A slew of programming announcements out of BET’s upfront presentation, which is going on right now Los Angeles. The network has greenlighted three new primetime series, including comedies Second Generation Wayans, co-written by and starring Craig and Damien Wayans, nephews of the Wayans Brothers — Keenan, Damon, Shawn and Marlon — and “scripted fake reality show” House Husbands, inspired by the popular skit from the BET Awards. It stars Kevin Hart, whom BET’s programming president Stephen G. Hill described as “hotter than fish grease.” The third series is as crime docu-reality series The Mathis Project starring Judge Greg Mathis. The network also announced new late-night series Don’t Sleep With T.J. Holmes starring the former CNN anchor who signed a deal with BET late last year and the return of Apollo Live as music competition series on sister channel Centric produced by Jamie Foxx. According to Deadline contributor Diane Haithman, who is at the presentation, Hill described Don’t Sleep “a vision of the world from a smart black point of view” and called it a first foray for the network into late night political satire that he hopes will break the mold. “You hear late night, you think of a certain format and formula,” he said. “We are going to find that perfect blend of sharp wit and hilarity.”
BET confirmed the renewal of all 3 of BET’s scripted series, The Game, Let’s Stay Together & Reed Between The Lines. Additionally, the network is launching a movie franchise, BET Premiere Cinema, which will feature films never before seen on TV or BET originals, including the network’s backdoor pilot Being Mary Jane, from The Game‘s Mara Brock Akil and Salem Akil, which stars Gabrielle Union as a successful single black woman. Brock Akil, creator of BET’s hit The Game, cited a statistic that says that 42.4% of black women will never marry, but dislikes the idea of focusing on the number as proof that black women are “sad and lonely.” “We carry that to the table, but there’s so much more to us than this statistic,” she said. “Actually, I think it’s America’s problem. We’re all dealing with everything. It’s time to see it through our lens.”
BET chairman and CEO Debra Lee touted a partnership with AEG for BET Awards Experience, a multi-day “complete Hollywood takeover” at the LA Live Conference Center featuring live tapings of BET shows, a fitness and beauty expo and live performances, culminating with the BET Awards 2012. Lee also stressed her belief that the Black Entertainment Network has gone beyond being programming for a “niche market.” The executive, who assumed the post six years ago, reiterated the point in conversation with Deadline after the presentation: “I think people still have a tendency to think of us as a small niche network, and when we say we’re number one in the African American space, people still think small and niche, “ she said. “And one of the goals of this presentation was to show that we’re a Top 20 network, No. 18 to No. 16, and we’re not niche anymore, and we want all kinds of people to come and watch our programming, and that’s happening. You don’t get 7.7 million viewers for a premiere of The Game by being a small, niche network.” She added that the network is pushing to develop more original programming.
Second Generation Wayans, which Shawn and Marlon Wayans are executive producing, is based on the real life Hollywood adventures of Craig and Damien Wayans as the offspring of a famous comedy family. Craig and Damien co-wrote the project with Devon Shepard who will serve as showrunner. Starring alongside Craig and Damien is former My Wife & Kids co-star George Gore. Damon Wayans was on hand to introduce the series, which he described the new show as “like an Entourage” for his nephews. “Hollywood is very tough place to be, especially if you’re black,” he said. Here is BET’s release:
NEW YORK – April 18, 2012 – During its annual Upfront presentation to the advertising community, BET Networks, the leading provider of content to black consumers globally, will reveal its new programming content including scripted programs and original movies for both BET and CENTRIC as well as new web series for BET.com. During the presentation, BET will announce new late night series DON’T SLEEP WITH T.J. HOLMES, new scripted series SECOND GENERATION WAYANS, HOUSE HUSBANDS, and new reality series THE MATHIS PROJECT. BET is also launching a new film offering, BET PREMIERE CINEMA, which will give its viewers a first look at never before seen films on TV such as the critically acclaimed Sundance hits MIDDLE OF NOWHERE and LUV, as well as BET-produced films BEING MARY JANE, GUN HILL and THE MINDLESS BEHAVIOR PROJECT. The Network also plans to announce the new BET AWARDS EXPERIENCE that includes an interactive multi-platform Hollywood takeover of the L.A. Live Complex during BET AWARDS Week in 2013. CENTRIC will unveil its plans to expand SOUL TRAIN AWARDS into a three-day Experience including a Comedy Showcase and Concert as well as bring back the cult classic APOLLO LIVE. Coming off of its best year ever, BET continues to rank among the top 20 cable networks among all adults 18-49, outperforming its cable industry peers for four consecutive years. According to the Nielsen Company, BET continues to be the number one ad-supported cable network among blacks 18-49 for 12 consecutive years. CENTRIC also continues to make strides and is now one of the top 10 growth networks on cable television.
