After an unprecedented outpouring of fan support, the once canceled show The Game has been revived and is now a record setting sitcom on the nation’s largest urban network.
Originally on the CW network, The Game, an ensemble show about the lives and exploits of professional football players and the women who love them, was canceled in 2009 after a three year run.
BET picked up the popular show in syndication in 2009; its reruns are among the highest viewed shows on the network. The Game premiered its fourth season of original shows on Jan. 11 on BET. According to a statement from the network, “the season four premiere telecast of The Game ranks as the #1 ad-supported sitcom telecast in cable ever.”
Stepping out of its comfort zone of music videos and entertainment shows, the network has forayed into originally scripted shows. In addition to The Game, on the same night BET also premiered its own original show, Let’s Stay Together, executive produced by Queen Latifah.
Leading up to The Game’s highly anticipated premier, the network launched a full out marketing campaign on radio, TV and print publications, which apparently paid off.
The Game set a ratings record for BET, which said 7.7 million viewers tuned in, making it the No. 1 original telecast on the network, and No. 2 of all-time, behind the 2009 BET Awards, which had 10.2 million viewers and took place three days after the death of Michael Jackson.
While BET has yet to announce a fifth season, The Game is helping the network to change its image.
“We’re coming out hitting hard,” said executive producer Salim Akil. “We really hope it opens BET up to more voices, to more people being able to come in and pitch shows and have a variety of different scripted shows on the network.”
When the CW canceled The Game in 2009, no other network showed interest in picking up the show. Akil said it was even tough booking meetings to pitch the series.
“When there wasn’t maybe a couple of calls (returned) at least for a meeting, I was sort of surprised,” he said.
His wife, Mara Brock Akil, is the show’s creator and co-executive producer (along with Kelsey Grammer); she also executive produced Girlfriends with Grammer and is a consulting producer on ABC’s Cougartown.
“I’m usually extremely optimistic,” said Tia Mowry, who stars as Melanie Barnett-Davis, a medical school graduate and wife of football star Derwin Davis (Pooch Hall).
“I had to let it go. I was like, ‘Melanie has died.'”
The new season of The Game picks up two years after it ended. The relationship for newlyweds Melanie and Derwin is still rocky since Derwin recently had a child with another woman. Malik Wright (Hosea Chanchez) is second string to Derwin, who is now the San Diego Sabers franchise player.
Tasha Mack (Wendy Raquel Robinson), Malik’s mother and former manager, is guiding Derwin’s career. And Kelly (Brittany Daniel) is still separated from Pitts and has her own reality series called “Ex-Baller’s Wife.”
“We offer the fans real-life stories that they can relate to,” Hall said.
The show’s resurrection is mainly due to those fans, who long waited for the show’s return, watching reruns on BET and petitioning online.
“It’s so crazy how these fans are so embedded and … attached to these story lines,” Mowry said. “They actually think Melanie and Derwin are real.”
The show moved its location from Los Angeles to Atlanta, shooting the new season’s 13 episodes in a “guerrilla” style.
“As we look forward to our development pipeline, it’s clear scripted will continue to play an important role in our original programming slate to tell more of our stories that truly resonate with our audience,” said Loretha Jones, President of Original Programming at BET Networks.
In addition to its incredible on-air performance, The Game had the highest amount of social media buzz of all other prime time television shows, according to Trendrr’s Prime Time Television Activity Chart for Jan. 11.
At one point, commenting on The Game’s Facebook page averaged 893 ‘likes,’ and 750 comments per minute, after the question “What did you think about tonight’s episode?” within the first 28 minutes after the post.
The Game related topics dominated Twitter with 9 out of the top 10 trending topics 30 minutes into the program.
Renee Michelle Harris may be contacted at RMHarris15@
This article was supplemented with information from the Associated Press.