Melanie Barnett

Melanie Barnett
The Game character
An African American woman with shoulder-length black/brown hair, and wearing a low-cut dress.
Tia Mowry as Melanie Barnett
First appearance"The Game" (April 17, 2006)
Last appearance"Pow Pow Pow!" (August 5, 2015)
Created byMara Brock Akil
Portrayed byTia Mowry
Information
NicknameMel, Med School, Girl Melanie
GenderFemale
OccupationStudent
FamilyJames Barnett (father)
Grace Barnett (mother)
Cameron Barnett (brother)
Joan Clayton (cousin)
SpouseDerwin Davis
ChildrenDerwin Davis Jr (step-son, with Derwin)
twin son and daughter (with Derwin)
NationalityAmerican

Melanie Barnett-Davis[1][2] is a fictional character, portrayed by actress Tia Mowry, who appears in the American sitcom The Game, which aired on the CW Television Network and BET from 2006 to 2015. Introduced in a backdoor pilot on the sitcom Girlfriends as the cousin of Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross), Melanie chooses to support her boyfriend Derwin Davis' (Pooch Hall) career with the fictional National Football League (NFL) team, the San Diego Sabres, rather than attend the medical school at Johns Hopkins University. The series focuses primarily on Melanie and Derwin's complicated relationship, with her fears of his infidelity serving as the core of many of the episodes' storylines. Mowry left the series in 2012 on learning that her role would be reduced as a result of co-star Pooch Hall's decision to leave The Game to appear in the crime drama series Ray Donovan. Both actors reprised their roles in the series' finale, in which Melanie gives birth to twins.

Melanie was created by producer Mara Brock Akil. While casting the character, Brock Akil initially questioned whether Mowry would be the best choice given her wholesome image from starring as Tia Landry on the sitcom Sister, Sister. Brock Akil had reservations about Mowry, but hired the actress based on her strong work ethic and desire to be part of the series. Mowry considered the character to be her first adult role and felt it emphasized her individuality and maturity. She identified closely with the part, observing parallels between Melanie's relationship with Derwin and her own marriage to actor Cory Hardrict. She cited The Game as an example of women receiving more lead roles on television.

Reviews to Melanie were primarily negative, with critics disapproving of her decision to support her boyfriend over enrolling in medical school. Media commentators also panned the character's representation as a mother, such as her inability to properly care for her stepson. On the other hand, fans responded positively to Melanie and felt attached to her relationship with Derwin. Mowry's performance received positive feedback from critics, who agreed that the role displayed her maturity as an actress. She received nominations for two NAACP Image Awards and a Teen Choice Award for the role.

Role

The Game, which aired on The CW Television Network and BET,[3] explores the daily lives of a group of women romantically involved with professional football players.[4] Introduced as the cousin of Joan Clayton (Tracee Ellis Ross) in a backdoor pilot on Girlfriends,[5] Melanie Barnett aspires to be a doctor and is admitted to the medical school at Johns Hopkins University.[6][7] Against Joan's objections, Melanie decides against attending Johns Hopkins in favor of moving to San Diego to support her boyfriend Derwin Davis' career with the San Diego Sabres, a fictional National Football League (NFL) team. While living there, Melanie enrolls at a local college and becomes close friends with Tasha Mack, a divorced mother and manager of quarterback Malik Wright, and Kelly Pitts, the trophy wife of the team's captain Jason Pitts. She struggles to be accepted by the wives and girlfriends of the San Diego Sabres, who have formed a group dubbed "The Sabre Sunbeams".[6] Storylines frequently address her fears that Derwin will cheat on her.[8][9] She turns to Tasha and Kelly for help in handling the stress of being in a relationship with a professional football player;[10] Tasha and Kelly's advice includes the idea of using an ultraviolet light to check for fluids on hotel bed sheets.[11] At the end of the show's third season, Derwin proposes marriage to Melanie on live television, during the halftime of a Sabres game. Even though she has concerns, she accepts.[6]