NEW PROGRAMMING ON BET:
· DON’T SLEEP WITH T.J. HOLMES is a fresh new voice joining the ranks of Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and Bill Maher. T.J. Holmes gives you a good reason to stay up late. With hilarious “correspondents,” T.J.’s sure to have viewers rolling with laughter over the absurdity of today’s hot-button issues. Speaking through a unique and smart African American filter, T.J. invites the community to wake up on the issues that affect them; don’t sleep on the stories that mainstream news outlets won’t cover. The show will also open ears with captivating, unexpected musical performances. DON’T SLEEP WITH T.J. HOLMES reports with keen focus to keep Black America engaged and in the know.
· HOUSE HUSBANDS – An insanely funny sketch from the 2011 BET Awards (which quickly became a phenomenon) starring host Kevin Hart, rap heartthrob Nelly, R&B crooner Bobby Brown, comedian Anthony Anderson and film star Nick Cannon is coming to primetime. The “housewives” don’t even know what it means to be a real Hollywood Husband. The pressures of spousal stardom are almost too much to bear. Watch the HOUSE HUSBANDS air it all out in this semi-scripted reality TV spoof of every fill-in-the-blank Wives franchise. Starring Kevin Hart.
· THE MATHIS PROJECT – This powerful new docu-series aims to empower neighborhoods plagued by unsolved homicides. JUDGE GREG MATHIS unites local volunteers and law enforcement to gather information that has the potential to solve the case – and get community members to do what, for some, is unthinkable: reveal what they know. Mathis’ investigative skills will bring these cases to a close by exposing the truth that witnesses, anonymous tipsters and “word on the street” sources have kept hidden for years. Produced by ITV Studios and Mathis Productions. Starring JUDGE GREG MATHIS.
· SECOND GENERATION WAYANS is a hilarious new scripted comedy based on the lives of the members of the next generation of the Wayans family. However, as it turns out, being a Wayans isn’t all fun and games. Viewers see the good, the funny and the ugly as the young trio emerges from the long shadows of their uncles to carve out their own paths to stardom in Hollywood. Executive produced by Devon Shepard, Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez. Starring Craig Wayans, Damien Dante Wayans, and George O. Gore II.
BET NEW MOVIES FOR “BET PREMIERE CINEMA”:
· BEING MARY JANE – From the producers of the award-winning, record breaking BET comedy THE GAME and #1 box-office romantic comedy “Jumping the Broom” comes an original movie starring the gorgeous and talented Gabrielle Union. This is a story to which millions of modern women will both relate and respond. Mary Jane Paul has it all: she’s a successful TV news anchor, entirely self-sufficient – an all-around powerhouse who remains devoted to a family that doesn’t share her motivation. As Mary Jane juggles her life, her work and her commitment to her family, we find out how far she’s willing to go to find the puzzle pieces that she, and society, insist are missing from her life as a single Black female. Starring Gabrielle Union, Richard Roundtree, Margaret Avery, Lisa Vidal, Richard Brooks, Omari Hardwick, Tika Sumpter, Raven Goodwin, B.J. Britt, Aaron Spears, LaTarsha Rose and Robinne Lee.
· GUN HILL –From the executive producers of NEW YORK UNDERCOVER, this high-powered cop drama is about identical twins on opposite sides of life: Trane, a cop, and Bird, a con. On one fateful night, Trane is killed. Bird assumes his identity and begins his own search for redemption. Set in the mean streets of New York, this smart, gritty two-hour movie event features an ensemble cast of characters operating on all sides of the law, where no one is quite what they seem. Executive produced by Don Kurt and Reggie Bythewood. Written and directed by Reggie Bythewood. Starring Larenz Tate, Emayatzy E. Corinealdi, Tawny Cypress, Aisha Hinds, Michael Aronov and Phyllis Yvonne Stickney.
· LUV– Fresh from being critically acclaimed at Sundance 2012, BET presents the worldwide television premiere of LUV, starring hip hop and Hollywood star Common. The distinguished Danny Glover and Charles S. Dutton and Dennis Haysbert also illuminate this future classic. A world of hope, violence and self-determination comes to life in this dramatic thriller. Woody Watson is a timid, orphaned eleven-year old boy from Baltimore who dreams of a better life. He sees his uncle Vincent — recently released from prison – as the father he never had. But Vincent’s former life and criminal past soon comes back to haunt them both. Coming of age, all too soon, Woody has to decide where he stands and who he wants to be. Written and directed by Sheldon Candis. Starring Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Dennis Haysbert, Lonette McKee and Meagan Good.
· MIDDLE OF NOWHERE – BET is proud to present the worldwide premiere of the historic Sundance 2012 award-winning film MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. In this elegant and emotional drama, a woman named Ruby changes her life during her husband’s incarceration. It follows Ruby’s journey to maintain both her marriage and her own identity. This hauntingly beautiful story is at once simple and infinitely complicated. Written and directed by Ava DuVernay. Starring Omari Hardwick and Emayatzy E. Corinealdi.
· THE MINDLESS BEHAVIOR PROJECT – This film documents the tribulations of blazing-hot boy band Mindless Behavior, following the tour life of four teens struggling to balance their personal lives and burgeoning careers. An homage to the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night,” these young men learn valuable lessons about friendship, loyalty and ultimately their places within the group. Mindless Behavior is a social media phenomenon, with more than 110 million collective hits on YouTube, 1.3 million “likes” on Facebook, 530,000 Twitter followers, and more than a half million subscribers to their official mobile hotline. Executive produced by Reuben Cannon and Cory Tynan. Starring Princeton, Prodigy, Ray Ray and Roc Royal.
RETURNING HITS ON BET:
· 106 & PARK – 106 & PARK is the #1 video countdown show anywhere on television. Now in its 12th year, BET’s flagship program is a destination for the A-list of music, film, television, style and sports, from Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber to Idris Elba and Nicki Minaj. With innovative inclusion of social media and social movements, 106 & PARK engages millions of audience members beyond TV via the 106 & PARK mobile app, winner of the Best App Ever Award 2011 for Best Big Brand App, the talent competition “Wild Out Wednesday” and the infamous newcomer rap battle “Freestyle Friday,” 106 & PARK continues to lead in delivering what’s hot and what’s next in pop culture. Hosted by Terrence and Rosci.
· BOBBY JONES GOSPEL – GRAMMY® winner Dr. Bobby Jones, Jr., the “Ambassador of Gospel” and host of the longest continuously running original series on cable television, delivers his ministry and praise on the network’s flagship gospel program and the longest-running gospel program on cable. This weekly standout features joyous performances and riveting interviews from gospel music’s most talented entertainers, choirs, evangelists, and others.
· LET’S STAY TOGETHER – When two independently minded sisters take the step toward marriage, life puts their love to the test. This sophisticated romantic comedy series keeps its sense of humor as it tackles the intricacies of sex, intimacy, and communication. Created and executive produced by Jacque Edmonds Cofer and executive produced by Flavor Unit Entertainment.
· REED BETWEEN THE LINES – A new season of this refreshing family comedy series navigating the ups and downs of love, work and family. This contemporary blended Black family uses wit, warmth and humor to keep life’s challenges in perspective, remembering to always make room for love.
· SUNDAY BEST – The NAACP Image Award-winning smash hit gospel competition show promises to inspire like never before! BET’s search for the world’s most faithful voices will deliver the most competitive season yet. Hosted by Kirk Franklin with celebrity judges Pastor Donnie McClurkin, Yolanda Adams and Cece Winans, gospel hopefuls compete for a major recording contract and incredible prizes.
· THE GAME –New episodes of THE GAME will be produced by and air exclusively on BET. After enjoying record ratings in syndication, THE GAME, created by Mara Brock Akil and executive produced by Kelsey Grammer, Salim Akil and Kenny Smith, will follow the lives of the fictitious San Diego Sabres – and the women who love them.
RETURNING MEGA-SPECIALS ON BET:
· A VERY BET CHRISTMAS – This holiday music special is the ideal way to gather the family together and get them in the Christmas spirit. Viewers’ favorite R&B and pop recording stars perform Yuletide classics. Santa may even make an appearance!
· BET AWARDS – The BET AWARDS is the most watched awards program among African American viewers in cable history, and #1 with African American viewers 18-34 year after year. After an unparalleled 11 years of excitement and surprises, the BET AWARDS will continue to deliver unforgettable moments, tributes, and performances in 2012.
· BET HIP HOP AWARDS – The BET HIP HOP AWARDS pays tribute to a culture that changed the world. With style, substance, and swagger like no other, the BET HIP HOP AWARDS 2011 was the #1 hip hop-themed telecast on television for the sixth consecutive year.
· BLACK GIRLS ROCK – African American women are leading in the White House and the Fortune 500, dominating professional sports, driving political discourse, and winning Hollywood’s top awards. A celebration is in order. Expect one without equal from BET.
· CELEBRATION OF GOSPEL – CELEBRATION OF GOSPEL rings in each new year with awe-inspiring power and anointed, electrifying performances. Always a star-studded gathering of gospel and R&B greats, CELEBRATION OF GOSPEL holds the crown as the highest-rated gospel program anywhere on television for eleven years running.
· RIP THE RUNWAY - RIP THE RUNWAY sets the best of Black fashion to music. Electric performances, bold designers and sexy models melt the winter chill. No wonder it’s the #1 fashion-themed telecast on television three years running!
· THE BET HONORS - The BET HONORS celebrates our best and brightest: entrepreneurs, corporate citizens, educators, public servants and entertainers are lauded with moving musical tributes. Hailed by The Washington Post as an event that “favored achievement with honor over gaudy success,” The BET HONORS is the bridge between generations.
NEW PROGRAMMING ON CENTRIC:
· APOLLO LIVE – Birthplace of legends and home of future stars, The Apollo Theater shines anew for the next generation. Genius creative trio and Executive Producers Jamie Foxx, Marcus King and Don Weiner put a fresh spin on the classic variety show “Amateur Night” at Harlem’s iconic venue, including a talent showcase and a singing competition featuring the great entertainer Doug E. Fresh and music man Michael Bivins as judges. APOLLO LIVE promises a bevy of special guest appearances and performances. Hosted by funny man Tony Rock and of course, starring the electric Apollo Theater live audience.
· CENTRIC SOUL WEEKEND – CENTRIC is the place that re-imagines classics into contemporary destinations. This year, the party train delivers plenty of soul to Las Vegas. The brightest stars of R&B, Soul and Hip Hop light up the Planet Hollywood Theater. CENTRIC SOUL WEEKEND is three days of live side-splitting comedy, soul-powered music and exclusive events, all culminating with the biggest night in Black music: THE SOUL TRAIN AWARDS. Hosted by hilarious crowd favorite Cedric the Entertainer.
