Y'all know that I am OV (as Danielle recently coined us 'Original Villagers'). OVs remember when BET had some great talk shows hosted by Tavis Smiley and Ed Gordon. We remember the original Video Soul with Donnie Simpson. I enjoyed the concept of BET so much that I once owned stock in BET Holdings ... the company that Bob Johnson took public as part of his move towards becoming a billionaire.
Today the network reaches about 85 million homes, has an 18 percent nonblack audience, and its core viewers are 18 to 34 years old.
I don't think that anyone denies that BET has done a lousy job of programming for many years. The oldest and largest cable network aimed at African Americans has long depended on reruns, movies and music videos, developing few hits of its own. In fact, the National Association of Black Journalists plans to give a Thumbs Down Award to BET, citing "its depiction of Black images in the media, lack of news and public affairs" and the network’s failure to broadcast Coretta Scott King’s funeral in 2006.
BET needs a fresh profile. As such, I was happy when BET announced an effort to debut 16 new shows over the course of the next year as part of a BET face-lift. After all, the cable television market is very competitive. Other stations such as VH-1, TNT and USA Network are adding viewers at a rapid click with original programming.
The network, a division of Viacom, has other original scripted series on tap, including:
- "Somebodies" about a group of recent college graduates in Athens, GA
- "Exalted!", a biography series starting in the fall that will focus on ministers
- "Judge Mooney", Paul Mooney, the comedian, will have his own daily court show
- Comic-book artist Denys Cowan (His company created the Black teenage superhero Static Shock) is bringing in three fresh programs
- Orlando Jones (the actor and "Mad TV" writer) and Ali LeRoi (co-creator of "Everybody Hates Chris") have teamed up to create an animated sketch comedy.
- "Hannibal the Conquerer", an animated series about the ancient North African general (produced by Vin Diesel)
- "Cipha", an animated science-fiction series about a future in which hip-hop is outlawed (produced by Will Smith)
- "Hell Date", a nightly reality show that hooks up unsuspecting suitors with the opposite of their dream date.
- "Take the Cake", an hourlong live interactive game show of pop-culture trivia questions.
- "S.O.B. (Socially Offensive Behavior)", is a cocktail of sociology and comedy that uses hidden cameras to capture people’s reactions to strange, politically incorrect situations. For example patrons in a restaurant are told that seating is by race. Comedian D. L. Hughley is the host of this show.
- "Hot Ghetto Mess", which uses commentary, video clips and man-on-the-street interviews to examine Black popular culture. The show was inspired by the much-debated Web site of the same name, which showcases and comments on what it deems to be outrageous Black behavior.
In many ways this looks like the Imus debate from earlier in the year. The next step is for large corporations to stop subsidizing degrading images of African Americans. A prolonged and consistent pattern of BET profiting off of promoting images that malign and degrade African Americans needs to come to an end.
It is odd how people look at the same show so differently. BET says,
"Hot Ghetto Mess" is an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek examination of the good, the bad and the ugly of Black popular culture. Utilizing comedy, man-on-the-street interviews, video clips, pictures and music, "Hot Ghetto Mess" aims to shine a spotlight on prevalent images in pop culture and examine what role they play in American lifestyle. "Hot Ghetto Mess" goes where most shows fear to tread. As host Charlie Murphy guides viewers through shaking booties, thug life, baby-mama drama and pimped-out high schoolers, "Hot Ghetto Mess" will explore what these images really mean to all of us. Cutting edge, original, relevant and irreverent, "Hot Ghetto Mess" is like the traffic accident you can’t look away from. Viewers will laugh. They'll cry. They'll think. They'll learn, and hopefully they'll recognize they've GOT to do better.Personally, I feel that BET needs to do better. I encourage villagers to take proactive steps to protest 'Hot Ghetto Mess' including your support of online petition to remove the show from the airwaves. The show needs to be pulled from the air with the same quickness that Imus was pulled from radio and television. The offense is the same whether perpetuated by an old white guy or a Black cable television station.
Well, Villagers ... what say u?