The unlikely return of the once canceled The Game so far stands as 2011’s most noteworthy television triumph. But the BET hit comedy’s much talked about comeback was an exercise in network politics, disappointments, and daunting resolve. Star Tia Mowry gives the inside story on the show’s devastating cancellation and stunning resurrection.—As Told To Ronke Idowu Reeves
When we were in The Game’s third season, I noticed there were things with the production that were changing. That’s usually the first sign of a show being in trouble whether it’s premature on not. Even on Sister, Sister there were production costs within our sixth year. That’s the first sign that you see when you’re discussing cancellation. We were never told anything. Ordinarily you would have a nice spread for food for the actors [from craft services] and show staff while you’re working. But slowly and surely it became just peanut butter and jelly. Usually they give wardrobe more money to spend to do shopping for clothes, but then we found ourselves wearing the same clothes and just finessing different ways of wearing them. Or usually we would do more outside shots, which costs more money, but we weren’t doing any of that anymore.
The main thing that was loss was promotion. We didn’t have a lot of promotion to begin with, but [suddenly] there was no promotion. And that’s usually what happens to all shows on the verge of cancellation. It’s good business that you want to save your money for the new shows you’re about to launch. You wouldn’t put money into a show that’s going off the air. So the whole Game cast would talk to me and start asking questions. Mainly it was the cast members like Pooch [Hall] and Hosea [Chanchez], who hadn’t had shows prior to this one. ‘Tia, what do you think? What’s going on? What’s your opinion?’ I would tell the guys, ‘This doesn’t look good.’
But the main thing that I would like to share with The Game fans is that we never gave up. We fought all the way to the end. I remember when we had our last run through, which was extremely emotional. All of us got together—the writers, the producers, lighting people, wardrobe, the whole cast and crew—and made speeches because we all knew it was the end. But Salim and Mara Brock [Akil], the creators they were and captains of the ship, wanted to make sure that we put in our best work and best foot forward until the show was canceled. We knew there was some uncertainty, but Mara and Salim still tried to be extremely positive about the situation. We finished the show, but didn’t hear about the cancellation until a few months later in May during upfronts (a yearly event when networks announce new shows to advertisers). And that was the most difficult part because we were literally hanging on a string until that moment. At first it makes you feel confused because in this business they tell you if you have an audience your show is going to get picked up. The CW didn’t know what direction they were going in initially, but once Gossip Girl hit, and was a hit for them, they found out what their target audience was, and unfortunately, we were not that target audience.