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December 5, 2016

“From Good Times to Girlfriends” Goofs

US NEWS COSBY 1 KRT

(Courtesy MCT)

Black Student Union members and non-members alike performed a series of sitcom scenes Saturday night as part of a retrospective – “From Good Times to Girlfriends and The Rebirth of the ‘90s” – to commemorate Black History Month. The choice of showcasing prominent black sitcoms by decade reflected our recent entry into the – what are they calling them – the ‘10s?

The show, which started at 8:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom, moved from the ‘70s to the ‘00s, stopping at each decade in between for a few scenes from a popular black sitcom. “Good Times” and “Girlfriends” were unsurprisingly chosen for the opening and closing scenes. From the ‘80s, students chose “The Cosby Show,” and from the ‘90s came both “Martin” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

With the lights low and the scene set, the “Good Times” cast took the stage, as one then smiled and waved to the audience. From this moment forward, however, it was clear that these students were not professional actors, and were participating in a community theater endeavor, not a stage production. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The real disappointment was that the format of the show did not seem to acknowledge the distinction. As a community theater piece, it could have worked within its limitations; botched lines would have been forgiven, for those limitations ended up dominating the performance.

Most noticeable were the technical gaffes, which occurred as each actor was outfitted with a personal microphone. Multiple and extremely distracting sound failures proved not only that the microphone system was terribly flawed, or at least terribly implemented, but that the actors were perfectly capable of projecting their voices without them.

Lights also went on and off at seemingly random moments. During one incident, the end of a scene was followed by one set of lights going off and on, and then another, and then the first ones again, and then finally the correct ones – it was not hard to imagine the nervous crew member flipping each switch trial-and-error style.

Then there was the performance which lacked in memorable and digestible segmented scenes. Entire episodes were incautiously processed into a confounding structure of scene and narrated summary. Instead of actors cast based on their best character impersonations, they seemed to go mostly with physical resemblance.

Before each act, a representative of the BSU delivered a disorganized, unfocused summary of each decade’s civil rights history before mentioning the fact that there was a particular style of fashion associated with that time period and said “you know what I’m talking about,” proceeding to list popular fashion trends. Even though this was always the last part of the speech, it never correlated with what followed on stage.

In fact, very little attention was paid to detail in the costume department, which ought to have been a particular focus of the organizers. Dr. Huxtable swapped his signature sweater with a tweed jacket, the Fresh Prince substituted hiking boots for Air Jordans, and J.J. from “Good Times” was recognizable only by his hat. For a performance all about the proud history of black television, the students did not seem to take much pride in the shows’ iconography.

Adding to the viewers’ frustration was the pace of the show. With only four costume changes, an extremely repetitive and uninteresting set, a cast of about 20 and a maximum of maybe seven actors in any one skit, it is inexplicable that the scenes could not flow seamlessly into one another. Instead, the audience was forced to listen to minutes at a time of DJ Relly Rell, who was, at the time, behind a curtain.

However, this did not prevent audience members from having a good time. The event was certainly not worth the $6 entry fee, but it was enjoyable in spite of itself almost the whole way through. Fumbled lines, uncooperative technology, crew incompetence and, yes, occasionally the intended humor of the original sitcom had the audience in hysterics for two solid hours.

Maybe next year they will correct their mistakes and earn those laughs. Really, our only hope is that they will have an Urkel.

Garth Brody can be reached at gbrody@student.umass.edu.

Comments
15 Responses to ““From Good Times to Girlfriends” Goofs”
  1. Naychelle Lucas says:

    “…It was enjoyable in spite of itself,” This entire article, this line in particular, is undeservedly harsh. First of all, I would like to highlight the fact that the Black Student Union is provided with, to put it lightly, a limited amount of funds by UMass. These so called “funds” make it difficult to achieve the goals of uniting the small population of Black students and educate this predominately white campus on black culture. I suggest you take this into consideration when describing the”…four costume changes, an extremely repetitive and uninteresting set, a cast of about 20 and a maximum of maybe seven actors in any one skit. Its not like UPC where they have sufficient funds for elaborate costumes and sets. We were given malfunctioning microphones and we worked with what we had.

    I can agree with you in your statement that we are not professional actors who know how to distinguish between a community theater show or a professional production. We are not theater majors who are experienced in presenting ourselves onstage or delivering lines perfectly. However, we are Black students of different backgrounds who came together for Black history month, worked with what they had to try and achieve common goals. Our goals were to produce pride, educate, and have fun, which is what we did.

