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.”

Apr 23

ABC’s ‘Black Box’: She’s unhinged therefore is the show – Washington Post

Washington Post

ABC' s ' Black Box': She' t unhinged and so is the show
Washington Post
To be clear, she gets what television imagines bipolar disorder to be, hooked in cuckoo Jekyll/Hyde stereotypes: Hours after skipping her meds, Doctor Catherine Black (Kelly Reilly) enters a psychedelic la-la land of attractive sin that causes her to twirl and
Medical dilemma a dark, depressing addition to ABC' s lineup Boston Herald
TV Thursday: Thinking in the Black Box The Province
Bipolar doctor probes the brain on TV drama ' Black Box' The News Journal
STLtoday. com
all 102 news articles  »

Apr 22

Ciara’s Maternity Makeover

The singer works her baby bump like no other.

Apr 22

The 411 on Alcoholism

April is Alcohol Awareness Month.

Apr 21

Alabama’s black Republicans garner national attention, most state legislators … – (blog)

The number of black Republicans seeking public office in
Alabama has caught the attention of BET.

The website for Black Entertainment Television points out 11 black
Republicans are seeking elected office in Alabama, a huge upswing from both
2010 and 2012 when there was only one. Three female candidates are among the

Tijuanna Adetunji, who wants to unseat incumbent state Rep.
Alvin Holmes, an African-American Democrat, who represents a district in
Montgomery. She is a founding member of
the Montgomery County Minority GOP.

Pamela Blackmore-Jenkins is running for Alabama House Seat
46. The law school grad is one of a crowded field trying to replace Paul DeMarco who
is running for Congress.

Katrina Wallace, Escambia County Commission. She’s an
Alabama native who lived in New Jersey for 42 years. She joined the GOP when
she returned to Alabama. “They kind of welcomed us with open arms, and
that was a change, being friendly and just open-minded,” she told

You can check out BET’s list here.

Who did and who didn’t accept the legislative pay raise?

A majority of Alabama legislators accepted an automatic pay
raise this spring, the AP reports. Legislators receive the annual raise – about
1.5 percent – on their monthly expense allowance to reflect an increase in the
federal consumer price index. The change means an extra $66 per month.
Those who accepted and declined the race was pretty much split along party
lines, but not exactly. You can see who took the extra pay and who declined it

State parks chief: Our visitors aren’t getting any younger

Alabama’s park system needs an influx of new blood for a
health economic future. That’s the message Greg Lein, director of the Alabama State
Park system told a crowd of about 70 people gathered at Lake Guntersville

Lein said the park system’s most frequent visitors are older
people who enjoy traditional park activities.

“We don’t want those
activities to change,” he said to the Advertiser Gleam. “We want to still be
able to offer them. But at the same time, we have to offer something to get
younger people in the parks.”

Coroner sentenced to jail time

Former Elmore County Coroner Tim Ellison will serve nine
months in jail after pleading guilty to ethics violations and theft charges,
the Wetumpka Herald reports.

Ellison, who pled guilty March 9 to charges of using his
office for personal gain, will also be required to pay $7,913 in restitution to
the state. The charges were in connection to a scheme of submitting inflated
invoices for work in transporting bodies.

Political Agenda is a weekday wrap-up of state political
news and analysis.

Apr 21

Out and About: Pharrell and Jay Z Surprise Fans at Coachella

Plus, pics of Kim K., Terrence J, Quincy Jones and more.

Apr 19

Suge Knight Details The Making associated with ‘California Love

Former Death Row CEO says song was intended for Dr . Dre.

Apr 19

TV shows like Orphan Black signal rise of the Canadian showrunner – Toronto Star

One summer morning, Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern woke up abruptly to their clock radio blaring news about a hostage taking at Toronto’s Union Station.

They went downstairs to watch the drama unfold on television. After a tense standoff, and much to the horror of bystanders, the assailant was shot by an emergency task force officer.

“It was really a shock seeing this in real time. And one question that went through our minds was, what was it like for the police officer who took that shot? What’s the rest of his day going to be like?” Ellis says in an interview.

That moment translated into one of Canada’s most successful TV exports, Flashpoint. The show ran for five seasons on CTV and was licensed in more than 100 territories globally.

It also kick-started a new-found confidence from Canadian TV producers that their stories could not only have broad appeal but also make a pile of money. Finally, Canada could offer the kind of slick, pyrotechnic police procedural that was on par or better than its Hollywood counterparts. Perhaps more importantly, Ellis and Morgenstern helped to birth a new generation of screenwriters who wanted to produce their own stories, also known as “showrunners.”

