Retro Television Reviews: City Guys 3.7 “Ebony & Ivory” and 3.8 “Reluctant Hero”

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Thursdays, I will be reviewing City Guys, which ran on NBC from 1997 to 2001.  The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!

Last week’s episodes of City Guys were actually pretty good.  Let’s see if it continues this week!

Episode 3.7 “Ebony & Ivory”

(dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 9th, 1999)

Jamal’s dating a white girl!  Kristen Jones (Amy Leland) is the daughter of a deputy mayor who pretends to be all progressive about race but who is actually a racist who doesn’t want Kristen dating a black guy.  But Jamal has asked Kristen to the latest school dance.  Chris agrees to pretend to be Kristen’s date but, when Kristen leaves her purse at the house, her father comes to the dance and catches Chris making out with his actual date, Sarah (Natalie Austin).  Racist old Mr. Jones makes a big deal about the world not being ready for interracial relationships.  Ms. Nobel and the students tell him off.

This episode had a good message but it was somewhat sabotaged by the fact that Kristen appeared to be in her early 30s and seemed to be too old to be dating anyone in high school, regardless of what race they may be.  As well, the actress playing Kristen delivered her lines in a somewhat creepy monotone.  For that matter, so did the actor playing her father and the actress playing Chris’s date.  All of the guest actors were so stiff and unconvincing in their performances that this episode took on an odd Twilight Zone sort of feel.  I found myself wondering if maybe Manny High had been transported to planet full of androids.

Interestingly enough, Chris spent the previous episode talking about how much he loved Cassidy but, even after it was revealed that she still didn’t have a date, Chris never asked her to the dance.  Instead, Cassidy discovered the L-Train also didn’t have a date so she agreed to go with him.  Dawn and Al, meanwhile, also discovered that neither one of them could get a date so they went together.  It fit into the show’s message about interracial relationships and that’s a good thing but, at the same time, it also felt a bit forced.  L-Train is the president of the student body and apparently a pretty popular guy.  Cassidy usually has a new boyfriend every week.  Since when have any of these characters ever had difficulty getting a date? 

Episode 3.8 “Reluctant Hero”

(dir by Frank Bonner, originally aired on October 9th, 1999)

In order to combat crime, Ms. Nobel decides to appoint L-Train, Al, Dawn, and Cassidy as hall monitors.  L-Train and Al end up taking bribes in the form of brownies and Philly cheesesteaks.  Whatever.  It’s stupid.  Let’s move on to the main story.

Along with turning her students into narcs, Ms. Nobel also decides that the school needs a self-defense class.  Coming in to teach the class is Yvonne and …. OH MY GOD!  It’s Lorena from California Dreams!  That’s right, Diana Uribe plays Yvonne and naturally, both Chris and Jamal fall for her.  (“She’s got a black belt in hot!” Chris exclaims.)  Yvonne agrees to go on a date with Jamal but — uh oh! — Jamal’s been grounded.  Jamal goes on the date anyway and, afterwards, he sees a man being mugged.  Using his self-defense training, Jamal knocks the mugger out.  But — oh no! — now his dad will know that he went  out when he was grounded.  Jamal convinces Chris to take credit for knocking out the mugger.

Chris is declared to be a hero.  Jamal gets jealous, especially after the Mayor — THE MAYOR! — shows up at the diner to give Chris an award.  (No one asks the mayor anything about the deputy mayor who is opposed to interracial relationships.)  Jamal gets upset when Chris accepts the award but honestly, I have no sympathy for Jamal.  Jamal’s the one who told Chris to take credit for knocking out the mugger.  Anyway, after Chris has an attack of conscience and declines to accept the award, Jamal confesses that he disobeyed his father.  While he does so, everyone in the diner watches him.  I can only imagine how awkward it would be to witness something like that in real life.

This episode made me yell a lot because it was pretty stupid but, on the plus side, Lorena was always the California Dreams character to whom I most related so it was good to see Diana Uribe beating up the cast of City Guys.  They should have made her a regular.

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