The couple end their engagement after Melanie discovers that Derwin had sex with a singer.[12] She considers returning to medical school rather than continue "life as a football girlfriend".[7] During their break-up, Melanie has sex with multiple men and Derwin impregnates another woman. She struggles constantly to balance her career with her personal life. Even though Melanie and Derwin have relationships with other people, they still have feelings for each other.[13] Melanie eventually reconciles with Derwin and the couple marry. She has a strained relationship with her stepson, as she views him as a reminder of Derwin's past infidelity.[14][15] Due to this, Derwin considers her to be an unfit parent and allows her only limited contact with the child.[14] During this time, Melanie reveals to Derwin that she had an abortion and suffered from complications, leaving her highly unlikely to conceive children naturally.[13] She made the decision as she felt that having a child with another man would ruin her relationship with Derwin permanently.[15] At the end of the show's fifth season, Melanie and Derwin move to Baltimore after he is traded to play for a team based in the city, and she finally enrolls at Johns Hopkins University.[16] Melanie returns to The Game in the series' finale near the end of a high-risk pregnancy and gives birth to twins.[7]

Development

Creation and casting

Producers Mara Brock Akil and Kelsey Grammer developed The Game as a spin-off of the sitcom Girlfriends.[17] Brock Akil had originally conceived the show's premise and the characters of Melanie and Derwin to give viewers access to the world of professional football, a sport that she and her husband appreciate.[18][19] From the series' inception, she intended to include story arcs relating to race and celebrity.[18] The New York Times' Virginia Heffernan wrote that one of the show's objectives was "to relieve ideological tensions instead of creating or ignoring them", citing its multi-ethnic female cast of characters as one of the means of achieving this goal.[20] Melanie, and the rest of main cast of The Game, were first introduced in the Girlfriends episode "The Game".[21] She later made a cameo appearance alongside Derwin in Girlfriends' season seven finale "It's Been Determined" as guests at Joan's engagement party.[22]

A woman with curly black hair is talking into a microphone.
Despite her initial reservations about Mowry, creator Mara Brock Akil praised her audition and commitment to the character.

Cynthia Addai-Robinson was originally cast to play Melanie,[4] before she was replaced by Tia Mowry prior to the development of the backdoor pilot.[23] The CW Television Network did not provide a reason for the casting change.[23] Critics frequently billed Mowry as The Game's lead actress,[3][19][24][25] and Brock Akil referred to Melanie and Derwin as "the heart" of the series.[3]

Mowry's twin sister Tamera Mowry accompanied her to her audition.[26] Tamera had tried out for the role previously;[17][26] she said that it was common for them to read for the same part, but emphasized that "[they're] very different actors".[26] When she saw the two women together, Brock Akil initially debated whether they would be appropriate for the show's tone. Brock Akil said that she was concerned about the sisters' wholesome reputation gained from their time as child actors on the sitcom Sister, Sister, explaining: "I had a certain image of them. I didn't know if they wanted to go where I wanted the character to go."[26]

On hearing of the twins' interest in the show, Brock Akil asked them if their management was aware of her writing style.[17] When questioned by Brock Akil, Tia responded: "I'm a woman, Mara. I can do this."[17] Though Tia was chosen for the part, Tamera later appeared as a guest star during the show's fifth season.[26][27] Brock Akil said that Tia won the role over Tamera because she had a more "serious personality" and "made all the necessary adjustments to get this part".[17] The producer explained that she was appreciative of Tia's work ethic and strong desire to be a part of the series; she described Tia's audition as "fighting everybody's preconceived notions of her" by playing the more mature Melanie.[26]

Portrayal and characterization

Prior to hearing about The Game, Mowry had changed her appearance in order to be perceived as more mature and to emphasize the differences between herself and her twin sister. During this process, she lost 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and straightened her hair for auditions.[26] To prepare for the role, she frequently consulted her cousin, retired NFL fullback Jameel Cook, and other professional athletes.[12] Mowry felt that Melanie would let her be perceived as more mature following her appearances as Tia Landry on Sister, Sister. When discussing her reasons for auditioning, she said that she wanted to take on a more difficult role.[26] She described The Game as an opportunity to showcase her individuality.[17] Mowry identified Melanie as the closest match to her personality in comparison with her previous roles. She cited her character's relationship with Derwin as reminiscent of her own romance and subsequent marriage to actor Cory Hardrict.[24]

Describing Melanie as a "vixen",[28] Mowry credits the character's imperfections with allowing her to grow as an actor.[29] Placing The Game in context with the television shows Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, she felt there were more leading roles for women on television, and said this "allows women to be women and to show their different emotions and what we deal with in life — period".[12] Melanie's intellect, one of her defining characteristics, earned her the nickname "Med School".[1][30] VIBE Vixen's Jennifer Hickman referred to Melanie as "bookwormy",[31] and Virginia Heffernan characterized her as "wholesome and a good student" in the pilot.[20] Heffernan called the character a "kind of Cosby Show figure" due to her initial reluctance to join the Sabre Sunbeams.[20]

Departure and return

The Game aired for three seasons on the CW; the network canceled the series as executives had decided to stop developing sitcoms. BET picked up the show, where it aired for five additional seasons.[32] Mowry and Hall left The Game in 2012,[16] after Hall accepted a lead role in the crime drama television series Ray Donovan.[19] Mowry left the show when Melanie's role was slated to become "less important" in comparison to previous seasons.[19] Announcing her departure on Twitter, she emphasized that it was a mutual decision with the network.[33] Brock Akil clarified that she provided closure to Melanie and Derwin's story arc through their exit, explaining: "They're together, and we were able to put a period on their story."[3]

Following Melanie and Derwin's exit, draft pick Bryce "The Blueprint" Westbrook and child star Keira Whitaker, portrayed by Jay Ellis and Lauren London respectively, were introduced on the series.[3][19] Media outlets viewed Keira and London as a replacement for Melanie and Mowry.[34][35][36] Ellis and London disagreed with comparisons made between Melanie and Derwin to Bryce and Lauren, believing that they were all separate characters.[37] Actress Keke Palmer was offered a lead role in the series following Mowry's exit, but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts with the development of her daytime talk show Just Keke.[38] Brock Akil described the changes made to The Game as a "true resurrection", with Wendy Raquel Robinson (Tasha Mack) saying that future episodes would be "completely different, crisper and edgier and sexier".[3]

For the series finale, Mowry and Hall reprised their roles as Melanie and Derwin, though Mowry had previously written on her Facebook page that she would not reappear on the show.[16] Hall announced their return during the 2015 BET Awards, where the show's cast had attended to say "their final goodbyes".[2] Discussing the direction intended for Melanie and Derwin's final appearance, Brock Akil said: "To bring these characters back to shore is such a blessing. They get an ending. They get closure."[16] She added that their storyline would appeal to the show's fans, explaining: "I feel creatively we've been able to answer those who have been loyal to us. It's truly a tip of the hat to the fans who will get to see if Melanie and Derwin get their happily-ever-after."[39]

Reception

Response to Melanie

Melanie Barnett has been negatively received by television critics. Melanie McFarland of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer panned the character along with the show's main premise ("A woman on a professional track kicks it all aside to chase a football player"), feeling that they were contradictory to the message of the parent show Girlfriends.[40] Echoing McFarland's assessment, The San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman found Melanie's decision to be "a bleak little life lesson".[41] When discussing the transition to BET, Britney Wilson of Clutch was critical of the absence of female friendships previously established with the Sabre Sunbeams, citing "the disintegration of the female identity" as signs of The Game's declining quality.[1]

The character's representation as a mother also received criticism. Wilson viewed Melanie's decision to have an abortion in an attempt to reconcile with Derwin negatively, and criticized the show's depiction of an abortion causing Melanie to become barren as based on "a link that is not medically solid".[1] In her 2015 book Representations of Black Women in the Media: The Damnation of Black Womanhood, California State University associate professor Marquita Marie Gammage felt that the character was perpetuating negative images of black motherhood on television. Gammage criticized the series for showing Melanie becoming a wife "at the expanse of her career and possibility of bear[ing] her own children" and portraying her as unable to care for her stepson. She contrasted Melanie with white characters on television, writing that "white women seem to achieve it all and control their realities on their own terms".[13]

