Co-created by the Oscar-winning writer-director of Get Out, the often inspired show has Tracy Morgan returning to a gentrified Brooklyn intent on winning back his ex
At its best moments, The Last OG, co-created and executive-produced by Jordan Peele, reminded me of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, one of televisions most reliably delightful half-hour comedies. Tonally, the shows overlap, running on slapstick, absurdist situational humor, and the singularly eccentric charisma of their leads. Theres a fish-out-of-water element to them both, too: where Kimmy Schmidt resurfaced in New York after being held hostage for 15 years in a cult leaders underground bunker, Tracy Morgans Tray arrives in a super-gentrified Brooklyn after 15 years in the pen, having taken the fall for a drug bust. From their thorny reintegration into society come the laughs, of which there are many, and an unexpected tenderness.
The Last OG marks the return of not only Tray but Morgan, who in June 2014 sustained traumatic brain injury from a six-vehicle crash that left the comedian comatose for eight days. Morgan broke his femur, all his ribs, and underwent physical and cognitive therapy just so he could walk again. When he appeared on The Today Show a year after the accident, he was a shell of his usual self.
Thankfully, it seems the comic, a veteran of Saturday Night Live best known for playing the hilariously egotistical Tracy Jordan on 30 Rock, has made a full recovery. The Last OG may not be on par with 30 Rock or even Kimmy Schmidt; as evidenced by the first six episodes sent to critics, the show needs time to find its footing. But Morgan makes for a lovable, exuberant protagonist, a bit screwballish but still sympathetic, and not to mention incredulous at the fact that the neighborhood in which he once dealt crack has been overrun by white folks with selfie-sticks and wood-paneled coffeeshops boasting five-dollar espressos. Tray eventually gets a job at one of these spots, where a bespectacled hipster barista out of High Maintenance advises him to get familiar with the coffee house lexicon.
But the biggest change that our titular Last OG must reconcile with is his past flame Shay (Girls Trip breakout Tiffany Haddish), whos now a successful businesswoman living in a Brooklyn brownstone with her husband Josh (Ryan Gaul) who, in Trays words, looks like a Duke lacrosse player. With only a glance we know that her twin 15-year-old children are indeed Trays, so he sets about getting all three of them back with tactics that are genuine if not completely stalkerish.
While its a delight to see Haddish in a bigger role than the recurring one she had on The Carmichael Show, shes still too talented and multi-dimensional for the work shes given here, which stymies her natural inclination towards improv and spontaneous, off-the-cuff retorts. She and Morgan do play off one another nicely, making for a scolding comic dynamic not unlike that of Susie and Jeff in Curb Your Enthusiasm. But theres no question The Last OG is a showcase for Morgan and that Haddish exists primarily, and regrettably, as his foil. Nevertheless, you breathe a bit easier when Shays on screen, if for nothing but the simple pleasure of watching Haddish elevate occasionally stale, uninspired writing with her moxie and comic instincts.
About that writing: The Last OG has dick jokes aplenty, most of which are recycled and crass. Tray, in his return to Brooklyn, is living in a halfway house run by aspiring comedian Mullins (the great Cedric the Entertainer). In the first episode, Mullins declares the phallus the number one piece of universal comedy gold, an adage the show seems to heed a bit indulgently, given the lines about prison turning your butthole into a parking garage and tired quips about erections.
But there are moments where Morgans silliness morphs into pathos, like a thoughtful conversation Tray has with his housemates and fellow ex-cons about growing up with absent fathers. Its one of several scenes where the themes of the show fatherhood, or its absence, and displacement coalesce. Then, lickety-split, the tone shifts again, and Tray track downs his kids, without Shays permission, to take them on a truth safari, where they find out they were conceived in a cemetery and that their mother wasnt always as well-mannered as she is now.
Even with bumpy shifts of tone and bouts of corniness, The Last OG overcomes its flaws on the strength of Morgan and Haddish, who make this show a pretty easy sell. And though its hard on the outside, bogged down by contrivances and phallic humor, theres a mushy inside thats deeply satisfying if youre willing to wait for it.
The Last OG starts in the US on TBS on 3 April with a UK date yet to be announced Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/apr/03/the-last-og-review-jordan-peele-gentrification-sitcom-coasts-on-charm