This Week in Black Television – Laurence Fishburne in “Hannibal”, Quality Issues in “The Game” & “The Walking Dead” Season Finale

This Week in Black Television - Laurence Fishburne in "Hannibal", Quality Issues in "The Game" & "The Walking Dead" Season Finale


Welcome
back to This Week in Black Television.  This week we’re covering the return of The Game, the debut of Laurence Fishburne in the new TV drama Hannibal, and other significant television goings-on with members of the Black community.


Sorry for the extended absence of this column from the ‘site, but between my film festival New Voices in Black Cinema and other
film-centric duties I’ve been a bit distracted, but have returned. 

I wrote
separately about the return of The Game last week and whether Pooch
Hall was indeed back or not as running back Derwin Davis.  And I was right, he was just back for the
first episode as he indeed did get traded to the Baltimore – what he wanted but
was saddened that the only adult life he knew – as a San Diego Saber – was done
and over with.   This NYC-based episode
led Derwin to have a trite brawl with the draft pick that he was traded for,
Bryce ‘Blue’ Edwards played by charming newcomer Jay Ellis that turned into a
teary (mostly his tears and probably the female fans that watch the show) goodbye
for his character.  This well-acted but
oversexed return of The Game, indeed
the 100th episode of the series, introduced us to the rookie sensation Blue, as
well as Keira Whitaker, a child-star turned unemployed actress trying to gain
back a career played wonderfully and surprisingly maturely by Lauren
London
.  Though the eventual couple at
first meeting sweetly, their next encounters become awkward then downright
embarrassing. 

The
season opener also saw another breakdown in quarterback Malik’s (Hosea Chancez)
sobriety after realizing he has no power within the Saber organization or in
football in general, that he’s just a cog in the system, just to have him
bounce back after a pep talk from his cousin and confidant TeeTee (Barry Floyd),
and Tasha (Wendy Raquel Robinson) encountering her ex-boo Rick Fox despite her
supposed love for Pookie, played by Rockmond Dunbar.  **WARNING
– THERE ARE EPISODE 2 SPOILERS
FROM THIS PART ON **
. This week we see that Tasha did indeed sleep with
Rick Fox, who in some respects is the love of her life, but she denies that
feeling in a rachtet-like behavior filled conversation with Pookie while Rick
is still in her hotel bed.  Yeah, I felt
silly even writing that entire line. 
This whole episode saw a great departure in writing and emotional
connection from the previous one as it focused squarely on Tasha and her
immaturity in dealing with relationships and love.  Despite the gullible Pookie falling for
another of her emotional and badly acted tirades to cover up her infidelity, he
ends up proposing to her and she accepts – then runs out hours later to chat,
then sleep with in her car, Mr. Rick Fox – only to be caught afterwards by
Chardonnay (Brandy Norwood).  Meanwhile,
in something that happens only on TV in a decent-sized town like San Diego,
Keira continues to run into Blue at the club, the supermarket, and he even
moves into her building. Though she’s still upset at him for sleeping with her
friend, R&B singer Ciara, despite the bond they were building they make a
turn toward reconciliation at episode’s end. 
I can sometimes accept the sitcom like coincidences that occur here, but
the fact that they have to play things this way is what’s frustrating about The
Game
and their deus ex machina story devices even when the show has so
many liberties to be better and to do better.  
I should add that both The Game
and the sitcom that follows it, Let’s
Stay Together
, have been renewed for 2014 already, which is fantastic news
for the cast and crew and hopefully, the viewing audience as well.

Meanwhile
this past Sunday The Walking Dead had their season finale, directed by no other
than Ernest Dickerson, who is
underrated as a director for some brilliantly coordinated action scenes like
the one that opened up the show.  As well
written as the dialogue was in this season ender, drawing strong comparisons
between the Governor and Carl’s similar world views when it comes to killing and
death, The Walking Dead is also one
of the – if not currently the most – badly conceived shows when it comes to
portraying and highlighting non-white male characters. For the sake of this
forum, I’m talking about Michonne and Tyreese. 
Frankly, though the fanboys and others laud her, I’m sick
of Dania Gurira’s portrayal of Michonne. I know the comics aren’t the same as
the television show, they really don’t have to be, but the Black characters are
so passive as compared to their comic book versions, most especially in
comparison to the White lead characters like Rick, Darryl and even Merle. 

Bad as
that is with Michonne, often made to sartorially appear slave-like and bending
to the will of Rick and Merle and even young little Carl (which I don’t
contribute directly to the actress but to the writers and directors), its even
worse with the wasted use of a good actor like Chad L. Coleman as Tyreese. In the
books he’s the first person aside from Shane who was a real challenge, or you
can even say alternate, for leadership among their group. He’s level-headed,
smart, strong and resourceful. On the television version, Tyreese upon closer
examination has the first two attributes, but with barely existing scenes, none
of which have much weight beyond his refusal this last episode to leave with
The Governor, did not have much to show on proving it.  Coleman has been added to the main cast for
next season, as has Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha (who plays his sister on the
show instead of his daughter as the books portray). I should add that Martin-Green
is also appearing on Sunday’s other most guilty-pleasure show (no, I’m not
talking about the corny The Client List
which no longer co-stars Naturi Naughton but does still have Loretta Divine as
a regular as well as Michael Beach, Tammy Townsend, Leonard Roberts and
Jowharah Jones (the original Nico Slater from Ugly Betty) in guest roles) Once
Upon A Time
as the kinda confusingly motivated but well-played villain
Tamara.  I think the sharp eyebrows lend
to her bad-azz attitude. 

