Aug 27

The History of BET

Black Entertainment Television (BET), headquartered in Washington, D.C. and currently operates under the VIACOM umbrella.   With more than 90 million homes watching worldwide, it is the well-known station targeting African-American viewers.  It is also a leading provider of black American cultural and entertainment based programming, both of original creations, acquired properties and musical presentations.

After stepping down as a lobbyist for the cable industry, Freeport, Illinois native Robert L. Johnson decided to launch his own cable television network. Johnson would soon acquire a loan for $15,000, and earned a $500,000 investment from media executive John Malone to start the network.[3] The network, which was named Black Entertainment Television, launched on January 25, 1980.[4] Initially broadcasting for two hours a week as a block of programming on Nickelodeon (it would not be until 1983 that BET became a full-fledged channel), the network’s lineup consisted of music videos and reruns of popular black sitcoms.  (from Wikipedia)

BET has gained popularity with its’ vast black audience, but has faced a number of major African Americans critics such as syndicated columnist George Curry, cartoonist and television producer Aaron McGruder, movie director  and producer Spike Lee, and former Syracuse University professor Boyce Watkins. These critics and others denounced BET’s programming, claiming it promoted sexism and anti-intellectualism.

They also argued that showing rap and hip hop-oriented programming along with comedy programs either intentionally or inadvertently promoted anti-black stereotypes. BET founder Richard Johnson and Viacom executives claimed they were providing the programming the market demanded. In 2008 a number of prominent black ministers (“Enough is Enough”) publicly protested BET programming choices outside the network’s headquarters.

Enough is Enough supported a 2008 report “The Rap on Rap” by the Parents Television Council that argued that BET’s rap programming, which they believed contained gratuitous sexual, violent and profane content, was targeting children and teens.

The controversy continued in 2010, when BET co-founder Sheila Johnson said she is “ashamed” of what the network has become. “I don’t watch it. I suggest to my kids that they don’t watch it,” she said. “When we started BET, it was going to be the Ebony magazine on television. We had public affairs programming. We had news.

The criticism has not impacted the growth and acceptance of BET and the various shows and programs they have created.  In 2013, it is reported that 79.82% of households with television receive the BET network.  However, there is no information available as to what percentage of those households chose to get the network, or receive the network as part of a larger cable package.

According to the sales material, “BET provides contemporary entertainment that speaks to young Black adults from an authentic, unapologetic viewpoint of the Black experience. BET connects with its target audience in a way no other media outlet can providing hit music, entertainment and news programming that is reflective of their experiences.  Our outstanding mega-specials keep viewers regularly tuned in for the latest and greatest in Black entertainment.”

Feb 09

Should There Be a Black History Month? – Huffington Post

The debate over Black History Month is not new, but it intensified when this year’s Oscar nominees were all Caucasian. For the second year in a row, the Oscars earned the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The Los Angeles Times noted that, “It’s another embarrassing Hollywood sequel … the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated an all-white group of acting nominees…The news again provoked an outcry and raised fresh questions over a familiar issue: whether an industry that prides itself on its progressiveness remains stubbornly stuck in the past.”

The second year of an all-white list of nominees resulted in renewed calls for a boycott of the Oscars by some Hollywood luminaries and defense of the Academy by others. The controversy got more intense when in addition to the calls for voting with our feet, there were suggestions that the existence of Black Entertainment Television awards (BET) hurt rather than helped African Americans in Hollywood. 

Variety quoted “Clueless” actress Stacey Dash who appeared on a segment of Fox & Friends. Dash is Bajan, African American and Mexican and disapproval of racial separation as represented by Black Entertainment Television and its BET awards. “Either we want to have segregation or integration. And if we don’t want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the Image Awards, where you’re only awarded if you’re black. If it were the other way around, we would be up in arms. It’s a double standard.”

In my conversations about Black History Month, I found considerable ambivalence. Some felt that limiting the recognition of African Americans to one month was not helpful. Recognition and respect should be awarded throughout the year. Further, they felt that Black History should be seen as American History. Luronda Jennings, a member of Chattanooga’s Lean In – Women GroundBreakers, expressed her views, “Although Black History awareness is extremely valuable, I feel that once the entire human race respects and embraces American history and the uniqueness of all individuals, we will begin to move forward with positive change.” Another member of the group, Tina Player, shared similar thoughts, “African Americans should be recognized every day and not focused on one month of the year. We as a people are important and each of us has a story to tell.”

