Tracy Morgan makes tepid comeback in TBS comedy ‘The Last O.G.’
Tracy Morgan’s remarkable recovery from a devastating car accident is an inspiring footnote to “The Last O.G.,” but can’t overcome the fact that the “Saturday Night Live” alum is a somewhat awkward fit with this basted-in-seriousness TBS comedy, which, with Tiffany Haddish and “Get Out” director Jordan Peele, feels like a whole lot less than the sum of its parts.
Simply put, Morgan’s broad approach to comedy — characterized by his work on “SNL” and supporting role on “30 Rock” — has to be reined in on this single-camera half-hour, which casts him as an ex-con who is stunned by how much the outside world has changed during his 15-year prison stint.
The big shock comes in seeing the gentrification of his old Brooklyn neighborhood, as well as the discovery that his girlfriend Shay (Haddish) has moved on, having married a cheerful white guy (Ryan Gaul) with whom she’s raising twins.
The underlying themes certainly have a resonant chord to them, as does Tray’s adjustment to being back on the outside, especially since he clearly hasn’t gotten over Shay. The same goes for the drug offense that sent him away.
Yet the more serious aspects of “The Last O.G.” — capable of raising it to another level — exist uncomfortably with the show’s goofiness in other areas, including the halfway house where Tray stays, which is presided over by Cedric the Entertainer.
The writing does have its moments, especially in its colorful insults, from saying a white dude “looks like a Duke lacrosse player” to sniping that someone is so old they “look like Chicken George at the end of ‘Roots.'” But there’s a general shallowness to the proceedings, especially in light of the ambitions that its premise would suggest, and much of the show feels thin.
In the process, the series largely squanders Haddish by shackling her with a classic girlfriend role, even if her casting coming off the theatrical hit “Girls Trip” — coupled with Peele serving as co-creator — certainly counts as fortuitous timing.
TNT has clearly upped its dramatic ambitions, and TBS is also playing with its comedic formula. (Both networks are, like CNN, part of Turner Broadcasting.)
For all that, showcasing Morgan in a leading role might be the most promotable aspect of this series. And while fans will surely be cheered to see him looking so fully recuperated, his character as presented is, alas, the weakest link in “The Last O.G.”
“The Last O.G.” premieres April 3 at 10:30 p.m. on TBS.