School Daze, Spike Lee's ode to his days at Morehouse College, includes a classic homecoming game sequence that captures students getting hyped in the stands, marching bands pumping out anthems, alumni shouting and coaches praying -- every ingredient in college football except what's actually happening on the field. It's a visually brilliant portrayal of HBCU game days, where school spirit is all about the band, not the team.
That's where Season of the Tiger comes in -- the most real reality college show yet. BET cameras follow members of Louisiana's Grambling State University football team and marching band. There's Blue, the punt returner who's an unmarried father; Shunnie, the drum major-cum-pledge master; Mancell, the obligatory funky white guy; Eva, "the Freshman"; and Bruce, the overweight quarterback. Their lives aren't glamorous: On Tiger, the professors want you to be on time, the coaches want you to lose weight, and if the cops find a bag of weed in your backpack, they won't care that you can play saxophone and dance at the same time.
Credit Tiger for exposing a national audience to the black college experience via the campus where coaching legend Eddie Robinson and hall of fame quarterback Doug Williams once walked the sidelines. Unfortunately, real reality isn't very entertaining. Watching these students waking up early for practice, doing homework and scraping together rent money isn't exactly riveting. Tiger also suffers by comparison to Drumline, the movie version of the same milieu that benefited from Nick Cannon's charisma, Zoë Saldaña's bare midriff and a cameo by North Carolina's own Petey Pablo.
Imagine Season of the Tiger as a "mash-up" between BET's broadcasts of black college football and the network's reality series College Hill, the blackified take-off of MTV's The Real World. But don't hold your breath waiting for Tiger: Part Deux. To keep us tuned in to a reality show about college kids, we'll probably need to see more emotional outbursts, drunken club-hopping and naked hot tub romance in the wings.
See Season of the Tiger airtimes at www.bet.com.