Magazine article Variety

Showrunner's Got Game

Magazine article Variety

Showrunner's Got Game

Article excerpt

NEW CHALLENGE

Mara Brock Akil keeps busy at BET with revamped Came, startup Jane

MARA BROCK AKIL put on a hard hat and got out a hammer and nails to rebuild The Game for the BET sitcom's sixth season, which bows March 26.

The showrunner made a host of changes to the sitcom even as she was busy getting a new show for BET on its feet: Dramedy Being Mary Jane, which bows later this year.

Game replaced two core cast members and made a host of other changes - building new sets, punting the laugh track - in order to take the laffer about pro football players and their significant others in new directions. The skein has a 20-episode order.

Game already has beaten most of TV's odds since Akil created the series, a spinoff of Girlfriends, in 2006. It survived cancellation by the CW in 2009, and was revived with record ratings for BET in 2011. It opens its third season on the Viacom câbler with an hourlong 100th episode - a milestone for any show, let alone a cable sitcom.

For Akil, the new season of Game is satisfying because she and her husband, helmer-collaborator Salim Akil, finally achieved the look and feel they'd been striving for since the days of Girlfriends (which amassed an impressive 172 episodes) on UPN. She credits BET execs for the willingness to invest the kind of below-the-line money usually spent on new shows on an established property.

"The show looks amazing," Brock Akil says. "It's gorgeous, and we are shooting all over Atlanta. Our characters are of the world, and it's edgy. We don't have the laugh track any more. …

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