The long-awaited sequel, Coming 2 America is released in just a few hours and you can bet that, as a fan of the original, I’ll be watching and giving it a review over the weekend. But here’s a thing. Did you know there was (almost) a Coming to America TV show? Okay, so it never actually made it to air, but a pilot was made and that did air. On the 4th of July 1989, the world (well America) was subjected to Coming to America.
The plot of the show worked as a kind of sequel to the film. Eddie Murphy’s amazing Prince (now King) Akeem isn’t in the show, even though the pilot was written and produced by Murphy himself. Instead, the show told the story of Akeem’s (never mentioned in the film) brother, Prince Tariq. In fact, none of the film’s cast return, except for Paul Bates who played royal aide Oha in the film. Anyway, the plot of the pilot has Tariq sent to Queens, New York to attend college by Akeem. Why? I really don’t know to be honest, it just happens.
Anyway, several people were up for the main role of Prince Tariq including Wesley Snipes and Will Smith, as if Will Smith would ever do a sit-com about a black ‘prince’ in a fish out of water-type story. Landing the leading role was Tommy Davidson, who had a semi-successful career in TV and film. Basically, the TV show worked like the film, but with Tariq taking the place of Akeem and Oha being the Semmi sidekick role. But whereas the film is a solid comedy classic, the show is terrible. The set up is that Tariq and Oha are living in an apartment owned by the landlord Carl Mackey.
I think one of the worst things about the show is how Tommy Davidson, playing the role of Tariq, is trying his best to imitate Eddie Murphy. The style, the tone of the character and his performance is just like a low-rent Murphy. Davidson even tries his hand at Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson impressions, which if you’ve ever seen Murphy on Saturday Night Live or doing his stand-up, then you’d know that was kind of Murphy’s thing.
The jokes in the show are pretty flat throughout with some pretty lazy and haphazard Eddie Murphy references. I mean, Tariq utters the following line in the show:
“I can be a Beverly Hills Cop, you can be a Beverly Hills Cop too (II). Why, within 48 hours, we could be Trading Places.”
Yup, that’s how bad the writing is here… and that’s just one of the ‘jokes’. Now, I did point out that it was Eddie Murphy himself who wrote the pilot. The truth is that he wrote the story, but not the script. So, I guess someone else wrote that awful Murphy reference movie line? Still, Murphy can’t be completely blameless for this pilot’s terribleness, he was the executive producer after all.
Either way, that’s how low the bar is set on this pilot. The basic plot of the pilot revolves around Tariq blowing all of his money in a few days. Needing cash to live, Tariq and Oha get jobs at a diner owned by their landlord. Which of course, leads to shenanigans… very unfunny shenanigans. The whole thing is very typical and unfunny American eighties sit-com fare, right up to the heart-to-heart reasoning scene where the lead character learns a lesson. There’s absolutely nothing original here and nothing to do with the film the pilot is based on. Seriously, aside from the Oha character, this has nothing to do with Coming to America other than the bare basic premise of an African Prince going to America and feeling a bit out of place.
So yeah, there was an attempt to make a Coming to America sit-com that never got picked up… thankfully. If you’re feeling brave enough, you can watch the pilot yourself. Bearing in mind this is a thirty-odd-year-old pilot that no one remembers and has been forgotten about. So the quality is not great… and I mean that in multiple ways.: