Critics originally described The Simple Life as The Beverly Hillbillies in reverse: two rich girls plunked down in rural Arkansas to mock how the other half lives. This summer Fox is playing it both ways, following new episodes of The Simple Life with Method and Red, starring rappers Method Man and Redman as the Big Pimpin’ version of the Clampetts—hip-hop playas trying to make a home for themselves in a white gated community. Method and Red plays it for laughs in the racial war zone, and it’s hard to say which side gets it worse in this clash of clichés. The series mines classic sitcom territory, clinging to the utterly wholesome conceits that we’re all the same under the skin and, well, we all love our mothers. Method is determined to stick it out in the gated community because his hardworking mama (Anna Maria Horsford) is happy there. She’s the one who taught him two crucial lessons: (1) Never give up and (2) Don’t mess with white women.
Unfortunately, a white woman messes with him: Nancy Blaford (ex–Daily Show correspondent Beth Littleford) is the ultimate uptight bitch neighbor, determined to get Method and Red voted out of the community. Instead of cracking heads, Method decides to make nice. “How we gonna get a bunch of white middle-aged people to like us?” he asks. Ever the clowny sidekick, Redman answers, “Fruitcake!” Painful scenes ensue of Method and Red chasing terrified neighbors down the street, innocently trying to thrust fruitcake into their hands. In order to befriend the neighbors, Method must cease to be himself and play house Negro—you know, entertaining, harmless, kind to children (specifically, kind to Blaford’s would-be wigga son). It sort of works: Method and Red are such endearing characters that you can imagine even the starchiest of crackers letting them into their TiVo schedule. And Blaford is forced to let them stay in the ‘hood—at least till the ratings come in.