4 September 2011 | enigma_meets_reality
A good show which had so much more potential
"In the House" could have been a marquee African American-led sitcom in the mid to late 90s, following end of the Fresh Prince. It wasn't short on star power as it brought together Quincy Jones as an executive producer, and LL Cool J and Debbie Allen in lead roles. The first two seasons were the crowning glory of the show. LL stepped up to the plate admirably as the level headed, injured NFL-turned landlord Marion Hill; but it was Allen's portrayal of the hapless divorcée and mother of two Jackie Warren which really brought the show to life. Their interactions provided plenty of laughter, as the more spiritual Marion clashed with the sarcastic Jackie (in addition to her clashes with her kids, her boss, her ex-husband and everyone in-between!).
The move from NBC to UPN completely modified the show's premise as well as writing out Debbie Allen's character. For me, her departure was ultimately the show's undoing. Season 3 was quite good as Marion ventured out into setting up a clinic in partnership with Tonia Harris (Kim Wayans) and Maxwell Stanton (Alfonso Ribeiro). Wayans' eccentric character somewhat made up for the lack of Debbie Allen. Ribeiro was essentially playing Carlton Banks again. There was also more emphasis on Maia Campbell's character Tiffany Warren (the only member of the Warren clan left on the show). She was easily identifiable as the guy crazy, partying type teenager. This aspect provided a challenge to Marion who was acting as her guardian after Jackie left.
By the time "In The House" entered its fourth season, it was clear that the producers were running out of ideas. Once a family oriented show, now became more targeted at the late teen/young adult audience. The result was a less comedic, more melodramatic show. I truly believe that much of it pertains to the lack of Debbie Allen at this stage. The final season was very short and probably served as a procedural one before it got cancelled.
Looking back at "In the House", it was enjoyable overall, but was inevitably let down by major casting changes. I'd have kept Debbie Allen and Jeffery Wood on the show, and perhaps introduced the clinic in Season 4. One of the earliest themes of the show was Jackie hoping to find love again. The finale could have easily centred on her getting married or something, had she stayed on.