Premiering on TBS this week is a new comedy series serving as Tracy Morgan’s vehicle back to television, after he almost lost his life in a 2014 traffic collision.
Not only is this Morgan’s big return, but Tiffany Haddish is along for the ride and Jordan Peele is an executive producer, with the show being the first scripted comedy series (sans the sketch comedy, Key & Peele) from his Monkeypaw Productions.
A lot has changed since this series was first conceptualized, which has been in development since 2016. Upon its initial creation, Peele had not yet won an Oscar for his hit film Get Out and Haddish had yet to acquire worldwide fame from her breakout role in Girls Trip.
So, with all of this, of course there are ultra-high standards set for The Last O.G. — with many not knowing that the series was mostly set before the sudden ascents of Haddish and Peele.
Ultimately, the result is a series that gives viewers a somewhat bumpy ride, but when it gets good — it is exceptionally good!
The Last O.G. centers on Tray (Morgan), an ex-con shocked to see just how much the world has changed when he is released from prison for good behavior after serving a 15-year stint. Returning to his newly gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood, he discovers that his former girlfriend, Shay (Tiffany Haddish), has married an affable, successful white man (Ryan Gaul) who is helping raise the twins (Taylor Mosby & Dante Hoagland) Tray never knew existed. Wanting nothing more than to connect with his kids, but having neither the money to support them nor himself, Tray falls back on the skills he learned in prison to make ends meet while treading on unfamiliar territory. Allen Maldonado portrays Tray’s eccentric cousin Bobby, who helps him acclimate back to regular life, and Cedric the Entertainer plays Miniard, the head of the halfway-house where Tray has to stay.
To recognize its faults, there is a lot of dated and crass humor which would have potentially found itself much more palatable in a comedy series set in the 1990s or early 2000s, not one in 2018. Many jokes teeter upon transphobia and misogyny. One promo for the series even states, “A man can be anything now...even a woman.” Not to mention, there are numerous prison rape jokes that are hurled at the audience just within the first 15 minutes of the pilot. A lot of these comments are shown to be seeded in Tray's deep, complete disassociation with current, progressive society (including figuring out how a smartphone works), which he comes to understand as episodes progress — not that this excuses it.
The good part is, despite all of this, once it settles into its groove, The Last O.G. is a wonderfully enjoyable comedy. The cringe-worthy jokes — which are few in number after a couple of episodes in — are combated with laugh-out-loud funny moments.
The show explores real issues of the criminal justice system, such as unjust sentences for drug violations and how former inmates struggle to re-adjust to society when post-prison life is set up for them to fail.
As for the performances themselves, Morgan is back in full form and better than ever. From the first scene, he hits the ground running and doesn’t miss any opportunity here. As with anything she’s been in yet, Haddish steals the show here. Viewers will have to remind themselves that the show was conceived before she reached superstar status, so she’s not as close to the center of this show as one would expect her to be after Girls Trip.
Another scene-stealer is Maldonado, who has been quietly working over the past several years and should absolutely be due for his own network television vehicle very soon. Cedric the Entertainer is great here as well, so it is great to know he’ll soon probably be back where he belongs, leading a broadcast network comedy pilot opposite Tichina Arnold in Welcome to the Neighborhood on CBS.
There is promising futures for Mosby and Hoagland (from The New Edition Story), who portray Haddish and Morgan’s kids, with Mosley going toe-to-toe with Morgan and Haddish in her scenes.
The all-star guest cast lineup here is amazing too, which includes This Is Us star Christy Metz live you’ve never seen her before.
All in all, The Last O.G. has incredible potential to become a huge hit for TBS for now, and several seasons to come. For Morgan’s sake, we’re rooting for it and hope that it continues to get better week-by-week (without the -phobias).
The Last O.G. debuts on April 3 on TBS.