Mowry received positive feedback from fans, who "were fairly obsessed with Melanie and Derwin’s journey early on".[42] Fans had reacted positively to the characters' relationship, and dubbed the couple the portmanteau "Merwin",[36] which BET adopted and used to promote Mowry and Hall's appearances in the series finale.[29] Jaime Lee of Soap Opera Network wrote that viewers had connected with the fictional couple relating to their struggles.[36] A writer from HuffPost cited the pairing as a "big part of the winning formula for the series",[43] and Mowry attributed the positive fan response to her chemistry with Hall.[29] She said the following about the character's reception in The Washington Post:

Through the course of playing Melanie, some people would love her, some would hate her, some would judge her[.] But I think they connected with her — they enjoyed her vulnerability, they enjoyed relating to her. . . . It’s refreshing to see a couple that’s not perfect on television, a couple that works through trials and tribulations.[42]

Response to Mowry

Mowry's performance received positive feedback from critics. While discussing her career in his 2010 book Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television, author Bob McCann wrote that Mowry demonstrated maturity through her more dramatic role in the series.[44] The Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan was critical of the overall show, but was pleased with Mowry's charismatic performance.[9] Melody K. Hoffman of Jet wrote that Mowry had demonstrated her love for acting through the character, and viewed the show as the first time that she had acted as a woman.[26] In a negative review, USA Today's Robert Bianco was uncertain of Mowry's capabilities as a comedic actress. He wrote that she would frequently rely on child acting techniques that are inappropriate for an adult character.[45]

Mowry received two nominations for NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series at the 39th and 43rd NAACP Image Awards.[46][47] She was also nominated for the Teen Choice Award for Choice TV Actress Comedy in the 2007 Teen Choice Awards.[48]

