Real Husbands Of Hollywood

Real Husbands Of Hollywood started out as a series of sketches led by Kevin Hart at the 2012 BET Awards so well received BET decided to make it into a series. And those sketches are genuinely funny, skewering the Real Housewives franchise and slyly pointing out the paucity of work for black actors.

The first season of Real Husbands was a broad, goofy romp, certainly not appointment TV but worthy of keeping on if you’re flipping through channels and don’t want to watch yet another rerun of Law and Order: SVU.

Stretching a sketch premise into a 23-minute show is tough, and the series never recaptured the of-the-moment buzz of the original sketches, but it was appealing. But stretching the concept into an hour of content is tougher still, and the premiere’s running time works against it – it drags on without giving anyone except Hart much to do.

The first season’s loose charm is rarely on display for this first episode of the second season. The lineup is a little different this season: although he’s not in the opening episode, Chris Rock is slated to appear regularly later on this season, and Nelly has been upgraded to a series regular (a wise choice). And Robin Thicke, who acted as the antagonist last season before "Blurred Lines" catapulted him into a different fame stratosphere (and sent shudders of existential despair through Justin Timberlake’s soul) is nowhere to be found.

The housewives of the Real Housewives franchise are constantly organizing cockamamie cocktail parties and fundraisers, and Real Husbands takes on that trope in the season two premiere, satirizing the inanities of those soirees by giving us a harried, hapless host in Hart. But the episode is somehow both too frantic yet interminable, spreading Hart too thin and relying on the same few jokes over and over.  

Real Husbands works when its principals are allowed space to riff off each other, and in this episode, that laid-back banter is in short supply. The opening scene with Hart showing his house to a gossip news crew drags on until Wanda Sykes shows up and gets the narrative rolling. She’s using his new digs for a fundraiser that night.

This impromptu gathering brings together the rest of the cast, though it doesn't give them enough to do. Actor/real estate dude Duane Martin doesn’t get much action, and actor/handsome man Boris Kodjoe must’ve lost a bet or accidentally killed Hart’s favorite pet, because he’s subjected to a dumb storyline about weight gain, replete with a lumpy fat suit. It isn’t quite Klump levels of terrible, but it’s close. The whole beautiful-person-in-a-fat-suit-OMGLOL thing has never done it for me (even the chubby Schmidt flashbacks on New Girl grate my nerves), and I hope they don’t pull a Fat Mac and make the fat suit into a major plot point.

The humor remains broader than a pair of Chicago shoulders, although I did chuckle when Sykes holds her finger up to Hart’s nose to prove that she gets more action than him, which says more about my maturity level than anything else.

The first season of Real Husbands was at its best when its actors had time to hang out and spit insults, but this episode is short on the laughs and long on contrived setups. The fundraiser is for a mentorship program, and the child mentees are pickpockets. Hart confronts the children assessing their ill-gotten gains in his bedroom, and they rip on his height, which is the show’s go-to joke. Hart bounces downstairs to discover Nick Cannon. Cannon only gets a quick wink to the camera before Hart goes outside to discover JB Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm).

I could’ve done with a lot more Smoove, but we get less than a minute with him until Hart rushes over to the next plot point: Victoria's Secret Angel Selita Ebanks is at the party, and Hart is crushing. “I’m about to put my money in Ebanks right now,” he quips to Sykes. “That’s going to be a small deposit,” Sykes shoots back. This kind of quick repartee between actors with obvious rapport is what the show does well. 

Hart’s attempts to woo Ebanks are interrupted first by Cannon and then by the fundraiser’s auction. Smoove is the celebrity auctioneer at the fundraiser, trying to drum up interest in a $12,000 smart car. Hart ends up in a bidding war with Ebanks’ date, Romany Malco (Weeds). Khloe Kardashian slinks up to bid on the car and serve as a human yardstick to demonstrate how tiny Hart is. She looks fantastic and delivers her zingers about Hart’s height with winking humor (I’ve got a soft spot for the most statuesque Kardashian) even though at this point making fun of Hart’s Napoleonic stature is staler than a bagel from 1997.

The next morning, Hart discovers Ebanks left her iPhone at the party, and decides to snoop and crash Malco and Ebanks’ lunch. The men end up in exaggerated fisticuffs, but the physical bit falls flat. You get the sense they're setting Malco up as Hart's nemesis this season, but Hart already had a dapper/unflappable enemy last season in Thicke. It'd be nice to see the show mix things up. 

The episode ends abruptly, with an extended preview of the upcoming season. The previews hint at Rock’s introduction to the show, which I’m surprised didn’t happen tonight. They also show the guys playing poker again, so I’m hoping Real Husbands regains some of its hangout appeal in the coming weeks and gets back to its beginnings as a meta sendup of reality TV instead of a haphazard, unfocused vehicle for weight and height jokes. Also, it needs more Nelly. Nelly is awesome. 

Stray Observations:

  • Nelly is introduced as a rapper/wine connoisseur. They forgot “fashion band aid pioneer.”
  • “Get out of here before we all get a staff infection.” Sykes get the line of the night.
  • Kris Jenner makes a brief cameo and it’s actually one of the episode highlights, which is how I know this is not a good episode of television.
  • This show had the budget to come up with graphics for Kevin Hart-themed emojis but they didn’t have enough money to hire writers to put funnier jokes in? 
  • Romany Malco: good-looking or best-looking?

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