Sunday, October 7, 2007

Maybe Debra Lee Was Right After All

Contrary to what you guys might think, I do actually read the comments, even though I seldom respond. Last week, when I lamented the lack of interesting programming (but what's new?) in BET's much hyped and much scrutinized Fall schedule, one of my loyal readers (what's crackin' deedee?) recommended I peep a couple of BET's new church-themed shows.

[Obligatory 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. And I'm still reading more books than watching TV. So there!]

Busy guy that I am, of course I forgot about this as soon as I finished reading the note, but today, I flipped on the TV to watch Meet The Faith, BET's only halfway decent show, and Sunday Best was showing instead. Naturally, I was about to flip the channel, but AverageSis suggested we give it a chance.

Turns out, Sunday Best isn't half bad.

The show steals borrows liberally from the American Idol playbook, with three judges; one anal and self-absorbed (BeBe Winans) and two who are generally more supportive (the sisters of Mary Mary), as well an uncannily annoying host (Kirk Franklin). They even steal borrow the nationwide talent search format, complete with "oh no they didn't" longshots for comic relief intermixed with legit talents. If I'm Simon Cowell, I'd probably have my trademark attorneys on speed dial right about now.

Despite the lack of originality, the show works pretty well. While the judges' criticism can be a bit harsh and borderline superficial for a christian oriented show, reality is that's what makes good TV. I'm admittedly not big on American Idol type shows which probably means I won't watch this show anymore, but for the record, if televised "sangin'" competitions are your bag you might wanna peep Sunday Best.

Exhalted, which followed, is sorta like VH1 Behind the Music for superstar preachers. The premiere episode was an expose on Prophetess Juanita Bynum. Anyone who knows Bynum is probably well aware of her recent martial woes, and the show, to its' credit didn't shy away from this at all. Again, pretty good TV. And of course, there's always Meet the Faith, a great show that will probably fail because it's in an awful timeslot. As if putting it on at 11am (when most folks are still in church unless they go to 8am service like we do) wasn't bad enough, now the show comes on at 1pm, opposite most NFL kickoffs. BET may have better programming, but they are still apparently clueless about scheduling. That's too bad, because this show will probably join Conversation with Ed Gordon, BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley, and Heart and Soul in the graveyard of "Good Shows In Inexplicably Bad Timeslots".

That said, while my exposure to BET 2007 is pretty much limited to the three shows I just mentioned, I can't help but wonder if just maybe BET CEO Debra Lee was right about finally improving the options on her much maligned network. With ongoing pressure from Enough Is Enough! to offer a wider array of programming, maybe, just maybe BET has finally responded in kind.

I can't believe I'm about to actually type these words, but maybe, just maybe BET is worth watching for a change.

Let's be honest here: no network, I repeat NO network, can be (nor should be) all things to all people. BET will probably always play profane music videos. They are cheap, they are a staple, and hey let's face it: folks love watching bull****. Not everything has to (not should be) educational and uplifting. If you're looking for that, there's always the library. It's free. Try it.

What people have always asked of BET (and no, they aren't paying me to defend them) is balance. For every booty shaking Nelly video, offer some reasonable food for thought, and maybe an occasional show that the entire family can watch without making parents cringe or boring kids to death. Sure, there's still some questionable content there (College Hill, American Gangster), but overall, is the station really as bad as we (yes, I'm including myself) have made it out to be?

Maybe we all owe Debra Lee an apology and some new petunias.

At 27, BET Tries Some Original New Moves [WashPost]

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