5. Its Abrupt Shift To Single-Camera Didn't Change A Thing
I don't think this choice always worked for The Game. Sometimes scenes would be blocked in awkward ways, and for years the show kept setting big setpieces in tiny single-camera living rooms in hopes of recapturing the CW laugh track style. I just find it charming that it still has the broad performances and connives ways to get all of the actors in a room together, even though it doesn't have to.
6. Brandy Norwood
Look, the 1997 Cinderella is very important to me, and I doubt I'm the only person who gives Brandy a lifetime pass as a result. And while I didn't resent having to sit through Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, The Game is a lot more fun.
7. Rick Fox Played Himself
I just like that Rick Fox was willing to be a supporting character on this sitcom who always gets left at the altar (metaphorically speaking — Tasha will never get within 100 feet of marrying Rick).
8. It Had Some Of The Strangest Sexual Politics On TV
In a way, The Game has a documentarian approach to sex. It simply shows how all of these characters would approach sex, be it to manipulate someone, passionate love, or just ill-advised hooking up. But it never makes a judgment on those approaches.
9. Jason & Kelly's Ridiculous Love Story
I should have no business caring about whether these two get together or not. It seems like ever since Kelly came back to the show, she and Jason can't just be in a room together without them either being in the middle of cheating with one another or on one another. But in the end, they wound up together again, and while it wasn't tear-worthy, it was certainly appreciative nod and smile-worthy.
10. It Is The Most Addictive Summer Marathon
And I'm talking the old-fashioned way: a marathon on TV. Yes, with commercials included. On a night where nothing's on, turn to BET and I guarantee the network will be showing some of those Season 6-7 episodes — not the show's best, but chemically engineered to suck you in.
11. The Freeze Frame
If there is one thing that represents all I love about The Game, it is the truly unpredictable freeze frames that closes out every act with a camera flash, usually on an embarrassing moment. Ruled by neither rhyme nor reason, always a shock, and always (literally: always) good for a true laugh, when I say I will miss The Game, what I mean is I will miss that freeze frame.
Images: BET (7); Giphy