Friday, July 27, 2007

Better Programming? Don't BET on it.

We watch, so you don't have to.

You'll recall that a few weeks ago after being coaxed into watching the BET Awards, I actually got momentarily excited about the array of "original programming" headed to The Station Everybody Hates this summer. For once, the suits at Viacom were actually spending money for a change to actually develop shows, rather than just playing Akon videos and 227 reruns all day. Well, the results are in. Just for you, AverageBro has sampled each of BET's summer offerings, and, well, let's just say thank God for Netflix.

[Disclaimer: Just in case you're wondering, NO, I don't sit around watching BET all day. YES, I have a family, a life, and better things to do. I Tivo'd the premiere of each of the shows below, and watched them on my own time, usually after AverageSis and AverageBaby had called it a night. And I'm still reading more books than watching TV. So there.]

The rundown:

Hot Ghetto Mess/We Got To Do Better - This show was supposed to be a controversial take on the controversial website of the same name. If you've never visited, then surely your inbox is familiar with some of its offerings. Ghetto Prom pics. Ghetto hairdon'ts. Ghetto Street Fights. Blah Blah Blah. So, when a TV show based loosely on this site was announced, The Black Crusaders went into full Code Red Terror Alert. HGM would be the bane of black existence, putting black folks deviant behaviors on blast for the whole world to see and gawk at. It would be rank exploitation for no real reason. And of course, given the network's history of airing shit that makes us look worse (think BET Uncut), it would be right at home on BET.

Some of the show's web-based sponsors pulled out in Imus-style protest as a result, even though nobody had even seen the show. All this, of course, lead to a great media buildup, and the subsequent renaming as We Got To Do Better, a tagline from the website. Turns out, the show, which debuted this week, isn't a ghetto mess at all. In fact, it's pretty tame, and borderline boring. Instead of the ghetto prom pics, this show is little more than miscellaneous junk you've already seen on YouTube like Ghostridin' the Whip Gone Bad, that dude who sings Why Must I Cry, and awful local commercials. Host Charlie Murphy, already severely overrated (his only comedic success was in the True Hollywood Stories Chappelle's Show skits, and even then, Dave as Rick James was the real punchline) is stiff and programmed as he introduces the segments. He absolutely murders the cue cards.

The only redeeming grace is that the show does have a point: to embarrass people to the point of making them consider doing better. On-street interviews where the roving host asks everyday people things like "what does NAACP stand for?" and "who is Barack Obama?" only illuminate just how misinformed many people really are. And the show is an equal opportunity offender, with plenty of clips of whites, asians, and hispanics to even the playing field of shame.

Maybe it would have been a bit funnier if they'd stuck more to the format and mission of the website, but all things considered, We Got To Do Better isn't all that bad. I've seen worse.

Rating: 3 Bob Johnsons [out of 5]

Take The Cake
- Speaking of worse, I knew that the premise of a TV game show that gives away money to callers every night was took good to be true. Therefore, a show on BET that gives away money is damn near delusional, and sure enough, the show comes with a big catch. Like a similar program on the TBS network (I forget the name), Take the Cake allows users to text message in for the chance to answer simple pop culture trivial questions and win money. The Grand Hu$tle, is that obviously these text messages cost $1 a pop. So, you might have a chance to win $500, but reality is, you'd probably be better off playing the Lotto. Hosted by Rap City Alum, and all around funniest dude you've never seen do standup, DC's own Joe Clair, Take the Cake is a bit too rough around the edges to be taken seriously. Speaking of too rough around the edges to be taken seriously, co-hostess Tocarra, of America's Next Top Model fame personifies the phrase. She routinely commits homicide on cue cards, even though this show is supposed to be interactive. She has zero screen presence, is overly loud, and has no idea how to conduct/run a show. She is, quite simply, a walking pair of tig ole' bitties in bad need of a stylist. Where's Hot Ghetto Mess when you really need em'?

I give BET credit for trying to provide fresh, live programming every weeknight, but this show is nothing more than a sham. And to think, BET has gone from Tavis Smiley and Ed Gordon in this timeslot, to Tocarra. Chew on that one for a minute.

Damn, we really got to do better.

Rating: 1 Bob Johnson

S.O.B. (Socially Offensive Behavior) - Hosted (poorly) by DL Hughely, SOB is nothing more than a black version of Candid Camera. The problem is, like shows such as Punked and Girls Behaving Badly, the fine line between candor and loose scripting appears to get crossed on the regular. F-list celebrities like GBH's Chelesa Handler, the Street Walking host from Hot Ghetto Mess, and that Saphyrri chick from Flavor of Love/Charm School appear in skits, which erodes the show's credibility from the jump. There was one pretty funny segment about Asian pedicurists, but otherwise, this show was just awful.

And I sure hope DL doesn't think coming back to BET atones for that mostly overlooked Imus-like incident he pulled himself. I can't look at this guy with any sort of respect anymore.

Rating: 1/2 Bob Johnson

Hell Date
- I thought this would be a cheap and cheesy rip-off of Blind Date/the 5th Wheel with all black folks. Turns out, this is a completely un-watchable and obviously scripted cheap and cheesy rip-off of Blind Date/the 5th Wheel with all black folks. I couldn't make it through 3 minutes of the one episode I tried to watch.

Rating: 0 Bob Johnsons

Baldwin Hills - Sorry, but I'm over the age of 16, so I can't watch pretend scripted "reality", "based on the lives of teens in the Black Beverly Hills". This is supposedly a black version of MTV's "The Hills" and "Laguna Beach" I suppose. But since I'm far removed from the MySpace/Sidekick generation, I couldn't bring myself to watch anything of the sort.

BTW, I've been to the real Baldwin Hills. There's the World Famous Magic Johnson TGI Friday's, FatBurger, and Starbucks strip mall there, but little else. Beverly Hills, it isn't.

And this show, as far as I can tell from the few commercials I've seen? Good, it isn't.

Rating: Incomplete

Meet The Faith
- BET's Sunday morning rountable is the actual rare show on the network worth setting a Tivo Season Pass for. Inexplicably, last season's host, Carlos Rogers, a notorious cue card murderer himself (what is it with the talent on this station?) is replaced with Dr. Ian Smith from Celebrity Fat Camp or whatever that show on VH-1 is called. This is a mostly good change. The show's format is basic: 20 minutes of roundtable discussion with 3 experts (usually 1 expert, 1 preacher, and 1 comedian to keep things light) dissecting an issue of interest to "the black community". The show usually centered around "churchy" topics last year, but this year it's far more secular, and thus, much more entertaining. The only problem: the show needs to be a full hour.

Rating: 5 Bob Johnsons

The Black Carpet - Hip Hop columnist Toure, and some generic trophy wife looking chick host this show, which is basically a black version of "Access Hollywood". It's not bad, but since this kinda show isn't really my thing, I probably shouldn't rate it. Besides, TV One already has "TV One Access" with the vastly superior Shaun Robinson, which I don't watch either, but seems better.

Rating: 2 Bob Johnsons

So there you have it. Even though Viacom rolled out all these new shows under the guise of finally spending some money, reality is, most of them are still produced on a shoestring budget. After all, Hot Ghetto Mess is just a bunch of YouTube clips, and all the other shows are reality/scripted, which means you don't have to pay SAG wages to the talent. Seems like life under the always fiscally stingy Bob Johnson ain't that far removed after all.

Thank God for TV One.

Most of the shows are busts, and won't be seen anymore beyond August, but Meet the Faith is a true winner, just in case you care. Again, we watch so you don't have to.

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