Tyler Perry is actually responsible for two classic comedic characters (based, of course, on one's definition of said 'archetypal' adjective). While many would argue that he's only managed one - the broad stroke black woman stereotype that is the amazing Mabel "Madea" Simmons - there is another that deserves equally funny bone footing. From the moment Perry stepped onstage in a defiant drag evangelism, he brought along a bumbling buffoon of a fashion disaster known as Leroy "Mr." Brown. As played by gospel legend David Mann, he would represent the conceptual opposite of his creator's maternal madwoman. Superstitious, silly, and as subtle as a slap in the face, Brown was often the highlight of Perry's more profound pro-faith meditations. So naturally, when the African American artist decided to expand his brand and enter the medium of television, this couture clashing clown had to come along. While Meet the Browns is not a bad sitcom, it's a highly uneven one. Mann and his material are fine. The rest requires a bit more fine tuning.
Our story centers on Leroy Brown (Mann), a good hearted but goofy man who misreads the last wishes of his late father. In a letter to his struggling son, Dad delivers the following missive: "Take care of the old..." What Brown doesn't understand is that the rest of the note reads "...Thunderbird in the garage." Instead, he believes he is mandated to open an old folks home, and goes about getting his daughter Cora (Tamala Mann), his doctor nephew Will (Lamman Rucker) and Will's nurse wife Sasha (Denise Boutte) to help. They call the place "Brown Meadows." Along the way, Brown picks up a pair of orphans named Brianna and Joaquin as well as a Hispanic handyman named Jesus (Antonio Jaramillo) who is studying to be a lawyer.
When a nearby nursing home goes up in flames, Brown Meadows is suddenly overrun with residents. They including a bigger than life B-movie actress named Miss Daisy (K Callan), an ex-military man named Colonel Cleophus Jackson (Tony Vaughn) and the sexually active Ms. Edna (Juanita Jennings). Add in a spoiled heiress named London Sheraton (Arielle Vandenberg) who is serving her community service sentence for DUI at Brown Meadows, and a collection of friends, family, and foils, and you've got the set-up for a standard half-hour laugher. The episodes contained on this three DVD set include the following:
"Meet Brown Meadows" - Mr. Brown attempts to open a retirement home.
"Meet London and the Competition" - a celebutante comes to Brown Meadows.
"Meet the Dependents and the Divas" - Mr. Brown is placed in charge of two foster kids.
"Meet My Family" - Brown tries to organize a special day for his residents.
"Meet My Maker" - everyone tries to cheer Ms. Daisy up.
"Meet the Babies" - Brown must deliver a baby...alone!
"Meet the Dangerous and the Deadline" - an abusive boyfriend makes trouble for Brown Meadows.
"Meet The Faithless and the Faithful" - Brown enters a gospel choir contest.
"Meet the Truth" - sexual abuse becomes the focus of the family issues.
"Meet the Future" - Brown is afraid is daughter is falling in love and will leave him stranded.
"Meet the Parents" - the foster children may finally have some adoptive parents.
"Meet Your Match" - Brown helps Cora find a date via an online service.
"Meet the Profits" - Brown tries some new ways to make more money around the home.
"Meet the Class" - Cora becomes a substitute teacher.
"Meet Mommie Dearest" - the foster children's disreputable mother is released from jail.
"Meet the Matchmaker" - the fate of the foster children is up for grabs.
"Meet Career Day" -Brown has to fill in for Will at a local school's job seminar.
"Meet the Cousins" - Brown discovers something shocking in his family tree.
"Meet the Body" - Ms. Edna has an unusual issue with one of her male friends.
"Meet the Mexican" - Jesus lies to his dad about his current career prospects.
