Ever wonder what it’s like to live inside the heads of Ray J, Solange, or Rebbie Jackson as they struggle to escape the shadows of their more famous family members? Your answer to that question will likely dictate your initial interest in the new BET comedy Second Generation Wayans. The show follows Damien Dante Wayans and Craig Wayans and their quest to carry on the legacy of their pioneering comedic family that includes Uncles Keenan, Damon, Marlon, Shawn, and Auntie Kim Wayans. Joining them is My Wife and Kids and New York Undercover star, George O. Gore II, who plays himself as an aspiring director, along with Fresh Prince Bel-Air alum Tatyana Ali as Maya, their executive assistant.
The first episode begins with Damien and Craig’s growing frustrations about the audition process. Their last name seems to get them in the door, but only to discover they’re nothing more than a means to an end – in this case, a ploy to get to Marlon Wayans. The lack of opportunities results in deficient funds – leaving the two scrambling to make something them happen quickly. Meanwhile, George is trying to take his directing ambitions the proper way via schooling, only he increasingly sees that perhaps he’s too seasoned to be inside of a classroom.
The show, which co-producer Marlon Wayans has described as his family’s version of Entourage, is largely themed around the premise that nepotism in the entertainment industry isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That argument alone is worth a couple of laughs, especially when part of “making it happen for themselves” includes Kevin Hart being coerced into setting up a meeting for Damien and Craig with his agent, though plausibility for a fictionalized work isn’t necessarily a necessity. All that matters is the intended goal of the project, and in the case of Second Generation Wayans, it’s getting laughs. There’s some to be found in the pilot episode, though don’t expect any of it to mirror Damon’s sharpness, Marlon’s slapstick funny, or Kim’s zaniness.
Damien and Craig’s style of comedy, at least as exhibited on the premiere of Second Generation Wayans, is more restrained…if not a bit too safe. Perhaps that point plays too much into the driving narrative of the show – letting these Wayans kin be their own individuals and stopping the comparisons. Nonetheless, when you hear about how funny they are, as Regina Hall, who appears as Damien’s ex-girlfriend, does at one point on the show, you want to see some receipts.
So far, the most hilarious thing about the show is former Destiny’s Child member LeToya Luckett. Luckett, who’s been quietly building her acting resume in recent years, plays Rochelle, the mother of Craig Wayans’ son.
Admittedly, her character is a familiar trope many would understandably like to see go away – the baby mama from hell. If nothing else, LeToya plays the character well and flexes surprising comedic chops, particularly when she dismisses criticism over her son with Craig calling her by her first name with “I don’t need to advertise I’m somebody’s mama. My son knows who I am.” She’s the breakout star of this show, proving once again that the Houston, Texas native knows how to make an impression when given the right opportunity.
Damien and Craig have their moments, too, though, so perhaps that’s merely a testament to their generosity when it comes to delegating the biggest ha-ha moments of the show.
That said, while I still acknowledge that a sitcom doesn’t have to be totally believable to be entertaining, it is somewhat odd to see two members of a family that’s long-been known to maintain a do-it-yourself mantra as it pertains to creating success in Hollywood take so long to conclude, “We’re so busy chasing the dream, we should be creating our own.”
Such a revelation harkens more to the naïveté found in HBO’s canceled series How To Make It In America than it does the Hollywood-insider theme of Entourage, which this show is purportedly molded in the style of.
Even so, by the end of episode one of Second Generation Wayans all I could think about was its potential. That’s a vast improvement from the “Time, can you return those minutes to me?” sentiment I’ve felt towards the other original BET sitcoms I’ve tried and failed to enjoy in the past. Damien and Craig’s new venture may not be perfect from the very start, but I imagine they’ll figure it out. It’s the family way.