The new “golden age” of television is due in large part to the increasing prominence of the writer as the creative executive on television shows; the person ultimately responsible for that singular, passionate vision.

Already 2014 has been shaping up to be something of a breakout year for Canadian TV.  

The lineup includes Vancouverite Daegan Fryklind’s Bitten, the Toronto-shot werewolf thriller starring Laura Vandervoort (Smallville’s Supergirl) on Space channel. It is joined by Greg Spottiswood’s well-received hospital drama Remedy on Global. And Season 2 of Graeme Manson’s Toronto-produced science fiction thriller Orphan Black premiered Saturday after winning 10 Canadian Screen Awards for the first season.

Meanwhile, Ellis and Morgenstern’s next moves are being watched closely in the industry as the married couple have several irons in the fire, working on two series simultaneously for competitors CBC and CTV. One of them will be a detective show remake of a Belgian TV crime thriller.

“I think you’re seeing television really explode because, finally, the storytellers have control over the story; it’s become a writer’s medium,” says Maureen Parker, the executive director of the Writers Guild of Canada, which gave the 2013 Showrunner of the Year award to Ellis and Morgenstern.

Perhaps too slowly for some, Canada is emerging into its own star culture for writers. Showrunners such as Tassie Cameron of the cop drama Rookie Blue and Manson of Orphan Black, while not household names, have become more widely recognized.

In the movie industry, the director is god. In television, it’s the showrunner.

“Writers tell stories. And if you look at some of the most successful series, they are guided by writers who are truly visionary, who have this extraordinary skill,” says Rob Labelle, the executive producer of the Canadian-produced cop drama Motive.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Hollywood. Considering that these are the typically unassuming folk who write TV shows, the cult of the runner in Los Angeles is remarkable. Familiar names such as J.J. Abrams, the creator of Lost, Shonda Rhimes of Grey’s Anatomy, Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad or Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer will elicit massive lineups at any fan expo.

That’s not quite the case in Canada, where smaller markets, a less risk-taking attitude, and structural and economic realities have contributed to a less robust star system.

In the U.S., TV shows are produced by broadcasters such as ABC or CBS, and studios such as Universal or Warner Brothers. Cable companies such as HBO and Showtime and online channels such as Netflix have also upped the ante with critically acclaimed productions.

Producers south of the border have also traditionally been more willing to roll the dice: giving the writer more creative leeway. And the success has been evident in high quality serialized dramas such as Homeland, Game of Thrones or House of Cards.

In Canada, TV shows are usually shepherded by small and medium-sized independent producers and sold to broadcast networks. That means smaller budgets, typically, for a smaller market. And broadcasters have traditionally been less experimental, holding tighter control over the writers’ room.

“The challenge in Canada is that serialized series that tell a story over a longer narrative arc are what’s popular, but there are so few outlets here it’s a problem,” says producer Labelle. “It’s something of a gamble to green-light productions like this.”

The need to develop talent has not gone unnoticed by the industry.

For the last two years the Canadian Film Centre has sent promising writers to what it calls the “Showrunner Bootcamp.”

In the inaugural year, Bitten’s Fryklind participated, which helped her to develop her own show for the Space channel.

“I think it’s great that we’re recognizing that distinct authorial voice that stands apart,” says Corrie Coe, a senior vice-president at Bell Media, the country’s largest private broadcaster. “Over time it used to be the non-writing producers who ran the show, but now the creator and writers of the show have much greater influence.”

Still, some writers privately criticize the large broadcasters for not taking more chances to produce original content.

Coe, who is responsible for independent production for Bell’s two conventional channels and 28 specialty channels, says she hears about a thousand pitches a year. But she says mainstream broadcasters have to appeal to a wide-ranging audience.

“It is fashionable right now to urge for there to be more provocative serialized drama and nothing but that, but audiences still want to have procedurals and a whole range of programming as well,” says Coe.

Canada’s smaller size at a 10th the population of the U.S. is also a factor, she says.

“I think it’s wonderful where we are in relation to the U.S., and considering that our industry is relatively youthful in comparison,” says Coe. “I think the fact is we punch above our weight given our resources and we do amazing things.”

Phil King, president of CTV sports and entertainment programming, says broadcasters “get criticized” for not taking chances with serialized shows with a longer narrative arc: the ones that have become critical darlings such as Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones.

But the reality he says, is in many cases the economics simply don’t work in a smaller market.

