Friday, May 23, 2008

Why Do TV One And BET Suck So Badly!?!?

"We Need Our Own Republic, Just Like The Dominicans."[A]

I know most of ya'll visit for my savoir faire, endless wit, and of course Negro Nonsense. And that's why I feel sorta bad about gettin' all deep and whatnot on ya'll this week. We've hit a number of serious and somewhat depressing topics crucial to the State of Black America; from our Civil Rights organizations, to Historically Black Colleges, the gender/racial achievement gap in education, and the decline of the black sitcom. All that really-real talk in just four days. I'd like to see T(r)avis Smiley and his Annual Soundbyte Olympics top that one.

Judging by the hits and comments though, I'd say you guys didn't mind me getting all philosophical, but to me it's definitely more fun just talkin' about Latarian. So, after this upcoming three day weekend from the Day Job, I'll be back on my usual ignant grizzly. Life's just easier that way.

Anyways, I hate to end the week on an equally somber note, but yesterday's discussion about the atrocity that is Black TV made me think about a related issue. Since TeeVee generally Sux, the AverageHousehold usually tunes in to CNN, MSNBC, and yep, even Fox News to try and keep up with the day's scuttlebutt. Watching this whole "historic Presidential campaign" through the gilded lenses of talkin' monkeys like Sean Hannity, Campbell Brown, and Keith Olbermann always pisses me off. I know we obviously shouldn't really expect anything of "black TVnetworks" like BET and TV One, but just how irrelevant and lazy are the Negroes that run these stations for being completely asleep at the wheel the past 6 months? We got a brotha gunnin' for The Number One Spot, and all they're talkin' about is The 08' BET Awards.[1] BET had that one vanity interview with Obama in which the dumbass host, "Cousin" Jeff Johnson, had the unmitigated gaul to ask Barry such pressing questions as "do you listen to rap music?" and "why was it important to you to marry a black woman?" I swear Max Robinson was cryin' inside when he heard that. I sure was.

Since I don't otherwise watch BET, I'm assuming that's been the extent of their campaign coverage. Their definition of "news" is an even more pathetic joke, with the aforementioned "Cousin" Jeff, a sassy Teen-Summit alum, some ditzy chick with a fake British accent, and a "fresh-out" lookin' "official street cat" named Samson, who all provide 30-second news blurbs between commercial breaks. Jacque Reed never looked so good. If you were watching this network from another planet, you'd probably assume all black folks contributed to this county was vocoders and Toccara. And as true as that might be on some level, it's still awful damn sad.

Sheez, where the heck is Ed Gordon when you actually sorta, kinda need him?

TV One, however gets off lightly when it should have far more fingers pointed at it. While BET rightfully gets trashed for offering very little content of even remotely redeeming value, TV One is obsessed with being a lifestyle purveyor. Beyond the flashy production values of such shows as Turn Up The Heat With G. Garvin and Living It Up With Patti LaBelle[2], the station is nothing but useless fluff. It's a series of self-congratulatory shows that just scream "See, look, we told ya'll we could get good jobs and homes in Mitchellville/Stone Mountain/Country Club Hills! Look at us! Whooo-hooo!!!" If the goal of this network was to portray black folks as grown, sexy, and bourgeois, I'd say they;ve succeeded. On the count of providing anything other than disposable entertainment though, TV One fails miserably.

Most of my TV One beef has to do with the way they completely disregard the resources they have. Syndication1, is the network's talk-radio sister, boasting solid on-air talent like Joe Madison, Warren Ballentine, Bernie McCain, and despite how you feel about him, Rebb'n Al. There's even quality sports programming like The2LiveStews and Marc Gray. I don't know if you get it in your neck of the woods, but the DC based station stays locked on my radio 24/7. It's legitimately good stuff, so clearly the talent is there.

That being the case, just how damn hard would it be to take these same folks, plus a few "field reporters" and throw them in front of the camera each night for a half hour? I mean, really, build a cheap set. Wheel in a few of these guys and some rotating pundits. Ask them for their spin on the day's news developments. You don't even need to provide any actual "news", just opinions. It would be like a black version of The McLaughlin Group. It would be cheap. It would be easy. Did I say it would be cheap, already? And most of all, it would be relevant since these opinions and voices don't even exist on the other mainstream news networks.[3]

I mean, seriously Cathy Hughes, how hard would that be?

I'm not holding my breath, because even though the show would be dirt cheap, parent company RadioOne has bigger fiscal issues to worry about. With their stock price dipping into penny stock territory and with Cathy and her son in trouble for giving themselves exorbitant pay raises in spite of, they could probably be excused for having bigger fish to fry. Or not.

If there's any silver lining, it's that JC Watts (yes, that JC Watts) recently announced the planned launch of a new 24 hour TV network, The Black Television News Channel, aimed at black cable news watchers. This station will supposedly provide a diverse array of black commentators, as well as true "news" programming focusing on issues pertinent to African Americans, as well as The Motherland. That all sounds a little ambitious to me, and I sure hope these Willie E. Gary-sized ambitions don't end up as another replay of The Black Family Channel when all's said and done. We'll have to wait and see, but at least it's promising on paper. Just one small issue though.

The station doesn't debut until 2009.

How timely.

Question: Is it unrealistic to expect some level of news programming from the "black networks" or at they justified in their "all-entertainment all-the-time" missions? Do you even think this sort of media outlet is necessary? Where do you usually turn (other than blogs) for political and social commentary to more or less reflects your viewpoints? Do you even watch TV One or BET?

Former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts and Comcast to launch black news network [TargetMarketNews]

[A] I'm givin' a whole case of Cyber CapriSuns to the first person who can tell me the origin of this obscure hip hop quotable. And don't bother Googlin' it either, it ain't out there. This one's for the true heads.

[1] Before you ask, yeah. I'll be watching, but only because that sorta stuff is blogger-gold.

[2] Singletary Says is the one notable exception. Now there's a timely and relevant show.

[3] God bless poor Roland Martin, who is about the only voice of even remote reason on CNN. Jamal Simmons seems pretty sensible too. I bet he's angling for that Obama Press Secretary gig.

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