Is BET Answering The Call?

I’ve noticed in the past weeks a number of announcements coming out of the BET camp announcing new original programming with stronger premises and backed by industry heavy hitters. After Debra Lee’s comments on the lackluster success of “Don’t Sleep with T.J Holmes,” I wonder is BET answering the call from the black community to step it up.

First, BET Networks announced Morris Chestnut as host and co-executive producer of “VINDICATED,” a new 30-minute docu-series that sheds a much needed spotlight on individuals who have been unjustly sent to prison for crimes they did not commit. The show will illuminate the journeys of exonerees from before they were convicted to well after their exoneration and explore the highs and the lows these men and women experience as they attempt to rejoin society, rebuild family relationships, and regain their trust in the justice system that undeniably failed them. This show is a much needed shift from the norm at BET and it shows another angle of black life that is often overshadowed. It premieres December 4 at 10:30 PM ET/PT.

Next, funny man Kevin Hart is behind a new comedy on the network entitled “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” which is a spinoff of the skits he did within the 2011 BET Hip Hop Awards. The skits were met with such popularity the network decided to pick it up as a show. The loosely-based reality spoof will star Kevin Hart who is recently divorced, Nick Cannon, husband of superstar Mariah Carey, Boris Kodjoe, husband of actress Nicole Ari Parker, Duane Martin, husband of actress Tisha Campbell-Martin, and Robin Thicke, husband of actress Paula Patton. With such a star studded lineup and a host of producers and writers who are Hollywood vets, its hoped that the show’s cast doesn’t overshadow the plot and satire, which is to mock everything we all love to hate about the “Housewives” franchise. The show airs Tuesday, January 13, 2013 at 10 PM ET/PT.

And finally, the Wayans family is taking another shot in the TV game with “Second Generation Wayans,” which debuts just after “Real Husbands.” This show is a comedic take on the nephews of Keenan Ivory, Shawn, Marlon and Damon emerging from the shadows of an iconic show business family to carve out their own paths to stardom in Hollywood. Damien Dante Wayans, Craig Wayans and George O. Gore II (played Damon’s son Junior in “My Wife and Kids”) star in this half-hour series along with Tatyana Ali playing their office assistant.  Other shows in the works for BET are “The Mathis Project” starring Judge Greg Mathis, “Apollo Live” with Tony Rock, and “Gun Hill” starring Larenz Tate. 

With this new infusion of shows to the network, it seems they are attempting to broaden their reach into the demographic they’re losing— the 25-40 year old crowd. BET mainly targets teens and young adults who watch rap videos and keep up with pop culture. While some of these shows will still appeal to that target market, the placement of them in the primetime “Tuesday Tryouts” slots between Basketball Wives LA and Marrying the Game on VH1 might not be bad. Where my brow is raised is how “Real Husbands” and “Second Generation” can be packaged together as a power hour of comedy but “Vindicated” premieres a month earlier in the same Tuesday night 10:30 slot. Is BET anticipating that the show will fail? How can it gain popularity if just after four episodes (maybe not even that many with the holiday season) the time slot is shifted? Small things like this give me pause when it comes to BET, but I’m going to give them a chance and see where this goes.  I’m really hoping people watch “VINDICATED” because it will need the ratings on trigger-happy BET. Hopefully it doesn’t go the way of “Don’t Sleep” with them claiming black people’s palates aren’t ready to stomach something so sophisticated and they pull the trigger to reduce the show. The other shows stand a chance because they’re lighthearted and carry strong names. They reach into a different age demographic as well but they will have more crossover appeal than the docu-series. If BET truly is answering the call only time will tell. What do you think?      

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