References

Citations

  1. ^ a b c d Wilson, Britney. "Time Out: What Ever Happened to the Sunbeam Sisterhood?'". Clutch. Sutton Media. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  2. ^ a b Whaley, Natelege (June 28, 2015). "Pooch Hall and Tia Mowry Will Return for The Game Series Finale". BET. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e f Braxton, Greg (March 25, 2013). "Big changes in 'The Game's' playbook". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  4. ^ a b "Development Update: February 14". The Futon Critic. February 14, 2006. Retrieved August 4, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  5. ^ Gilbert, Valerie C. (February 17, 2010). "Girlfriends The Final Season". PopMatters. Sarah Zupko. Archived from the original on August 4, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  6. ^ a b c Brooks & Marsh (2009): p. 515
  7. ^ a b c Gammage (2015): p. 117
  8. ^ Terrace (2008): p. 377
  9. ^ a b Ryan, Maureen (September 27, 2006). "'The Game' fumbles an interesting idea". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  10. ^ "The Game". Metacritic. Archived from the original on August 4, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  11. ^ Gilbert, Matthew (September 30, 2006). "The CW fumbles an opportunity with 'The Game'". Boston.com. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  12. ^ a b c Dransfeldt, Jeffrey (April 15, 2008). "Sisters Tia and Tamera Mowry make their acting roles real and relatable". Ventura County Star. Archived from the original on August 4, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  13. ^ a b c Gammage (2015): pp. 117–118
  14. ^ a b Gammage (2015): p. 118
  15. ^ a b Writer: Mara Brock Akil & Salim Akil. Director: Bille Woodruff. (January 10, 2012). "Skeletons". The Game. Season 5. BET.
  16. ^ a b c d Owoseje, Toyin (June 29, 2015). "The Game season 9: Tia Mowry and Pooch Hall will return for series finale". International Business Times. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  17. ^ a b c d e f Ryan, Suzanne C. (October 5, 2006). "Mowry in `The Game' without her twin sister". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  18. ^ a b Oldenburg, Ann (September 28, 2006). "It's prime time for Akil on CW". USA Today. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  19. ^ a b c d e Braxton, Greg (June 28, 2015). "'The Game' to get a finale assist from MVPs Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Pooch Hall". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  20. ^ a b c Heffernan, Virginia (September 30, 2006). "Football Wives, Bridging 2 Views of Race". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 4, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  21. ^ Writer: Mara Brock Akil. Director: Salim Akil. (April 17, 2006). "The Game". Girlfriends. Season 6. UPN.
  22. ^ Writer: Mara Brock Akil. Director: Salim Akil. (May 7, 2007). "It's Been Determined". Girlfriends. Season 7. the CW.
  23. ^ a b "Development Update: February 27". The Futon Critic. February 27, 2006. Retrieved August 4, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  24. ^ a b Leon, Felice (December 7, 2015). "Motherhood Is All in the Game for Tia Mowry [Interview]". Ebony. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  25. ^ Perkins, Ken Parish (June 16, 2006). "NAACP and the networks: Can we change the script?". The Chicago Defender. Retrieved August 4, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help) (subscription required)
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hoffman, Melody K. (November 12, 2007). "Sister Flying Solo". Jet. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  27. ^ Jasmin (September 27, 2011). "Tamera Mowry to Guest Star with Twin Sister Tia on BET's "The Game"". IndieWire. Archived from the original on August 8, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  28. ^ Mowry (2012)
  29. ^ a b c "The Game Exclusives: Team Merwin". BET. August 5, 2015. Archived from the original on September 23, 2016. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  30. ^ Jones, Kathryn E. (August 5, 2015). "'The Game' Reaches The End-Zone, Melanie and Derwin Return For Series Finale". Vibe. Archived from the original on August 4, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  31. ^ Hickman, Jennifer (August–September 2007). "Game Face". VIBE Vixen. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  32. ^ Yahr, Emily (July 28, 2015). "'The Game' is over and everybody won: How BET's comedy helped make TV history". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  33. ^ Clark, Krystal (May 17, 2012). "Tia Mowry kisses The Game goodbye!". SheKnows Media. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  34. ^ Taylor, Derrick Bryson (June 21, 2012). "Is Lauren London Replacing Tia Mowry on 'The Game?'". Essence. Retrieved August 9, 2016. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  35. ^ Gray, Jazmin (May 18, 2012). "Bring on Lauren London". Vibe. Retrieved August 9, 2016. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  36. ^ a b c Lee, Jaime (April 2, 2013). "BET Renews 'The Game,' Plus Insight Into Popular Comedic Soap Opera". Soap Opera Network. Archived from the original on August 8, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  37. ^ "6 Things You Didn't Know About 'The Game's' Lauren London and Jay Ellis". Essence. April 2, 2013. Archived from the original on July 3, 2016. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  38. ^ Palmer (2017): p. 26
  39. ^ Travis, Camille (June 25, 2015). "Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Pooch Hall Return to 'The Game'". Centric. Archived from the original on August 8, 2017. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  40. ^ McFarland, Melanie (September 29, 2006). "On TV: A show to see and one to flee". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  41. ^ Goodman, Tim (September 28, 2006). "New season is another way to love 'Chris,' but give 'Game' the boot". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  42. ^ a b Yahr, Emily (July 28, 2015). "'The Game' is over and everybody won: How BET's comedy helped make TV history". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  43. ^ "'The Game' Finale: Melanie And Derwin Say Goodbye". HuffPost. February 11, 2015. Retrieved August 11, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  44. ^ McCann (2009): p. 244
  45. ^ Bianco, Robert (September 28, 2006). "'Game' garners very few points". USA Today. Archived from the original on August 3, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  46. ^ "ABC, 'The Help' Top Nominations for the NAACP Image Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. January 19, 2012. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  47. ^ "Press Release". National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. January 8, 2008. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Unknown parameter |dead-url= ignored (help)
  48. ^ "Teen Choice Awards 2007". Teen Choice Awards. August 26, 2007. Fox Broadcasting Company.

Book sources

  • Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (2009). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946–Present. New York: Random House Publishing Groups. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  • Gammage, Marquita Marie (2015). Representations of Black Women in the Media: The Damnation of Black Womanhood. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-13894-519-7.
  • McCann, Bob (2009). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. New York: McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-78643-790-0.
  • Mowry, Tia (2012). Oh, Baby!: Pregnancy Tales and Advice from One Hot Mama to Another. New York: Penguin. ISBN 978-1-5833-3528-4.
  • Palmer, Keke (2017). I Don't Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-50114-539-1.
  • Terrace, Vincent (2008). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010. New York: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.

External links