Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Barbershop Is A Waste Of Time, Talent

After finding success with the TV adaptation of Soul Food, Showtime has decided to turn another popular African-American film, Barbershop, into a TV series. Unfortunately, unlike Soul Food's TV version which was pretty decent, Barbershop is terrible. It's as unfunny as a pile of barber hair.

The major problem with the show is that the people behind it decided to dumb down the characterizations. The characters in the Barbershop films actually had some depth. The characters in the TV series are reduced to very broad, two-dimensional portrayals. For example, in the movies, Terri (the character Eve played) got mad often but also had a sweet, vulnerable side. In the series' first episode, Terri is turned into the ultimate angry black woman. She gets very angry at every little thing. A running gag has her getting arrested more than once because whenever she gets angry, it looks like she's threatening the person she's talking to. Even new characters suffer from pathetic characterization. Romadal, an ex-con that Calvin hires on the advice of his wife, can basically be summed up by saying that he's rude and that he calls everyone "bitch."

The weak characterization could be tolerated if the characters were at least given something funny to say or do...but they aren't. Most of the jokes fall flat. Like the films, the show attempts to mine humor from controversial subjects. The results are cheap and unrealistic. Terri is hounded by both a pro-choice and a pro-life abortion activist because the person who stole her identity went to an abortion clinic. These scenes are flat out boring and the resolution is shallow and predictable. The storyline that came the closest to being funny was the one that had Calvin trying to teach Yinka (changed from Dinka because Yinka is an actual African name) how to talk dirty.

One thing I should mention about Barbershop the show is that it is now a show firmly for adults. While the movies stayed in PG-13 territory, the first episode of the TV show not only dropped a couple of f-bombs (and some other salty language) but it also contained some nudity and sexual dialogue (courtesy of the Calvin/Yinka storyline). I personally don't mind the adult content. I just wish that it was funnier.

Based on the first episode, Barbershop is a disaster. The actors try their best to help the material. Omar Gooding admirably tries to fill Ice Cube's shoes as Calvin and character actor Barry Shabaka Henley puts his own spin on Eddie. However, what really disappoints me more than anything is the amount of good people behind the scenes. Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr., the producers of the films, are executive producers on this series as is original star Ice Cube. The first episode was written and directed by John Ridley, who is also an executive producer. He wrote the story for the film Three Kings and has written for such shows as Third Watch and the animated series Static Shock. It's a shame that all these people can produce something this bad. I don't know if this show will get better over time, but it doesn't look good. If you want your fix of Calvin and his group of barbers, you will be better served renting the movies.

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