Watch The Big House
- 5 Seasons
The Big House was a short-lived comedy series that aired in 2004 on the A&E network. Despite its short run, the show featured a handful of prominent actors who went on to become Hollywood staples, including Kevin Hart and Yvette Nicole Brown. The show also starred Faizon Love, Arnetia Walker, and Keith David, thus boasting a talent-loaded ensemble cast.
The primary storyline of The Big House revolved around the character Kevin Hart, played by the now-famous comedian and actor of the same name. The series portrayed Kevin as a wealthy, pampered Malibu native whose life takes a 180° turn when his father is convicted and imprisoned, leading to the freezing of all their assets. Suddenly stripped of his luxury-filled life, Hart is compelled to move from his opulent Malibu mansion to a crowded home in Philadelphia to live with his working-class relatives.
The Big House thus offered a comedic exploration of the cultural and lifestyle shock experienced by Kevin as he grapples with his transition from a posh Malibu lifestyle to a more grounded, everyday living condition in Philadelphia. A lot of the comedy in the show unfolds from the interesting dynamics between Hart and his new, distinctly blue-collar relatives who welcome him into the bustling Philadelphia home.
Faizon Love played the character of Warren Cleveland, Kevin's lovable albeit strict cousin who works as a security guard at a school. On the other hand, Arnetia Walker starred as Tina Cleveland, Warren's witty and outspoken wife known for her wise-cracking remarks. Her on-screen persona often clashed humorously with Hart's culture-shocked character.
Yvette Nicole Brown portrayed the sweet, yet shrewd cousin Eartha Cleveland, who despite her compassionate nature, had a knack for sardonic humor, much to the amusement of viewers. Lastly, the ensemble cast was rounded out by Keith David, who played Kevin's uncle Clarence Cleveland. His character was often seen imparting practical life lessons to Hart, amid the hilarious antics that ensued in the household.
As expected, the transition from a life of opulence to a crowded working-class home in Philadelphia was far from easy for Kevin. Much of the comedy stemmed from his attempts to fit in and his consistent failures in understanding and adapting to the family's unwritten rules and city's culture, which was a world away from his erstwhile Malibu lifestyle. The show endeavored to weave humor out of Kevin's continuous faux pas and shared comical insights about class difference and cultural adjustment.
The idea behind the series was a unique take on the 'fish out of water' concept, a sitcom trope that has been utilized by several shows before and since. The show runners effectively flipped this concept on its head by having Kevin be the wealthy 'fish' unexpectedly thrust into a 'pool' of working-class realities. Despite the comedic tone, the show subtly dealt with themes of privilege, adjustment, and family.
The Philadelphia family’s home – also known as "The Big House"- candidly reflected the vibrancy and bustling energy of a large, close-knit family living under the same roof. The house was as much a character in the series as the actors themselves, playing a crucial role in shaping the narrative of the show.
Unfortunately, The Big House had an extremely limited run and was cancelled after only six episodes. However, within its short lifespan, the show garnered praise for its storytelling and a strong ensemble cast who brought their characters to life with verve and humor. Kevin Hart, in particular, was appreciated for his comedic timing and depiction of his namesake character's transformation from a rich Malibu native to a Philadelphian family member learning to navigate through a whole new life.
In closing, The Big House was a vibrant sitcom that captured everyday family dynamics in unexpected, humorous ways, depicting not just the clash of classes but also the strength of familial bonds amid the most trying times. Though the show’s run was brief, it profoundly underscores Kevin Hart’s rise from TV comedy to a Hollywood heavy hitter.
The Big House is a series that is currently running and has 5 seasons (21 episodes). The series first aired on July 16, 2009.