BET (Black Entertainment Television) is moving beyond videos, award shows and reruns of old Black sitcoms. The station is increasing its effort to provide viewers with quality television shows featuring African-Americans that has long since been ignored by other stations.
The first programming decision that drew applause from the Black community was bringing back the cancelled WB show, “The Game.” In addition to that show, earlier this year, BET premiered its first original television show “Let’s Stay Together” and while announcing that it was renewing both series, introduced another original show “Reed Between the Lines” starring Tracee Ellis Ross of “Girlfriends” and Malcolm Jamal Warner of “The Cosby Show.” The show will premier on the network Oct. 11 at 10 p.m.
“It’s a brand new game for BET,” said CEO Debra Lee.
Indeed it is. “Reed Between the Lines” follows Alex, an English professor, and Carla, a psychologist, as they navigate life’s ups and downs with fun and humor as they raise three children.
The show has a “Cosby Show” feel with two successful parents raising kids in an upper middle- class neighborhood. However, makings of a successful show centered around family, Michael Langston Moore of the African-American Entertainment Examiner believes the show must have capable child actors.
“‘The Cosby Show’ was great with Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad at the helm, but if they didn’t have quality child actors like Malcolm, Tempestt Bledsoe, and Raven Symone to bring Theo, Vanessa, and Olivia to life, you’re probably left with a series like ‘My Wife and Kids.’ Not knocking that Damon Wayans-centered show, I just don’t think their child actors were particularly great,” he wrote. “We’ll see what happens with ‘Reed Between the Lines.’ The show has potential. Hopefully, for our sake as well as BET’s, that potential actually gets realized.”
Lee believes that adding original programming to BET will not only enhance the station but promote the new, positive direction its going. She also believes that BET is the perfect place for African-American centered shows especially since other stations are not paying attention to that audience.
When “The Game” premiered on BET last fall, it drew 7.7 million viewers making it cable TV’s highest-ranking sitcom.
“When I became CEO I had to define my vision for the company. How do we make our brand distinct and compete with other networks? I realized it was time to focus on original programming. BET was mature enough,” Lee told Forbes magazine. “Our new brand strategy: We respect, reflect and elevate our audience. They want to be entertained, but they also want to be inspired.”