    I suggest that next year the collegian covers the event instead of critiquing the low budget production style, which is always going to be low budget as a long as we have a low budget, focus on the meaning behind the production. What’s really important. What BSU stands for and why we’re doing what we do. Black History Month is a time for remembering our ancestors and being proud of our heritage not remember our lines so we can impress theater critics.

  2. A Happy Customer says:

    I agree entirely with the comments posted by Naychelle. Who cares if the show is low budget? The show was awesome! These students came together, worked hard and put on a phenomenal show.

    P.S. I paid the 6 dollars to see it and definitely did not want a refund! It was worth it to see my fellow students working together for a common goal all while having a few laughs.

    Great job BSU!!!!!

  3. 06 'Alumnus says:

    The fact that you would actually write this shows how little knew about purpose of the event. I promise you that one not one of the students believed this was going to land them a Tony Award, it was put on as a celebration and it seems your entire criticism misses that point. I think you were the only person in the crowd that thought this was a professional production. Your review attempts to diminish the work of BSU. You have used this platform in a sad attempt to create credibility for yourself as a theatre critic as a critic at the expense of this production. Shame on you.

    Reading your review reminds me of a famous quote, “’Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

  4. Garth Brody says:

    Hey Naychelle,

    I apologize if you found my review overly harsh.

    My intent in highlighting the low budget of the BSU was not to criticize. I understand that student organizations on campus are not given a great deal of funding; the low budget was not a surprise for me.

    My criticism would be with the allocation of that low budget. Why was so much money spent on faulty microphones and a huge, impersonal space when it could have been used on other things? Namely, the costumes. Other than sharp character impersonations, what else do you need to emulate a sitcom?

    Well, better sets. But I didn’t expect any variation in set – that’s why I think the waiting in between skits was unnecessary. Why spend so much effort exchanging one couch for another?

    What I’m saying is – the low budget crippled the performance when it needn’t have.

    The show was still a lot of fun, but that was ultimately more a product of the audience than the performance. The highlight of the evening was probably everyone singing along to the “Fresh Prince” theme.

    Anyways, thanks for sharing your opinion, and I do hope that the BSU continues to put on these kinds of events.

    -Garth Brody

  5. Garth Brody says:

    Hey ’06 Alumnus,

    For some reason, your comment wasn’t visible to me when I responded to Naychelle, else I would have responded to you as well.

    “The fact that you would actually write this shows how little knew about purpose of the event.”

    I was also not the target audience of the event, but that didn’t prevent me from seeing its ads around campus, getting interested, and choosing it from a long list of stories to cover. So if you are telling me that the purpose of this performance, whose $6 tickets were open and advertised to the public, was anything other than giving an open audience the best show possible, then what was the purpose?

    “It was put on as a celebration and it seems your entire criticism misses that point.”

    I must reiterate that if a celebration is public and charges money, then it ought to deliver a service.

    “I think you were the only person in the crowd that thought this was a professional production.”

    The only mention in my article about a “professional production” is when I explain that it was not one. I had no such notions going into the performance, but low budget does not excuse a good deal of my complaints. Also, technically, this was a professional performance; it cost money to enter. That alone makes it vulnerable to criticism, but I still reviewed it on its own terms.

    “You have used this platform in a sad attempt to create credibility for yourself as a theatre critic as a critic at the expense of this production.”

    If it helps, I have no intention of becoming a theater critic. And if I wanted to gain credibility as one, then I would have reviewed a professional stage production. I have a lot of opportunities. I chose this one. I was disappointed. I wrote a negative review.

    Please don’t be so quick to shame. I don’t get paid for this.

    -Garth

  6. Donald Leonard says:

    This article sadly had absolutely no substance. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, so the issue is not that the writer seemed to dislike the show; but instead that Garth Brody exhibited both ignorance and arrogance throughout the entirety of the article. Next time the Daily Collegiate sends a writer to do a review of a cultural based show, you should make sure that writer has some sort of credibility and respect for the hard work student organizations put forth on this campus.

    From the beginning of the article, Garth disrespected every single student who dedicated their time to put on the show, by referring to them as “goofs.” That is both unnecessary and insulting. I find it hard to believe that if there was student in the show that Garth knew himself, he would still refer to the group as goofs.

    Moving further, Garth clearly had no sort of connection or and even sufficient knowledge to the event. You stated, “before each act, a representative of the BSU delivered a disorganized, unfocused summary of each decade’s civil rights history before mentioning the fact that there was a particular style of fashion associated with that time period and said “you know what I’m talking about,” proceeding to list popular fashion trends. First and foremost, there isn’t civil rights history for each decade. The civil rights movement has been over for decades now. Secondly, it seems Garth was so ready to criticize; that he missed the whole point of the decade descriptions and I can definitely say that “you know what I’m talking about” was not the essence of it and was probably only stated one time. Those descriptions described a wide range of history of a culture that he clearly could not relate with which partially explains his state of ignorance.