When he's on, when he's melding his message with his melodramatic mayhem with comedic skill and flare, Tyler Perry is terrific. He's a Puritanical Rudy Ray Moore, a man who uses dogma, and not the Dozens, to speak up for his underserved demographic. Nowhere is this more true than in his TV work. While his movies tend to preach to the long legitimized and culturally converted, his small screen efforts tend to locate the lowest common denominator, and then sneak right under it. House of Payne set the standard for his slapstick meets social consciousness crusade, something made even more manic by Meet the Browns. Without referencing much of the stage play mythos surrounding the character, Perry (and his staff of like-minded scribes and directors) run the gamut from clown to cartoon. In between, they attempt to wedge in concepts involving the elderly, the indigent, the wrongfully privileged and the downright despicable. For as many formulas as audiences have come to expect (men are pigs, women are saints, children should be seen - or slapped - and not heard), Meet the Browns only practices a few.
For the most part, this is a promised starring vehicle for the extremely talented Manns. Anyone whose witnessed their work in Perry's plays knows that they have scene stealing skills to pay everyone's bills. Beyond that, they are accomplished musical artists, their voices that seminal combination of old tyme religiosity and roof raising holler. So it's a shame that more of Meet the Browns doesn't center on their singing. Instead, Mr.'s misguided tendency toward loud clothing and even more hysterical outbursts reign supreme. For a while, we enjoy the juvenile, junk food approach. When Ms. Daisy falls into one or her previous roles, or when Ms. Edna starts slinking around like a sex machine, there is fun and foolish pleasures to be found. But every once in a while, the foster kids crank up the "awwwww/owwww" factor, forcing the show to take on issues it barely provides a proper foundation for. This is especially true of the middle section of the series, where episodes like "Meet the Dangerous and the Deadline" and "Meet the Parents" provide enough ersatz PSA propaganda to turn an entire legion of Perry lovers into sadden, cynical survivors.
Still, there is more happiness and heart than hopelessness here. "Meet the Family" has some honest laughs, as for installments such as "Meet the Faithless and the Faithful" and "Meet the Cousins." Of course, an overstocked company means we get too much of Paris Hilton homage London ("Meet London and the Competition") and the hackneyed immigrant handyman character Jesus ("Meet the Mexican"). Some may also bristle at what appears to be a definite racist bent to the buffoonery. Since it's color on color criticism, many may look the other way, but it's tough when ethnic cliches are trotted out for purely lampoonish reasons. During the rest of its run, Meet the Browns would amplify everything exasperating about the series - the title character's craziness, the stock collection of hot button issues. This is the time when the sitcom tried to speak to a mainstream crowd. Once Meet the Browns found the niche it needed, however, it played specifically to its strengths, and its many weaknesses.
For the most part, Meet the Browns looks rather good on DVD. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image (indicative of the show's post-HD conversion creation) has a lot of detail and bright colors to boot. The production value is high even if the direction is often uneven and flat. For the most part, the visual element here is as good as you would expect from the digital medium.
Offering both a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix as well as a standard Stereo presentation, the combination of dialogue and other aural elements is handled well here. Of course, many will seem surprised at what sounds like a laugh track (didn't we part ways with those around the time of After M*A*S*H*?), but for the most part, the tech specs provided here live up to their post-millennial making.
Did you read the above comments on Video and Audio? Believe it or not, that's what Lionsgate considers "DVD Features" (no extras, mind you, just 'features'). Otherwise, there is no added content.
As a longtime supporter of Perry and his various production ideas, this critic still found a lot to dislike about this often over the top mess. The premise is perfect for someone like Brown. The realization of said ideal is frequently piecemeal and consistently uneven. Of course, many of us are not the audience intended for this material, and whatever makes people happy (and this is TBS's highest rating sitcom...) deserves credit for same. Therefore, a rating of Recommended will be offered. If you are a Perry person, you will drink this up. Others may want to wait until Netflix or some other streaming medium offers chance to experience the show sans such costs. It's safe to say that, in general, Leroy Brown is a classic comic character. Unfortunately, Meet the Browns doesn't quite live up to his famed funny business.
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