tasha_smith-michael_jai_white__web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Tyler Perry always has shone a spotlight on the black community, specifically the Christian community. With countless plays, movies, and television shows under his belt he is obviously doing something right.

In the case of his TBS television series For Better or Worse — starring Michael Jai White and Tasha Smith as Marcus and Angela Williams, respectively — Perry may be spreading himself too thin. 

For Better is based on Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? and Why Did I Get Married Too? Based on a deal Perry struck with TBS, For Better aired 10 episodes, beginning Nov. 25, 2011.

Should the show do well with ratings, it will get a 90-show pickup and an outright syndication deal, which means big, big money. 

For its premiere episode, For Better attracted 3.4 million viewers, compared to Perry’s House of Payne (5.2 million) and Meet the Browns (4.2 million). By TBS standards, plus adding the 100,000 viewers that For Better picked up its second week, it’s a hit.

Perry’s official website says the premise of the show is “the tumultuous relationship of the lovesick couple.” Marcus and Angela are trying to make their relationship work after all of the fights and the cheating.

It is becoming more and more apparent, though, that Perry’s well-oiled machine could use some retooling.

He’s making television gold for studio and network executives. But in the ever-changing urban entertainment landscape, it’s just more of the same, no matter what the Hollywood focus groups say.

So here are a few free suggestions to help For Better or Worse get to the blissful altar of a syndication deal.

Bring in the funny
Since there is no laugh track, Perry employs what has been called “jaunty incidental music.” He instead should sparingly add a laugh track, and try doing something crazy, such as having a funny plot that’s interesting and entertaining. Every episode can’t be: “Wife is mad, wife tries to bludgeon husband, husband sits and takes it, cue quirky music and sassy maid.”

Choose a side
According to tylerperry.com, For Better is a “dramedy” (dramatic comedy) — something that’s difficult to truly achieve. Artists tend to be better off choosing one or the other. Since For Better is a half-hour show, which usually denotes a comedy, go with that.

Use what you have
What’s the point of having minor characters if they get only five minutes of screen time combined?  Better that they get a subplot or two each episode.  As a matter of fact, for the last five episodes, I actually prayed for a subplot.

To reinforce some positives: The women’s wardrobes are awesome. The house that Marcus and Angela live in is awesome. And their maid (Chandra Currelly) is kind-a-funny.

Photo: Courtesy of tylerperry.com

MARRIED COUPLE: Tasha Smith and Michael Jai White