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'Season of the Tiger': Grambling State's Reality Show


A new reality TV series starts tonight on the BET cable channel. It's called Season of the Tiger. It follows the Tigers, Louisiana's Grambling State University's football squad and also the marching band. TV critic Andrew Wallenstein has this review.


Quarterbacks and trumpeters may not seem to have much in common, but Season of the Tiger searches for the similarities and winds up with uneven results.

Both the football team and the marching band are institutions on Grambling's Louisiana campus. And both have their share of compelling characters. Take Mancell, the band's saxophone player who stands out from the crowd by simple fact that he is a white guy attending an overwhelmingly black college. In this scene, he describes what that's like.

(Soundbite of television program Season of the Tiger)

MANCELL (Cast Member, Season of the Tiger): I mean, pretty much anything you can think of, they pretty much called me. You know what I'm saying? Yeah, white boy. You know what I'm saying? Slim Shady, Pat Sajak, Alex Trebek, Timothy McVeigh, Jeffery Dahmer, Santa Claus, Snowflake, Powder.

WALLENSTEIN: Now, Mancell is also a troubled kid who has been kicked out of school and his beloved band after a run-in with the law. Season of the Tiger follows him on the margins of campus life as he searches for a way back in.

Mancell might seem to have little in common with the star quarterback of the Grambling Tigers football team, Bruce Eugene. But Bruce's got some troubles of his own. He's return from an injury 30 pounds overweight and the excess fat could hurt his chances for getting picked in the NFL draft. To add to his woe's, his mother has moved close to campus after Hurricane Katrina drove her out of her house in New Orleans.

But as Bruce and his girlfriend learn, his mother is not about to let his undisciplined diet get in the way of his pro football aspirations.

(Soundbite of television program, Season of the Tiger)

Unidentified Female #1 (Cast Member, Season of the Tiger): I love you and you need to do your part now. You got to help out now.

Mr. BRUCE EUGENE (Cast Member, Season of the Tiger): I am helping.

Unidentified Female #1: Oh, no you're not. Not going to them bad restaurants you're not.

Unidentified Female #2 (Cast Member, Season of the Tiger): You got to realize. We, I mean, cookies is not (unintelligible)...

Unidentified Female #1: You are not helping out and doing the --as much as you can to influence Bruce on what he have to do, and you...

Unidentified Female #2: Bruce is grown. I can't make Bruce do what he wanna...

Unidentified Female #1: I didn't say a thing.

WALLENSTEIN: What a wonderful exchange for BET's cameras to capture as they follow these compelling characters. But unfortunately, spontaneous moments like this are few in Season of the Tiger. Too much airtime is devoted to the show's subjects spouting exposition describing their lives, as opposed as actually living it.

That makes for lazy reality TV and one that wastes characters worth caring about. Strange as it might seem to bring together sports and music, there is a common thread weaving them together. What Season of the Tiger is really about is the pitfalls that keep people from reaching their potential. However, the show turns out to be a lot like its subjects: There's a lot of promise, but even more room for improvement.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: Andrew Wallenstein is co-host of the show Square Off on the TV Guide Channel. The reality show Season of the Tiger premiers tonight on BET. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Wallenstein
Andrew Wallenstein is the television critic for NPR's Day to Day. He is also an editor at The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers television and digital media out of Los Angeles. Wallenstein is also the co-host of the weekly TV Guide Channel series Square Off. His essay on Holocaust films was published in Best Jewish Writing 2003 (Jossey-Bass), and he has also written for The New York Times, The Boston Globe and Business Week. He has a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.