Tia Mowry (Melanie) and Pooch Hall (Derwin) have left BET's "The… (Paul Abell / Paul Abell/Picturegroup )
"The Game" may still be the top-rated show on BET. But the football-flavored comedy was thrown for a big loss in its sixth-season opener.
The two-part premiere on Tuesday drew 2.5 million viewers, a 58% drop from last season's season opener, which attracted 5.3 million viewers. More significantly, the audience plummeted 71% below those tuning in to the show's 2011 launch on BET, which drew a record-setting 7.7 million viewers.
"The Game," centering on the women involved with the players on a fictional football team, has been one of BET's high-profile series, and its first serious venture into scripted comedy. But though it premiered with a splash on BET, which resurrected the show after its cancellation by the CW, the latest ratings are less than encouraging.
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The sharp decline in viewership may indicate fan dissatisfaction to changes prompted by the exit of the show's key leads, Tia Mowry-Hardrict and Pooch Hall. Hardict played Melanie Barnett, an aspiring doctor who put her medical career on hold to support her husband, star receiver Derwin Davis (Hall).
Creator and executive producer Mara Brock Akil said losing both actors, who played characters who were what she called "the heart of the show", posed a tough challenge. The opener introduced two characters: Keira Whitaker (Lauren London), a former child star trying to revive her career, and Bryce "The Blueprint" Westbrook (Jay Ellis), a top draft pick.
Akil said she also wanted to add more dramatic flavor to the show that would characterize "The Game" more as a "dramedy" rather than a straight sitcom.
Hall, who left the show for a role in Showtime's upcoming "Ray Donovan," appeared in the season premiere to finalize Davis' story arc — he was traded to another team. Hardrict did not appear.
The network downplayed the audience drop, saying that "The Game" is "the #1 returning sitcom telecast on cable."
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