The Last O.G. (Recap) | Pilot (S1 E1)

by Jen Chaney | via Vulture

The Last O.G. is essentially a fish-out-of-water comedy in which the fish is an ex-convict played by Tracy Morgan and his non-water environment is gentrified Brooklyn.

When Tray, Morgan’s character in the TBS comedy that debuts tonight, returns home after spending 15 years in prison, he steps off a bus into a world he does not recognize. Suddenly, he’s surrounded by moms pushing strollers, dudes wearing skinny jeans while walking chihuahuas, and bicyclists taking selfies.

“What the [bleep] happened to Brooklyn?” Tray shouts, shaken by the fact that the gritty environment he remembers has been turned into a haven for the woke and wealthy. This is hardly the first time that television has highlighted and/or mocked the transformation of New York City’s most populous borough — see Girls, Search Party, and Younger, among other examples. But The Last O.G. comes at that territory from a different angle.

Tray dealt crack cocaine on those streets more than a decade ago because those streets made him feel like he had no other choice. He lost years of his life because of it. To come back and see that same environment all prettied up and sanitized is jarring, puzzling, and offensive. But it also serves as evidence that all things can be transformed. And that’s what Tray is interested in: rebooting his life as a new, free man.

If anyone is suited to play a guy intent on a second chance, it’s Tracy Morgan. He’s not only returning to regular series television here for the first time since 30 Rock, but also for the first time since a dreadful 2014 car accident that put him in a coma for two weeks and left him with substantial injuries that required extensive rehab. Morgan plays Tray with the same confident yet innocent swagger he brought to 30 Rock’s Tracy Jordan, but, perhaps because of his own struggles, there’s an added vigor in his performance that gives The Last O.G. a sense of energy and a shot of poignancy. Tray has such an unwavering sense of optimism — his ability to make an on-point dessert log in prison leads him to believe he deserves a job as head chef at a swanky Brooklyn restaurant — that he comes across as a rougher-around-the-edges version of Kimmy Schmidt, another off-kilter character trying to understand the ways of modern New York after years of being locked away. Even though Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (and 30 Rock) creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock have nothing to do with The Last O.G., this engaging comedy could easily serve as a more reality-based, less madcap corollary to their Netflix series.

Some of the people actually involved in making The Last O.G., in addition to Morgan, are co-creator and executive producer Jordan Peele; the Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone, who also produced and directed the first episode; and a strong supporting cast that includes Cedric the Entertainer as Miniard Mullins, the mentor at Tray’s halfway house; Black-ish’s Allen Maldonado as Tray’s best friend, Cousin Bobby; Malik Yoba as Wavy, the drug dealer who let Tray take the fall by going to jail, but tries to compensate by giving him a job at a Brooklyn coffee shop; and Tiffany Haddish as Shay, the love of Tray’s life who has since married a wealthy white guy (Ryan Gaul) with whom she is raising two children clearly fathered by Tray.

Click HERE to read the rest of the review, “Pilot.”