“It’s just wildly expensive. If the repeats don’t hold up for us, it becomes uneconomical,” says King.

Prominent talent also will head to where the money is: the U.S., says King.

There you won’t find a shortage of Canadian talent, including Toronto-born Graham Yost (son of the late Saturday Night at the Movies host Elwy) as the showrunner on Justified and The Americans. Or in New York, Toronto’s Lorne Michaels runs the Saturday Night Live empire, which now includes the late night talk show franchises with hosts Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers.

“If someone is a genius and has written the funniest pilot imaginable, ABC will pay a lot of money. There is a constant creative drain to the States and that’s the reality,” Martin Short, comedian and host of the Canadian Screen Awards, says in an interview. “I remember working with (producer) James L. Brooks and he said the only thing television strives for is to make it to the second season. And getting to the second season, given our resources, can be tougher in Canada.”

In Canada, the economies of scale are also problematic when you’re dealing with the smaller population, says King.

“It costs us the same $2 million per episode to do a good show, but we’re only in 10 per cent of the homes,” says King. The advertising base is also narrower because advertisers expect a “bleed through” of commercials from U.S. channels that Canadians are inundated with.

But that doesn’t mean he’s given up on finding quality, critically acclaimed shows to compete with the best.

“This has nothing to do with want and desire. Of course, we want to have the best,” says King.

To that end, the programming honcho has been looking for a “special” serialized show that will resonate. He just hasn’t found the right showrunner yet.

“It has to be awesome, it has to be clever, it has to have the proper producer, it has to have the right budget. I would be disappointed if in the next couple years we did not take a good swing at this,” promises King.

If anyone is leading the way for the next generation, it is Orphan Black’s Manson, the co-creator and showrunner for the science fiction thriller about cloning that has caught on with a loyal fan base.

The show received a Peabody Award, to be handed out this May, and star Tatiana Maslany was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. It as close to an auteur showpiece as there is in Canada.

Still, Manson isn’t sure why the profile of the showrunner isn’t as prominent in Canada.

“We really don’t have a star system. Perhaps it’s cultural reticence, we’re a little more reserved. And the Hollywood machine really loves stars, and it thrives and profits off stars. And maybe we’re a little less driven and cutthroat.”

But he says a more risk-taking attitude has already taken a hold in the conservative world of Canadian TV.

“The networks have really given us a lot of creative freedom, they recognize it can be a bit of a high-wire act sometimes because we’re a bit of an unusual show,” says Manson. 

And he says Hollywood doesn’t hold the key to quality TV. The groundwork has already been laid in Canada.

“I’m happy we can do this at home, not shooting Orphan Black in Los Angeles. It allows us to put the hype behind us and concentrate on making a great show with an incredible infrastructure and crew behind us. But at the end of the day as a writer, I can tell you there’s really no better time to be in television, no matter what side of the border you’re on.”

Who will be Canada’s next great showrunner?

The Canadian Film Centre has chosen four participants for the 2014 Bell Media Showrunner Bootcamp.

The innovative program, now in its third year, sends four senior TV writers peer-nominated as “showrunners to watch” to Los Angeles for meetings with top industry professionals.

They include: Sherry White, a producer and writer for CTV’s Saving Hope; Sarah Dodd, writer and co-executive producer of Arctic Air; Sandra Chwialkowska, senior producer on Lost Girls; Matt MacLennan, writer for shows such as The Listener, Degrassi and Life With Derek.

“We are delighted to have such a talented pool of candidates,” said Trish Williams, director of independent productions for Bell Media. “These four writers have strong voices and impressive track records.”

The four will meet the executive producers of shows such as The Good Wife, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Though they’re already industry veterans, the hope is to produce the next superstar creative teams to drive the Canadian industry.

Apr 18

The 411 on Lupus

A look at how the disease affects African-Americans.

Apr 18

On 106 Tonight: Tracy Morgan!

Get your scoop on who’s on 106 tonight!

Apr 17

TV Picks: ‘Orphan Black, ‘ ‘The Good Wife, ‘ David Letterman – Los Angeles Times

‘Orphan Black. ‘ Clone club members, rejoice; the second season of BBC America’s surprise sci-fi hit has returned, with a star that continues to charm in her ability to inhabit several characters and story lines that grow more thrilling and provocative with each episode. While much of the first season was devoted to establishing the complicated premise — a new, brash grifter named Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) discovers that she is certainly one of a group of clones created for mysterious reasons and in danger on many fronts–the second season digs deeper into the meaning, both actual and philosophical, of the experiment.

