A recent phone conversation with a friend inadvertently highlighted the problem BET may face in terms of launching "Season of the Tiger," "Season" tells a college story, you see, but it was not the subject of discussion that day. "Season of the Tiger," a six-part series of half-hour episodes that follow Grambling State University's marching band and football team, is precisely the kind of show that could win them back. Smart, current and honest in its spirit, it's simply wonderful viewing. The series shows us Grambling State's athletic drum line, a band with a stellar reputation for highly stylized, incredibly cool routines and one of the few reasons to stick around for a halftime show. It also has a way of telling the tale of one of college football's most successful teams. Together they put on a tremendous show and provide a very fierce source of pride to a Louisiana town that, as one of the townsfolk puts it, would be little more than pass-through for the railroad without them. At its core, "Season of the Tiger" skillfully illustrates the symbiotic relationship between these three bodies. Personalizing this are the stories of five young people two on the football team, two in the band, and one at a crossroads between making it and sinking for whom the band and the team represent everything. Bruce, the team's quarterback, is looking for his ticket to the NFL. Less encouraging, but more entertaining is his teammate Blue, a running back who made it on the team as a walk-on, has a baby to take care of and misplaced priorities. On the drum line, Shunnie, the master drill sergeant intent on becoming the school's first female drum major, finds it difficult to keep her male peers in line. While Shunnie's on top, a freshman, Eva, is struggling with having to pay her dues after being top dog in high school. All of them are in better situations than Mancel, a total outsider the only white member of the band, he's goofy looking, broke and perhaps the most heartbreaking element of the first two episodes. As opposed to being behind the curve, "Season of the Tiger" is firmly capitalizing on a current trend, and that's a good thing, since the series has more grit and fight in it than something like "Cheerleader Nation." In that series, defeat seems to mend more easily than it does here, where it represents the difference between life and death.
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