    Garth’s comments about the costumes also demonstrated his ignorance. If he actually had any familiarity with the shows, he would know that Cosby did wear a blazer with a sweater underneath in that episode, Will Smith did wear Hiking boots, JJ’s hat was not the only part of the costume that identified him, and that 75% of the actors of the show barely resembled the characters from the actual shows. Garth stated that the students didn’t take pride in the iconography. However, it seems more like Garth doesn’t take pride in his credibility.

    I can go on and on about how poorly prepared this article was, but I think my point has been fairly made. This article was more stereotypical than it was factual, and the editor should be ashamed for allowing this article to be published. I think next time Garth wants to make a name for himself on campus, he needs not to do so by attempting to discredit and embarrass a student organization on this campus that has earned the respect from both administration and its peers way before he was enrolled. And I also find it preposterous that Garth refused to interview both a member of BSU as well as someone from the audience that night. As I mentioned previously, if you didn’t like the event so be it, but approach your article in a professional manner, don’t approach it as if it some sort of personal blog.

    My only wish now is that not only Garth, but the Daily Collegiate as a whole displays a higher level of professionalism in which student organizations can work hard and not have to concern themselves with defending the dishonor demonstrated by their own school newspaper.

  7. Garth Brody says:

    Hey Donald,

    “I find it hard to believe that if there was student in the show that Garth knew himself, he would still refer to the group as goofs.”

    For starters, I didn’t write the headline. But I feel pretty safe in saying that “goofs” is a verb there. I can imagine that interpreting “goofs” as a noun and thereby a direct insult on the performers would be a sour way to start reading the review. That was not the intent.

    It’s also not the main issue here; the important point is contained in the phrase “if there was student in the show that Garth knew himself.” You’re absolutely right. If I had been friends with a member of the cast, then I almost certainly wouldn’t have written a negative review. In fact, I wouldn’t have written a review at all. So when you say that I “clearly had no sort of connection” to the event, you are simply describing the role of the reporter.

    “Next time the Daily Collegiate sends a writer to do a review of a cultural based show, you should make sure that writer has some sort of credibility and respect for the hard work student organizations put forth on this campus.”

    First of all, it’s called the Daily Collegian. It’s a student organization. We work hard. I’m sure the cast and crew worked exceedingly hard on this production. I’m sure it was a terrific experience for everyone involved and that friends were made and bonds were strengthened. Unfortunately, it is not my role as a reviewer to report on any of that. It is my role to attend the performance and give an honest appraisal.

    You didn’t really finish the thought on the “cultural based show” point, but I’m guessing the implication is that when a community of a particular culture holds an event, it ought to be covered by a member of that community. Well, if the event’s only target audience is its cultural community, then why advertise all over campus?

    “First and foremost, there isn’t civil rights history for each decade. The civil rights movement has been over for decades now.”

    This is a bizarre statement. The civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s may have ended, but civil rights in general is not a resolved issue. Some of its facets, like educational integration, are still hotly debated to this day. There is definitely a civil rights history for each decade.

    You are, however, correct in asserting that the speaker between acts covered black political/cultural history more generally, so “civil rights history” was not the best choice of phrasing. I do maintain that she said “you know what I’m talking about” at least twice, and ended at least three of her (four) decade-introducing speeches with a rundown of the fashion trends, thereby giving them the spotlight.

    You say that she “described a wide range of history of a culture that he clearly could not relate with which partially explains his state of ignorance.” If you feel that there was something in particular about the descriptions with which I could not relate, then I would like to know what that was. And whatever such elements there may have been, they should have been communicated better in the speeches themselves, rather than in this discussion. Otherwise, I must ask again – why advertise to the public?

    You wrote that “if he actually had any familiarity with the shows, he would know that Cosby did wear a blazer with a sweater underneath in that episode,” and that “Will Smith did wear Hiking boots.” Well, you caught me.

    I didn’t remember Cosby’s costume in that particular episode. Neither does anybody else. What people remember about Cosby’s costume is his unique style of sweater. They’re called “Cosby Sweaters” now.