Beginners to the series would be best served catching up via Amazon Best because creators Graeme Mason and John Fawcett are not given to internal recapping; they’re far too interested in pressing the plot further. The look for Sarah’s young daughter Kira, that has gone missing, along with Sarah’s former foster mother, Mrs. S. (Maria Doyle Kennedy), drives the A-plot, but each clone is on the journey of her own. Anxious soccer mom Alison is coming to conditions with her role in the loss of life of a neighbor, scientist Cosima is usually forging an uneasy alliance using the neolutionists, who may or may not have been behind Project Leda, which may or may not have produced the particular clones, while Rachael appears to be more driving force than monitored subject. Meanwhile, the murderous anti-cloning team, the Prolethians, comes into clearer focus, and each woman desperately tries to discover someone to trust. Grounding the group, and the series, in reality, humor and fantastic outfits, is Sarah’s foster sibling Felix, played by the brilliant Michael jordan Garvaris.

CRITICS’ PICKS: What to watch, where to go, what to eat

You see how hard it is to clarify. Maslany’s astonishing performance — each clone is a fully realized and distinct character — provided the particular series’ initial draw, but it’s the show’s ability to balance just as a lot of tones — pathos and hilarity, violence and tenderness — while exploring questions of identity, technology, religion and responsibility that make “Orphan Black” television that is both fun and astonishing. BBC America, Saturdays, nine p. m.

‘The Good Wife. ‘ Has left the building. The astonishing death of Will Gardner a couple weeks ago sent this always satisfying but now genuinely thrilling drama in order to DEFCON 1 by stirring the particular often overly sedate female heroes into furious glory. After spending nearly six seasons dithering between her feelings for Will and her husband (Chris Noth), Alicia (Julianna Margulies) seems on the verge of breakdown and breakthrough, literally laying down the law to everyone around her. Back at Lockhart/Gardner, Diane (Christine Baranski) is fighting for her life, while Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) offers ammunition and (oh, wouldn’t this be grand? ) mends her friendship with Alicia.

Michael J. Fox’s canny attorney is back this week, as a potential alternative to Will and contender for control, but it’s the sudden fierce women alliance that will make the remainder of this period must-watch television. CBS, Sundays, nine p. m.

‘Late Night With David Letterman. ‘ Stephen Colbert, Letterman’s newly named successor, appointments the house he will inherit sometime the coming year on Tuesday. There is just absolutely no way this won’t be hilarious. CBS, Wednesday, 11: 30 p. m.

VIDEO: Stephen Colbert out of character

‘Game of Thrones. ‘ Ruler Joffrey is dead, long reside the …. many scheming those who want to be/control the king.

A mere two weeks into the new season of HBO’s astonishingly ambitious and consistently amazing adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic, everything is different and gloriously the same. Here there be dragons and sadistic boy kings, undead White-colored Walkers and a Wilding army through beyond the pale, but also the queen with an army of liberated slaves, a dwarf prince at this point noble where he was once debauched, and a crippled child capable, possibly, of saving all. For wintertime is coming and the armies that still vie for the Iron Tub are now united in the peril of things beyond imagining.

The rich and morally bankrupt Lannisters still control King’s Getting — Joffrey had a brother, after all. But having disposed of their many imminent threat — Rob Stark — at the infamous Red Wedding, the Lannisters now know what it’s like to have nuptials interrupted simply by murder. And the ultimate family department — as he died, the loathsome Joffrey pointed in accusation in his uncle Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). As Tyrion is one of 3 characters who “Game of Thrones” cannot afford to kill, what on Earth will happen next? HBO, Sundays, 9 p. meters.

‘A Day Late and a Dollar Short. ‘ Whoopi Goldberg prospects an adaptation of Terry McMillan’s novel as the matriarch of a huge and wildly troubled family, attempting to pull them together before the lady croaks. It’s as soap operatic a premise as it gets, but between McMillian’s willingness to explore tough topics, Goldberg’s too-often forgotten ability to wed humor with pathos as well as a universally fine cast, “A Time Late and a Dollar Short” will be the kind of feel-bad, feel-good tale that easily connects with many. Lifetime, Saturday, 8 p. m.


Tatiana no longer a face in a crowd

Talking TV: ‘Game of Thrones’ is back

Josh Charles trades ‘Good Wife’ for ‘Foodroom’

An earlier version of this post stated season one of “Orphan Black” was available on Netflix; it really is available on Amazon Prime.

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