Hope for a time when Black History Month will be obsolete was joined by their down-to-earth perspectives. Voicing concern that young people learn little about Black History in school, they were reluctant to reject events marking Black History Month. Too few youngsters know about prominent African Americans beyond The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If there was no Black History Month, would there would be any recognition at all? If there were no months celebrating America’s women, Latinos, Native Americans, LGBT, disabilities, and Asian Americans, would America be more unified and better off? Or would we be cast adrift from our culturally diverse roots and become homogenized rather than harmonized?

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Feb 07

Here’s the (brief) new Captain America: Civil War Super Bowl trailer – Entertainment Weekly

It’s a day of choosing teams and fighting it out until the bitter end, so naturally Super Bowl 50 kicked off with a promo for another upcoming rivalry – Captain America: Civil War.

Even the chanting has a football stadium vibe, with unseen voices calling out, “United … We … Stand” and “Divided … We … Fall.”

It’s the first teaser since November, when we first got a look at the brewing battle between Chris Evans’ Cap and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, who find themselves on opposite sides of an effort to require “enhanced individuals” to answer to  government oversight. This one actually feels a little more like a teaser, since it shows some new shots, but really doesn’t reveal much more about the story.

Cap prefers to trust his own moral compass, thank you very much, while Tony Stark has made so many missteps over the years (e.g. the accidental creation of Ultron) he thinks the only way to stay on the right side is to become answerable to a people in suits that aren’t high-tech pieces of armor. 

At the center of the tug-of-war is Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier, Cap’s best friend from when he was just puny Steve Rogers, and another person who gave up his body for “suits” to control – only to become a brainwashed assassin.

The fight promises to tear apart the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s hero line-up: among them Black Widow, The Vision, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, War Machine, Ant-Man and newcomer Black Panther, whose position alongside Team Iron Man is the culmination of the new TV spot.

Also of note in the teaser: a glimpse of a slick new gadget from Stark Industries: something that looks like a wristwatch gauntlet, which Tony uses so his hand can block a gunshot from the Winter Soldier.

Not seen: your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, now being played by Tom Holland, who [Spoiler Alert] definitely appears in the film, but may not turn up in any promotional materials as part of the complex license-sharing deal Marvel Studios arranged with Sony Pictures.

For more Marvel news, follow @Breznican. Sound off in the comments about what the Super Bowl spot shows – or what you wish it did.

Captain America: Civil War, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, opens on May 6.

Feb 07

NFL WAGs: Celebrities Who Date Football Players

These stars scored major points off the field.

Feb 06

Why Is the #FutureHive Trolling Ciara?

The pettiness is genuine.

Feb 05

Netflix renews ‘Orange Is the New Black’ for season five. And six. And seven – Los Angeles Situations

On the heels of the show’s second consecutive SAG award for comedy ensemble, Netflix announced Friday that “Orange will be the New Black” has been renewed to have an additional three seasons.

The series, centered around a imaginary Litchfield, Conn., federal women’s jail and the inmates therein, has met with great critical acclaim for the first three seasons (with a fourth to debut in June), often held up as a symbol of how beautifully diverse television can be .

Feb 03

MOVIE: Group of Kids Enlisted to Criticize Stacey Dash Over Black Background Month – CNSNews. com (blog)

Actress Stacey Dash has caused controversy in recent weeks by arguing that there should not be a Dark History Month, Black Entertainment Tv or the NAACP Image Awards. Dash had been responding to #OscarsSoWhite, a movement to change the demographic of the group that votes for the Academy Awards. No black actors were nominated for the 2016 Oscars.

“I think it’s ludicrous, ” Splash, 49, said about the response to the particular Oscar nominations. “We have to make up our minds. Either we want to have got segregation or integration. If we can not want segregation, then we need to get rid of channels like BET and the BET Awards and the [NAACP] Image Awards, where you’re only awarded if you’re dark. If it were the other way close to, we would be up in hands. It’s a double standard. Just like there shouldn’t be a Black History 30 days. We’re Americans, period. ”

Now the group Because of Them We are able to, which advocates for black history and pride, has released a video featuring kids criticizing Dash:

Feb 03

BET Breaks: Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian Keep Love on Top

Yes, it’s 1,400-miles-type official.

Feb 01

‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’ Review: Bold, Smart Tabloid Entertainment – Yahoo TV (blog)

I didn’t expect The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, premiering Tuesday, to be more than overblown, trash-TV entertainment. I mean, a reenactment of the O.J. Simpson 1994-5 murder trial, with big names like John Travolta, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance, and David Schwimmer doing the impersonations? Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, who specialize in camp ridicule with American Horror Story and Scream Queens, among the prominent executive producers? Ten hours of this? And with a subtitle like “American Crime Story,” wouldn’t the whole thing be either a pretentious mess or a self-consciously goofy one?