    And maybe Will Smith even wore hiking boots in that episode of “Fresh Prince,” but that level of research and accuracy, while admirable, is misplaced. What people remember about the Fresh Prince’s shoes is that they were huge and usually sneakers. He has his own line of Pumas now (the Fresh Prince, not Will Smith). These sitcoms were bigger than just episodes. They were cultural touchstones whose iconic features (like Will’s giant sneakers and Cosby’s distinctive sweaters) ought to be immortalized properly. Nobody came to see the episodes. They came to see the sitcoms.

    That’s why I came, at least. I was excited about this event. I didn’t choose to attend because I was “attempting to discredit and embarrass” the BSU. I chose to attend because I, a member of the ticket-buying public, saw a poster that caught my interest. The performance did not deliver, so I wrote what I wrote. I am not here to “dishonor” anybody.

    As always, thanks for sharing your opinion, and I encourage you to keep up the discussion.

    -Garth

  8. Obamanique says:

    I felt, after reading the comments on here, I needed to support Garth. While I believe that a white person covering a black event for the collegian is, to put it lightly, silly, I must admit that his portrayal of this event was accurate beyond measure. I must also admit that I did not attend the event. But that being said, by the fact that the BSU is underfunded(per Naychelle Lucas), I highly doubt that it could put on a good event.

  9. Mike Rotch says:

    “This article sadly had absolutely no substance. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, so the issue is not that the writer seemed to dislike the show; but instead that Garth Brody exhibited both ignorance and arrogance throughout the entirety of the article. Next time the Daily Collegiate sends a writer to do a review of a cultural based show, you should make sure that writer has some sort of credibility and respect for the hard work student organizations put forth on this campus.”

    This is just a long was of saying that the collegian should’ve sent somebody black.

  10. Mike Rotch says:

    “From the beginning of the article, Garth disrespected every single student who dedicated their time to put on the show, by referring to them as “goofs.” That is both unnecessary and insulting. I find it hard to believe that if there was student in the show that Garth knew himself, he would still refer to the group as goofs.”

    Editors make titles, not the writers.

    Also, he probably would’ve referred to the act as goofs, as it was terrible.

  11. Mike Rotch says:

    “Moving further, Garth clearly had no sort of connection or and even sufficient knowledge to the event.”Its called journalistic objectivity.

    Good try.

  12. Mike Rotch says:

    “You stated, “before each act, a representative of the BSU delivered a disorganized, unfocused summary of each decade’s civil rights history before mentioning the fact that there was a particular style of fashion associated with that time period and said “you know what I’m talking about,” proceeding to list popular fashion trends. First and foremost, there isn’t civil rights history for each decade. The civil rights movement has been over for decades now. Secondly, it seems Garth was so ready to criticize; that he missed the whole point of the decade descriptions and I can definitely say that “you know what I’m talking about” was not the essence of it and was probably only stated one time. Those descriptions described a wide range of history of a culture that he clearly could not relate with which partially explains his state of ignorance.”

    I laughed so hard, because this is coming from the president of the BSU– question for you. Its over, right? Cause something about the Civil Rights Act coming up for reapproval sure says that its over, right?

  13. Mike Rotch says:

    “Garth’s comments about the costumes also demonstrated his ignorance. If he actually had any familiarity with the shows, he would know that Cosby did wear a blazer with a sweater underneath in that episode, Will Smith did wear Hiking boots, JJ’s hat was not the only part of the costume that identified him, and that 75% of the actors of the show barely resembled the characters from the actual shows. Garth stated that the students didn’t take pride in the iconography. However, it seems more like Garth doesn’t take pride in his credibility.”

    I lol’ed.

  14. Mike Rotch says:

    “I can go on and on about how poorly prepared this article was” KINDA LIKE YOUR COMMENT.

    “but I think my point has been fairly made. This article was more stereotypical than it was factual, and the editor should be ashamed for allowing this article to be published. I think next time Garth wants to make a name for himself on campus, he needs not to do so by attempting to discredit and embarrass a student organization on this campus that has earned the respect from both administration and its peers way before he was enrolled. And I also find it preposterous that Garth refused to interview both a member of BSU as well as someone from the audience that night. As I mentioned previously, if you didn’t like the event so be it, but approach your article in a professional manner, don’t approach it as if it some sort of personal blog.”

    Cause his opinion should be formed based on somebody else’s opinion. Great Logic.

  15. Mike Rotch says:

    “My only wish now is that not only Garth, but the Daily Collegiate as a whole displays a higher level of professionalism in which student organizations can work hard and not have to concern themselves with defending the dishonor demonstrated by their own school newspaper.”

    Oh noes! Not dishonour!

    In short, my point: garth behaves fine, you’re being oversensitive, and silly.

    Being a part of the BSU doesn’t entitle you or anybody else to a good review. Stop operating under that assumption.

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