Recently, the original cast of Martin reunited with Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold, and Carl Anthony Payne II set to do a reunion show for BET+. Unfortunately, the fifth co-star, Thomas Mikal Ford, died in 2016. It’s been 30 years since the debut of the popular sitcom. It centered around radio and television personality Martin Payne, as it focused on his romantic relationship with Gina and his best friends. The show was huge during this time and managed to spawn five seasons. Now, some would say that the show didn’t exactly end on the best note due to some backstage drama between the co-stars, but Martin was a funny show more often than not. However, the question is, does the first episode hold up to 2022 standards?
The show makes an interesting choice by starting out in a seemingly dramatic fashion. For anyone who’s paid attention to the series throughout its five seasons, you understand that the show is a wacky affair featuring wild characters played by the man himself. Now, Martin could’ve started off with one of their more memorable characters like Sheneneh Jenkins – an exaggerated parody of a ghetto girl – or Edna Payne – a loving, but eccentric woman who hates Martin’s girlfriend Gina. On paper, the opening isn’t bad because it’s important to start off the show labeling the protagonist, and the overall montage highlights Martin’s world, which is at a radio station. But the joke was mostly decent. Martin would’ve been better coming out swinging with one of their outrageous characters. That way, it gives us a better sense of this world and what to expect, and whenever one of his over-the-top personas comes onscreen, it usually results in a hilarious moment. Still, this is likely a nitpick from me as the opening isn’t bad, but it’s nothing particularly noteworthy either.
Luckily, the episode does manage to be better and funnier from there. Out of the gate, you understand that the writers know this world inside and out, and the camaraderie between the core cast is strong instantly. However, Martin touches on a nice subject: identifying manhood when it comes to relationships and friendships. This subject is mostly played for laughs and there isn’t a deep exploration for it, which is fine because that’s not typical what the Martin show is about. How the contrast between the way Martin acts with his friends (and on the radio station) and then behind closed doors is a relatable source that most men can identify with. Would it have been nicely if there was more commentary on the subject? Yes. Despite coming out in the 90s, the way society view men and the standards regarding this manner hasn’t changed all that much. Granted, this isn’t all relationships or friendships, but in most of the Black community, you’re not really seen as a real man if you’re not the leader of your household. Again, this is Martin, so I didn’t particularly mind when the story was quickly dismissed in a funny and light-hearted manner, but it would’ve been greatly to tackle this subject a little further that could’ve still been fun. Nevertheless, it didn’t take away my enjoyment as its nice that the pilot is able to incorporate a subject like that effortlessly.
In terms of the characters, from the first moment you see them on the screen, you instantly understand who they are. Martin is the goofy, but loving boyfriend who isn’t exactly the most alpha guy you’ll meet. Gina is the career orientated woman whose the stern partner in their relationship. Pam is a sassy, “I hate men, but I can’t live without them” type chick who doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Cole is a dim-witted fool, and Tommy is the calm, intelligent, and mature brother without a job. The dynamic between the characters is perfect and the chemistry is made more enjoyable because the actors are so good in their roles. Each of Martin’s personas, Sheneneh and Edna, stand out in a good way because you never feel that its Martin in a dress or wing. He embodies these characters greatly and produces funny results. Now, the Martin pilot isn’t perfect as it’s fairly simple in terms of story, but the jokes land more often than not. Once again, this is a timeless show that’s easy to enjoy in 2022. Nothing in Martin feels dated or out of place and does the one thing that a comedy is supposed to do: make you laugh. Basically, it does hold up in 30 years later.Martin Payne
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