· SOUL TRAIN AWARDS – The Hippest Trip in America keeps grooving forward. The iconic brand that defined a generation returns for 2013 with its signature awards show. Featuring never-before-seen musical collaborations and powerful tributes from world-class performers, the SOUL TRAIN AWARDS brings you the most revered and promising voices in soul and R&B. The SOUL TRAIN AWARDS is simulcast on Centric and BET.
RETURNING HITS ON CENTRIC:
· AS WRITTEN – This original music series peeks behind the curtain to reveal an in-depth look at a musician’s creative process. Each episode will follow an artist – some established, some emerging – and explore what drives them to create and who inspires them to press on in the music industry. It is all in an effort to give viewers a look into some of our most intriguing creative minds.
· BEING – The new docu-series BEING takes viewers on an intimate journey into the lives of some of the music industry’s most legendary artists, including Gladys Knight, Anita Baker and Earth, Wind, & Fire. Their struggles and triumphs have helped to shape the careers of so many; without them, the music scene would be vastly different. Being shares firsthand accounts from family and friends who recall what it was like for these legends as they ascended to stardom.
· CULTURE LIST answers this question for our discerning, well-heeled audience. Our new long-form music series also covers the worlds of film, fashion, beauty, fitness and entertainment with lifestyle segments each week. From books and movies to celebrity news, it’s all here on CULTURE LIST – complete with viewer calls to action for social and digital extensions.
· INSIDE – This special series brings viewers into the lives of today’s musical masters. What and who inspires them? How do they consistently deliver hits, stay relevant, and maintain a standard of musical excellence? INSIDE delivers the answers by providing a closer look at the genius and legacy of musical trailblazers who have changed the landscape and influenced a generation.
· MUSIC TAKEOVER WEEKENDS – CENTRIC viewers count on us to bring the party home. We deliver by making weekends smooth, sexy and soulful with programming blocks on Saturdays and Sundays featuring some of today’s hottest artists. This dynamic slate includes a mix of SOUL SESSIONS, a 60- to 120-minute show where music videos meet in-depth interviews with a featured guest artist; the hour-long docu-series BEING; or AS WRITTEN, the one-hour special that explores the creative process of one artist during the recording of their new album. With the telecast of a special live concert event, the MUSIC TAKEOVER WEEKEND is complete.
BET DIGITAL PROGRAMMING:
· 8 DAYS A WEEK – This groundbreaking web series is back for a second season on BET.com. Set against the unpredictable backdrop of Hollywood and polished with a bangin’ original soundtrack, this fresh, fast-paced drama chronicles the pursuit of that one shot at fame and the critical friendships it takes to get there. Based on the critically acclaimed teen book series “The Come Up” by New York Times best-selling author Lyah Beth LeFlore, 8 DAYS A WEEK will take viewers into the world of six 20-somethings who have one thing in common: the hunger to win the game of life.
· ASYLUM - ASYLUM is a thriller that follows a team of doctors as they diagnose and treat patients at the infamous St. Dympna hospital for the criminally insane. Along the way, we will discover intriguing secrets about the staff and learn more about the asylum’s mysterious past.
· GRASSHOPPER & SAGE will fulfill the insatiable youth appetite for online animated series. Evil Principal Kaijin is turning his prestigious, handpicked students at the Ninja Mystery School into monsters. Unassuming freshman exchange student Cory “Grasshopper” Miyazaki steps in to challenge Kaijin’s plans for world domination. This deceptively geeky kid is a Sage in training who uses his martial arts skills to keep Kaijin’s foot soldiers in check and the school safe from bullies – all while making sure he gets his homework done! Style reigns supreme in this action-packed animation series.
· UNSIGNED – From the minds and pens of master animators MADTWiiNZ Mark and Mike Davis of Imajimation Studios (creators of Blokhedz, The Vader Project) comes this brand-new animated series. Aspiring rap group Freestyle will do whatever it takes to catch their big break in the music industry. As they try to make it big, their hilarious misadventures sometimes take a dangerous turn. This edgy series will have you laughing out loud from the edge of your seat, as you root for these kids to make their dreams come true.
TV Editor Nellie Andreeva - tip her here.