In the US: Tuesdays, 10.30/9.30c, TBS
I think it’s fair to say that 30 Rock was a success despite Tracy Morgan, rather than because of him. While there was a certain je ne sais quoi about his utterly spaced out performance as ‘Tracy Jordan’ that wasn’t a million miles away from real life, you weren’t watching 30 Rock for his great acting skills, line delivery or pretty much anything else that he had to offer. Jokes were funny because they were funny and could survive all of that, rather than because of anything Morgan did, and often jokes weren’t funny that should have been – thanks to Tracy Morgan.
The Last OG is almost conclusive proof that Morgan is a humour black hole. Morgan’s character in the show is a small-time idiot living in Brooklyn and dating Tiffany Haddish (The Carmichael Show). Unfortunately, his days of happiness are curtailed swiftly when he gets sent to prison. Fifteen years later, he emerges to discover that the world – and Brooklyn – have changed. Now he’s got to find his way in the world and maybe even get back Haddish using the skills he learned in prison, all without annoying halfway house owner Cedric the Entertainer (The Soul Man) too much. His only ally? One of the kids he used to hang out with who’s now all grown up (Allen Maldonado).
Given that Jordan Peele is the co-writer and creator of the show, you’ll know there are at least some astute observations and good jokes to be had in this first episode, most of them stemming from Morgan’s culture shock. Brooklyn has gentrified and Morgan’s prison time is no one-way ticket to street cred. He can try to pass on words of wisdom to black kids, but they’re Sex and the City gay and would rather go off shopping with their girlfriends.
There’s also some good interplay between Morgan and Cedric the Entertainer, as Morgan tries to be funny and smart, while CtE undermines him like his own Tyler Durden. Haddish’s character is also interesting, as she’s escaped the ghetto, got married and had kids, and is now an aspiring politician whose fundraisers Morgan gatecrashes.
So lots of smart social satire… all of which Morgan wanders into like a brick on a pendulum tied to the back of a bull in a Debenhams china display. Everyone else does just fine, while Morgan delivers lines of dialogue like he’s slowly translating them from Japanese washing machine instructions written in 5pt green writing on a green background.
Not that smart
All the same, it’s not that smart. There’s a whole bunch of clichés around prisons that get regurgitated. The fact that Haddish’s kids are actually Morgan’s, rather than her white husband (Ryan Gaul)’s, is inevitable. Those gay characters are borderline offensive. Sure, it’s TBS so we’re not expecting huge laughs, but we do from Jordan Peele.
This leaves us with a high concept show that has more or less expended its high concept in the first episode and a leading man who seemingly wants to lead you away from watching his TV show. There’s so little in the first episode that made me want to watch the rest and what there was was surrounded by Tracy Morgan.
YMMV when it comes to Morgan, of course, in which case you might enjoy The Last OG. Or you may just like laughing at Brooklyn hipsters.
Neither of those apply to me, though, so I think once is enough with this show. And no, I have no idea why it’s called The Last OG.