Speaking
of villains, the new NBC drama Hannibal premiered last night.  In a new story that shows the backstory about
how FBI profiler Will Graham came to know and be initially mentored by Dr.
Hannibal “(the eventually known) Cannibal” Lecter, played deliciously (yes, I
said it!) by Mads Mikkelsen who most viewers know best as the Bond baddie from 2006’s
Casino Royale but should know better
from Nicholas Winding Refn’s chillingly fantastic Valhalla Rising (it’s on Netflix!). 
I only bring up Hannibal here because, aside from having a hauntingly
good first episode the show also stars S&A fave Laurence Fishburne as FBI
Special Agent Jack Crawford, the head of the bureau’s Behavioral Crimes
Unit.  In a role originated on the silver
screen by Dennis Farina (Manhunter),
then Scott Glenn (The Silence of the
Lambs
) and Harvey Keitel (in the forgettable Red Dragon), Fishburne holds his own as the suspicious and
strongly-determined Agent Crawford, going to major lengths to solve the initial
murder by relying on the overly-sensitive Graham (played by Hugh Dancy) and Lecter
to help.  The great thing about the
potential of this series is that it will give viewers, and fans of the movies
and the original Thomas Harris novels, a chance to explore the minds of Graham,
Lecter and Crawford more deeply than the films ever could.  I for one always look forward to seeing
Fishburne in anything – I feel he excels in episodic TV as he gets to expand
his role more than a film’s two hours allow. 

There
were some nice nods to history in the premiere episode.  If you didn’t know, William Petersen from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation starred
in the original novel adaptation Manhunter
as Will Graham. His CSI character Gil Grissom is the one who recruited
Fishburne’s character Dr. Ray Langston to be on his team before Petersen
departed CSI.  When they first appeared on screen, Grissom
appears in Langston’s lecture room as he’s talking about criminal pathology to
his students. In fair play, Fishburne’s Jack Crawford did the same upon
recruiting Dancy’s Will Graham to join his team in the Hannibal pilot.  So three
different generations of the movie and TV investigators met in the same way,
just in different shows. 

Lastly,
a solemn good-by should be paid to newscaster Bob Teague upon his passing last week at the age of 84. As one of
this nation’s first African-American TV reporters, locally in NYC for WNBC
channel 4 and occasionally nationwide for NBC, he was hired in 1963 from The
New York Times.  I personally barely
remember Teague but I knew him more by reputation, and his legacy as a
broadcaster and stance as a trailblazer should be rightly acknowledged.See his obituary by Brian Williams below.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Next
week I’ll examine Chi McBride’s role on CBS’s newest cop show Golden Boy, catch you up on BET’s Let’s Stay Together (which I’ll just say
for now has somewhat steadily improved) as well as other key Black TV
happenings.   

This Article is related to: Television


Comments

William K. Wallace

Unfortunately I'm not familiar with any of these shows, primarily because I gave up on shows starring black actors or all black casts long ago. Too often in the past they were poorly written, terribly acted, or both like any Tyler Perry series, or some didactic "black experience" tripe of us trying to do shit right, you know like white folks do. Like that ABC Family shit-show Lincoln Heights; can we for once have a TV show about a black family that isn't struggling, doesn't involve gangs, or them trying to hold the line against a decaying black community but aren't at the same time aren't the Cosby's.

When there is a black character on a predominantly white show something about the character always fails to ring true if they aren't their shows Hadji or Tootie. I'd say it's white writer sometimes earnestly trying to include a black face but naively assuming that a generic character (white) can be played by anybody cause we all were in rock bands in high school and want to date terribly thin white women. Or you have a CBS brown person, written by a white writer who hasn't had a colored acquaintance since college, and he was the guy they use to smoke the dope with, which of course makes him the office darkie specialist.

Perhaps the best colored characters are the ones that are placed in positions of power like Chief Webber from Grey's Anatomy or Captains Montgomery and Gates from Castle, they seemingly elevated venerable characters while cleverly removed from being a possible driving force of anything but 1 or 2 story lines a season and especially removed as a possible love interest for the white lead. Cause we're at our best as wizened teachers, sassy friends but never lovers and damn sure not the lead.

Africameleon

HANNIBAL was great. I'll definitely be watching… online, since it airs the same time as SCANDAL. But it was really good. Mikkelsen was an excellent choice to play Lector, and I can't wait to see what he does with that character. As for Fishburne, I did notice a lot of "Grissom" in the pilot. I thought it had a good "CSI meet Dexter" kind of feel. That's enough to peak my interest.

Anonymous

If the Lauren London character is trying to jumpstart a failed acting career, then what the Hell is she doing 2 hours away from Hollywood!?

A little, yet important detail, such as this is enough to turn me off from watching. … I know the Akils know about continuity.

monkeysuit

You are so right about The Walking Dead. Michonne is so weak! It's frustrating as hell. But not only her, every non-white and female character just bends to the will of these weak-ass white men. And that's just one of many problems inflicting this show. They're about to lose me as a fan.

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