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Who loves The House of Payne ?

Some have labeled him an egomaniac for his ‘lackluster’ contribution to television, while others supported his pursuit virtually sight unseen on the strength of his name alone. Whichever side you claim, the vision that gave life to Tyler Perry’s sitcom vision was most clever and a unique approach to a successful bid in the dying arena of sitcom television.

He paid for ten episodes out of his own pocket and gave them to TBS, eliminating outside production costs; I’m not sure what the promotion specifics were initially, but it’s heavily advertised now. He then negotiated an order for one hundred episodes, an unprecedented number for a sitcom in any market, primetime or independent.

Rather than the standard filming of 22 episodes a season, all one hundred episodes were taped within a year, with the network airing them two, sometimes four, original episodes a night. That’s the equivalent of about five standard sitcom years, the very definition of sitcom success. An accomplishment made even sweeter by the absence of the typical sitcom issues: characters being recast/leaving, puberty, weight gain, just to name a few.

With a taping schedule that galloped, what are labeled as seasons Three, Four, and Five, aired in the months of March, June, and December of 2008. With the expense of the sitcom rising, syndicated networks that have a little extra money to play with sometimes seek original content to fulfill their needs, a trend that renders programming cost efficient and profitable, not to mention a bit more exciting by avoiding the classic sitcom graveyard that is inevitable in most outlets.

Instant longevity is another facet of this scenario. Here is an entity that wouldn’t just fade away into nothingness if the public didn’t catch on in twenty two episodes. This show couldn’t disappear even if it wanted to: as of September 22, 2008, MyNetworkTV added the Paynes to their line up in some cities along with FOX Network media outlets. Networks rarely show dedication or loyalty to shows that don’t get an almost instant public following, especially in the case of sitcoms. Simply being on the air is a huge accomplishment, especially after UPN/WB merger.

Since there are so many episodes, it could never suffer the same fate as Frank’s Place.

Frank’s Place received the Television Critics Association award for ‘outstanding comedy series’ in 1987. The same year, it also won an Emmy for ‘best writing in a comedy series’. The show was praised for its realistic portrayal of black culture in New Orleans. Airing on CBS in 1987, it was among the first series to be described as a dramedy, its innovative presentation praised by critics, its exceptional writing style acknowledged by the awards and accolades that the series snagged in its twenty two episode lifespan.

But this is no Frank’s Place. Critics and folks trashed The House of Payne immediately, calling it “one of the worst sitcoms of the modern era”, criticizing the show’s pacing and the ‘aimlessness’ of its narrative.

Call it what you will, it’s a capsule of nostalgia for the next generation. Fifteen years from now, the children that sit at the feet and watch and LAUGH with the First Generation Tyler Perry fans, will view for comfort and familiarity. Almost like a 21st century Good Times. You might not have a Thelma, but you do have a Claretha.

I’m a Curtis Payne fan, his offbeat execution drawing unexpected laughter. Jazmine is too jazzy for me at times; I give credit to the young actress for being consistently nerve grating, the ultimate little sister……..and I love me some Claretha.

…..my mind wanders to Mister Brown.

I hated Brown on sight. Then again, I had yet to meet him, his earnest country charm as dominant as he is clueless. My exposure to Brown was in the cinema. If he’s a little spaced out well, I can dig that; the man slept with Madea.

I was always comfortable with TPP in the cinema. Viewing his properties in reverse order enabled me to see the transitioning from stage production to the silver screen. Whatever I was doing during the stage play home invasion of Tyler Perry I missed the boat entirely.

I saw Meet the Browns with a die hard fan and was informed of any shortcomings, production parallels, or specific continuity issues. The events of the two part The House of Payne episode “Sad, Sad, Leroy Brown” occurs directly before the movie, when Brown learns about his father’s death. “Weeping May Endure for a Night” happened somewhere in the middle of the movie, directly after the funeral and the reading of the will, where Brown found out that his father left him a broken-down house….the one that Brown converted into a retirement home. Also in this episode, the Paynes indicate that they attended Brown’s father’s funeral. Curtis claimed Brown made them wait in the cemetery for 2 hours while Brown fulfilled his father’s last request: a tour around Atlanta. While two of the series actors appeared in the movie, none of their characters were portrayed. A weekly production centering around Brown is slated to drop in January 2009.

Madea’s involvement in The House of Payne limits her larger than life approach, her wit much too quick for a laugh track to contain her. With the exception of Season Four, she has appeared in one episode per season. Her inclusion in Meet the Browns seemed like a gratuitous step in overexposure. It didn’t make sense at the time, but it’s the ultimate showcase for Madea Goes to Jail due Spring 2009, with Keke Palmer reprising the role she portrayed in both Diary of a Mad Black Woman and The House of Payne.

For the critics, the harsher critics, I would like to say this: It can only get better. Timing is as important to me as continuity….perhaps even more important since timing is dealt with more directly.

Continuity? That’s nothing but dedication.

With a over a hundred episodes behind them, new episodes in December and 26 more set to debut in the summer of 2009, the well seasoned crew should be glistening with slickness of ease.

Ð. Stylz
Editor in Chief
Chaklet Coffee Books

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