While Method Man and Redman have consistently put on an acclaimed live hip-hop show for close to two decades, not everything they've done together has been as successful. This year marks a decade since their short-lived Fox sitcom Method & Red.
To celebrate this milestone of sorts -- and before their Sunday show at First Avenue -- Gimme Noise revisited the series to figure out exact what went wrong.[jump]
For those who didn't have their box on Fox in 2004, the plot is this: Method Man and Redman play an exaggerated version of themselves. They live together in a suburban New Jersey mansion with Meth's mother where they often butt heads with their neighbor, the realtor, who they only refer to as "Neighbor Lady" (played by Beth Littleford of The Daily Show/Spin City fame).
First off, let's get it properly distinguished that this was a bad show. I know nostalgia can rose-tint our worlds, and we may have memories tied to the series' original airing, but the same problems the show had in 2004 are just as bad in 2014. It's bad -- so much so that Method Man and Redman were publicly expressing disappointment with the show while it was still airing. More on that later.
Method and Red aired at a time when the two rappers, both icons of '90s hip-hop, were doing much better in the acting world. Method Man had just released his Tical 0: The Prequel album, a critical disappointment that, despite going gold, Def Jam refused to give a second single. Red didn't even get that much, his album Red Gone Wild in its second year of a four-year delay, leading him to publicly diss Def Jam on his Gilla House mixtapes.
Despite this, Method Man was regularly being featured on The Wire, and both had forthcoming featured roles, in Garden State and Seed of Chucky respectively. Their focus was on acting, and they didn't phone in their performances on the show at all.
It's unfortunate that the material they had to work with doesn't do its talented cast justice at all. The most infamous universal critique of the show, shot as an Arrested Development style on-location series, is Fox's awkward inclusion of an (often ill-timed) laugh track. It's hard enough when jokes fall flat in a sitcom, but when there's no live studio audience, and instead a gaggle of omnipresent voices cuing the viewer when to laugh at gags that don't work, it feels uncomfortable. Most of the jokes circle around Meth and Red having a bunch of money, an insatiable love of Asian women, and a perpetual knack for making white people uncomfortable.
Fans of Method Man and Redman were probably alienated because of how little their characters resemble the artists they'd become so invested in over the years. Outside of the uninspired theme song, there are no actual moments of Method Man and Redman rapping. Further, the gags of their extravagant lifestyle exist, as anyone who has seen Redman's spellbinding episode of "MTV Cribs" will attest, in direct opposition to their real-life charm.
Similarly, for two artists who've spent albums fleshing out engaging three-dimensional characters, growing in complexity with each track recorded, the "Method and Red" characters don't seem deeper than obnoxious rich guys with occasional pangs of guilt.
The biggest bait-and-switch about the series is precisely why Method and Red doesn't work. On paper, it seemed the two subversive MCs were being placed in a typical sitcom fish-out-of-water setting for the purpose of turning sitcom conventions on their ears. Not only do we not get this, we also don't get a single acknowledgement that these common cliches are standards of the genre. Instead, it's a tired paint-by-numbers retread that should have had no business existing in 2004.
All that said, there are a handful of genuinely funny moments. DJ Quik's cameo at the start of an episode was fun to see, and when we do get the occasional glimpse of Red's commitment to absurdity or Meth's deadpan, we catch a sliver of what the show could have been.
Probably the most impressive aspect of the show a decade later is how many well-timed gags using licensed music that no show in 2014 could possibly afford appear here. I'd venture to guess that it's these music cues that, unlike the bulk of the cancelled mid-2000s Fox sitcoms, kept Method and Red from being re-aired in other countries, leaving several completed episodes never seen on television or commercially released.
Technically, Method and Red still hasn't been canceled. Rather it was put on an extended hiatus for "retooling" in 2004 that it seems to still be on. Method came under fire for making public his thoughts on the show's problems, but looking back on it, he expressed his displeasure as professionally as one could, telling MTV, "The writing was not bad, it just wasn't for me and Redman. If Keenan and Kel was on there, it would've been funny."
While the two have gone on to much greater artistic and commercial success in acting and music, if anything Method and Red has at least given us Method Man inadvertently suggesting a Method Man and Redman biopic starring Kenan and Kel to the universe.
The Smoker's Club Tour Starring Method Man and Redman. With B-Real. 18+, 8 p.m., Sunday, October 26 at First Avenue. Tickets.
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