Not Ready For Prime Time: The Racialicious Review of Chocolate News

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García, also posted at The Instant Callback

In mining the Daily Show and Colbert Report styles for new material, David Alan Grier is, unfortunately for him, showing his age more than his experience with Chocolate News.

Credit is due DAG, of course, for even having his own show right now: his nearly 30-year career spans stage, film, stand-up, sitcoms and, of course, sketch comedy. The problem is, instead of showcasing his range, he’s relying on the same tropes and mannerisms that characterized his work on the dearly departed In Living Color. “Girth Of A Nation”? That’s the ILC Black History sketches, retreaded more than remixed for this new generation of fans.

The show’s other “reports” suffer from the same lack of relevancy. “Wigga Rehab”? John McCain’s “Cleaner”? “Fat Black Mama Syndrome”? To borrow a phrase, Hated It! This stuff is more played out than the 3 Snaps Up, and shows a serious lack of juice. Dave Chappelle would have been able to put Tyler Perry into the FBM sketch.

The show does show promise when it shifts to a “newsroom” setting, highlighting monologues by Grier. This is where one hopes DAG really will take a page out of the Chappelle playbook: instead of trotting out the typical over-the-top “broadcast journalist” character, Grier is in a position to put together a real storyteller, who can point out real community issues with both humor and criticism. “The Death of Hip-Hop,” though not exactly a fresh topic either, hews closer to the kind of commentaries that would pull the show above the usual Comedy Central mundanities.

The show’s other potential saving grace is its’ ensemble work, when Grier interacts with his correspondents. Specifically, Ronnie Tucker needs to be harassed every episode. The guy plays a likable schmuck of a reporter. If the show can keep developing his character, along with Alan Boda’s “clueless white guy” (cliché, but you gotta have one, I guess) and the straight-forward Alicia Sanders, the supporting players could really shine – and take the onus off of Grier, making his appearances fresher, too.

But maybe that’s not the plan. Maybe DAG, a former Tony Award-nominated musical performer, is content to revel in the schtick that brought him to this dance, rather than trying a new tune. Which is a waste of this show’s opportunity, not just in the marketplace – it’s in the valuable slot between South Park and The Daily Show — but artistically. Instead of breaking the news, DAG’s breaking the record. And that’s just a sad song waiting to happen.