By hour two, however, my misgivings had melted away. This so-called “limited series” takes the facts of the Simpson case and, by bending and shaping the emphases of those facts, turns it into a startlingly stirring critique of racism, sexism, and the judicial system that still resonates today. (The phrase “playing the race card” is so common now, it’s striking to realize that term was brought to national prominence by this trial.) To be sure, the series also contains its share of laughs and excess: No one is going to watch this production and not chuckle at the ridiculously exaggerated emphasis it places on the O.J. reactions of a then-teen-aged Kim Kardashian and her siblings — figures who remained all but unknown to the public during the trial. The producers and FX know they have to appeal to younger audience-segments.

Gooding plays Simpson straight, with no flourishes, no excessive emotionalism. It’s a wise strategy, since it turns Simpson into what he became in the popular imagination: a blank slate upon which each citizen could write what she or he thought of Simpson’s guilt or innocence.

Travolta, making his first return to series television since Welcome Back, Kotter, plays lead defense attorney Robert Shapiro with black hair and heavily-blacked eyebrows — against his pale skin, it almost becomes a Kabuki mask of exaggerated reactions. Travolta has chosen to play Shapiro as a silkily pretentious egomaniac, constantly puffing out his chest and addressing the rest of O.J.’s legal “dream team” as though lecturing children.

It’s not really the way Shapiro spoke, but it’s a fascinating interpretation. At first, I thought Travolta had gone disastrously over-the-top; as the hours went by, however, I became entranced with the way Travolta could command a TV screen filled with other actors simply by playing Shapiro’s quiet self-absorption.

In the six hours made available for review, it is Paulson’s performance as L.A. County prosecutor Marcia Clark that slowly, surely, comes to dominate the miniseries. Paulson has done some amazing things before, including acting with two heads for Murphy and Falchuk in American Horror Story: Freak Show, but in this role, she’s tremendously moving and subtle.

We knew that the Simpson trial and its not-guilty verdict — I guess I need to say here that he was accused of murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994 — was a litmus test for race-relations in America, a test that continues today in so many contemporary instances of black men accused of crimes that become media sensations. But it’s the achievement of The People v. O.J. Simpson to also make this story an indictment of a sexist society that punished Marcia Clark for a variety of offenses — her hairdo, her wardrobe, her parenting skills. To be sure, dramatic liberties have been taken with author Jeffrey Toobin’s source-material book, but dramatizing Clark’s ceaseless struggle in being a woman in charge of a case surrounded almost entirely by men who held her in contempt is startling to behold.

The series is also packed with small roles that make an impression because the tartness of the performances match their vivid, shorthand characterizations: Connie Britton, marvelously brittle as Nicole’s friend Faye Resnick; Malcolm Jamal-Warner, blustery and appropriately desperate as Simpson’s Bronco-driving pal A.C. Cowlings; Cheryl Ladd, beautifully worldweary as Linell Shapiro; Robert Morse, perfectly snooty as Vanity Fair reporter-leech Dominick Dunne.

One key to the success of O.J. may be the screenwriting team of Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. They’ve written such interesting movies as The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon, the Andy Kaufman biopic. They approach the Simpson project with a definite points of view, one of which is to establish Johnny Cochran as the true mastermind who enabled Simpson to claim courtroom victory, and Vance’s acting delivers on that promise.

At first I thought Schwimmer was simply doing a variation on Friends’ Ross in his portrayal of Robert Kardashian as a simpering goody-goody, naïve to the point of idiocy about his friend Simpson’s capacity for violence. But then I looked at a few interviews on YouTube and saw that the actor had done a fine job of calibrating the soft, benevolent tone of the man. Nevertheless, the production cannot resist putting a speech in his mouth that is now sour with irony, given the existence of Keeping Up with the Kardashians: Robert lectures his children that “In this family, being a good person and a loyal friend is more important than being famous. Fame is fleeting and it’s hollow.” I’m sad to say the only fit response to this, in a Kocktails with Khloe world, is: Ha!

The People v. O.J. Simpson is no instant TV classic, and it sometimes goes for easy jokes. Nathan Lane is gloriously miscast as F. Lee Bailey, a shrewd brawler of an attorney who never projected the kind of witty intelligence Lane radiates. But as tabloid, true-crime entertainment, it’s hard to resist. These days, with so much TV to watch, I almost groan when I hear the announcement of another eight or 10 or 12-part series. But I have to say, after burning through the six hours FX provided of this, I was disappointed I didn’t have the remaining four to consume immediately. 

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

Jan 31

This Gesture Proves That Andre 3000 Is the G. O. A. Capital t.

The rapper makes Uber dreams come true.

Jan 29

BET Breaks: MJ Never Wanted to Be Portrayed by a White Actor

He spilled the beans to Oprah in the early ‘90s.

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