Having now watched every single film Tyler Perry has ever made along with three seasons of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, I can safely say that House of Payne is the worst property in Perry’s arsenal. His films require a very specific perspective for enjoyment, but his sitcom makes many broad strokes and never successfully delivers with any of them. It’s consistently unfunny, missing all of its comedy beats under the assumption that it’s enough to be loud, indignant, or sassy to generate laughs. The show has evolved to better define its characters, but neither the writing nor direction have seen improvement in competency since the series’ freshman season seven years ago.
What hasn’t changed? The stout Curtis Payne (LaVan Davis), the miserly patriarch, and his soulful wife Ella (Cassi Davis) have spent the last seven years waiting for their family to stop leaching off of them – and it’s finally happened, leaving them with an unusually quiet house. Their son Calvin (Lance Gross) has moved into an apartment with his expecting wife Miranda (Keshia Knight Pulliam), their adopted son C.J. (Allen Payne) remarried his former junkie ex-wife Janine (Demetria McKinney) and they moved into their own home with their four kids. They still pop in from time to time, but the show has become quite focused on Curtis, Ella, and Calvin.
Though C.J. is no longer the focus he once was, one of the most notable occurrences in Volume Eight of House of Payne is the appearance of his birth father. The whole episode would have passed without incident (and for the most part it does as they seem content not to mention it ever again), except for the fact that they pulled a reverse-Hyde from That 70’s Show, wherein the all-white cast receives a shock when Hyde’s birth-father turns out to be African-American. It’s the exact same gag, with C.J.’s birth father even sharing similar qualities to Hyde’s, and the whole episode feels like a carbon copy of the other. Unfortunately, House of Payne should never venture to copy another television show because its abysmal quality means it can’t possibly live up to the same standards and it won’t seem like an homage so much as truly inept writers stealing ideas from better ones.
The root of successful comedy lies in three parts: writing, acting, and directing. House of Payne has always lacked significantly in all three of these departments, making it no wonder that the show’s attempts at comedy always fell flat. LaVan has no comedic timing whatsoever and his inability to establish any sort of range within his personality means all of the writing for him sounds the same. So even if the writers weren’t some of the more incompetent in the realm of sitcom creation, it wouldn’t really matter because LaVan would (and does) just butcher the lines anyways. Cassi Davis seems to have some inkling of the necessity for adjusting her tone from one scene to the next, but sadly she has the reverse problem: the writers seem incapable of giving her any comedic lines that aren’t based in her being sassy and swinging that about.
Of course, if the show’s direction had any sort of rhyme or reason then maybe the actors would have improved after seven seasons instead of remaining ever weak in their roles. And if they had improved, perhaps the writers would have found a way to evolve the characters past one-note cardboard stand-ups whose only growth comes from the birth of children. House of Payne has, almost miraculously, avoided making progress towards improving itself. It almost defies logic that it has managed to maintain such vapid standards over seven years, and it reflects poorly on Tyler Perry and TBS for keeping the show alive as long as they have. Better comedy exists so there’s no reason to continue this franchise. Cancel it, and let a show with better writing, acting and direction take its place.
DVD Bonus Features
There are none.
"Tyler Perry's House of Payne: Volume 8" is on sale June 14, 2011 and is not rated. Comedy. Directed by Chip Fields. Written by Don Woodard, Steve Coulter. Starring Allen Payne, Cassi Davis, Lance Gross, LaVan Davis.