Can’t stop, won’t stop, Tyler Perry is indefatigable. While haters and critics alike are sitting around wishing he’d stop with the tomfoolery and buffoonery, Perry has plugged his ears with hundred dollar bills and kept his eye on the prize. And what exactly is that prize? It appears to be total media domination.
While his latest film performed honorably this opening weekend, raking in $25 million at the number two spot at the box office, Perry has also recently announced another project, this one a TV show called For Better or for Worse based upon his successful Why Did I Get Married? film franchise. Buppies rejoice!
Because face it — you liked Why Did I Get Married? At least the first one anyway. The actors performed excellently, the storyline was solid, the characters were entertaining, and no one was in drag. Why Did I Get Married? was one of the best mass market black films to be released in years, and college-educated black folks were happy to see an accurate and stereotype-free depiction of African-Americans. Why Did I Get Married? was the olive branch of civility Perry offered to the upper-middle class blacks who have often been his loudest detractors.
Unfortunately, the sequel to Why Did I Get Married? was very disappointing, a very half-baked effort to placate a starving audience. And of course there is that lingering and pesky problem of Perry’s depiction of black women — we’re all either angry shrews or doormats.
Nevertheless, Why Did I Get Married? was Perry’s closest brush with mass market gold — not only did he maintain his Madea fanbase, he converted some skeptics and naysayers along the way as well. The question is: Can a TV show version work?
Turning a movie into a television show is a daunting task for any filmmaker, and Perry faces the same issues twice over. If he couldn’t spin enough storyline off the first Why Did I Get Married? for the sequel, what makes him think he can turn the show into weekly sitcom gold?
Not to mention he struggles in the production value department. Though House of Payne has come a long way from the very painful first few episodes, I’m not confident Perry has mastered writing and directing for TV to the extent that he can do justice to a show intended for a more discriminating audience. Did he hear anything of the adverse reaction to BET’s The Game after the show’s return brought darker storylines for their characters? TV fans can be demanding, and if you don’t delivery weekly, frustrations will be quickly aired.
That said, there is still a drought of good entertainment for African-Americans. There are only six black sitcoms currently on TV, and I couldn’t describe one as “good” so much as it being “adequate.” This explains why all my friends who complain about the direction that The Game has gone in still continue to watch — there’s virtually nothing else black fans can tune in to for adequate depictions of upwardly mobile black life.
If Perry plays his cards right, and produces the show just so, he could turn the corner on his current TV content slate, tapping into the coveted upwardly-mobile audience that is so desperate of black programming. I have full confidence that millions will tune in for this show’s yet-unannounced debut — haters will tune in to hate, fans will tune in to fawn, and the cynically curious will tune in to see if it’s worth the hype.