Monday, July 9, 2007

Yes, I've Watched BET Before

For all my white readers, television hates Black people. With that said, there are two channels that hope to rectify this. One is TV One. Jealous of the fact that no one was paying attention to her, succubus Kathy Hughes decided to start her own self-aggrandizing television channel that involves of all things a bid whist tournament with old Black actors eating ribs, collard greens, and black-eyed peas and reruns of such television gems as Hangin' With Mr. Cooper and Fastlane! The only person that was Black on Fastlane was Bill Bellamy, former token Black guy on MTV. Clearly this channel is worthless. But, it's an upstart, so no one really cares anyway.

The grandaddy of Black television is Black Entertainment Television. Founded by Robert Johnson and run out of a, get this, Black building in Northeast Washington, DC, BET was renowned for playing tons of rap and r&b videos. I mean hey, it's what Black people did: sat at home, unemployed, drinking 40s while watching Black guys grab their nuts while throwing money in the air and Black women shake their asses while scantily clad. Oh, and this usually happened in a strip club too, as if all of that weren't enough. It needed just that piece de resistance. In addition, when it wasn't degrading Black people through music videos, BET was displaying us all as mindless followers of money-grubbing Black televangelists. I guess they thought it was OK to rob poor people of their money because they're Black.

As you can probably tell, BET has not been the most accurate representation of Black America. But, they are trying to change the tide. The New York Times is reporting on BET's new slate of original programming, which will attempt to make BET a legitimate channel instead of the fraud that it is now. But, it's not really helping its own cause by introducing the Black Laguna Beach. You think I'm joking:

The show, “Baldwin Hills,” follows the lives of a group of mostly hip, affluent black teenagers, most of whom live in the neighborhood here that gives the show its name.
Tell me that doesn't sound like Laguna Beach. I'm sure that it will be just as vapid as it will cover buppies instead of yuppies. But, more important, Buppies don't care about being Black, and usually hate on Black America because it hasn't helped them to be white enough.

In addition to what I'm sure this tragedy will be, BET will also add a show that follows ministers called Exalted! as well as a bevy of animated programs because you know there aren't enough Black actors to develop a live action show. Paul Mooney, better known to White America as that angry Black guy who wasn't Dave Chappelle on Chapelle's Show or Blackstadamus, will now have his own judge show. As if there weren't already enough Black judges on the air now with Judge Mathis, Judge Joe Brown, Divorce Court, & Judge Hatchett.

While most of the new programming sounds absolutely terrible, this block of programming might be pretty interesting if not completely repetitive:

On July 25 is “S.O.B. (Socially Offensive Behavior),” with the comedian D. L. Hughley as host. It is a cocktail of sociology and comedy that uses hidden cameras to capture people’s reactions to strange, politically incorrect situations. For example patrons in a restaurant are told that seating is by race.

Following “S.O.B.” on July 25 is “Hot Ghetto Mess,” which uses commentary, video clips and man-on-the-street interviews to examine black popular culture. The show was inspired by the much-debated Web site of the same name, which showcases and comments on what it deems to be outrageous black behavior.

The first show is pretty much an exact copy of Candid Camera, Punk'd, Girls Behaving Badly, those episodes of 20/20 when they take video of what people will do in strange moral situations, the episodes of Dateline when parents are told that their kids have been poached by a child molester behind their back, etc. My point is this show's not new. Also, before I comment on the second show, I need to note that this website needs a facelift. If they are trying to uplift Black America, they need to uplift their site, making us look bad and shit.

Now to comment on this show, I'm not sure if I should say this, but this is a didactic, and most likely pedantic, version of The Soup or Best Week Ever. As well, I'm not sure that it is the most useful thing on the face of the planet to tell Black people that their culture and fashion is unacceptable. This show reeks of attempts to discredit the uniqueness of Black culture. I'm not saying there is anything acceptable about wearing a ton of bling and/or having their boobs and butt all hanging out in public. But, I'm sure that Black people aren't trying to be sanitized either.

In the end, this show, with all the others, are a declaration that BET is trying to change its way. Is this a good thing? No, not really.

These shows are a blatant attempt to integrate BET into the other Viacom cable channels: Spike, MTV, Video Hits One. These shows are all pretty much shows that come on other channels, but refocused on Black people. Just because they are focused on Black people doesn't really get at the actual problems of BET.

For one, I honestly feel like all of this programming is made for buppies. These shows address realities that Black people living on the bricks already know. As well, this programming is of no interest to the overwhelming mass of the community either. I know it doesn't interest me, and I'm all about seeing Black people on television. Additionally, Hot Ghetto Mess, along with having an offensive name, will be a trivialization and a new form of shaming Black people for their culture. Probably under Viacom's leadership, this show will lead to thousands of Black people developing a shame and abandoning their community because they don't want to be affiliated with these images. BET, of all people, should recognize this reality.

In addition to pimping out Black America for cash and creating shame within the community, BET still lacks Black news coverage. Back in the 90s, BET had a news department. It was actually good. It talked to Black leaders and addressed issues that were of concern to Black America. The News Department also covered issues in Black America that did not get much press in the mainstream press. It really was must watch television. Additionally, it came on every weeknight like The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. A few years ago, BET decided that it wasn't important anymore and cut it. They say that they still have a commitment to public affairs. They should show it instead of talking about it by bringing the news program back.

While time will tell if these shows will actually work out, but I'll be surprised if most of them do. But, more than anything, I think that this programming is only representative of how BET has abandoned Black America although it still claims to be a Black channel.

Correction: Paul Mooney's character on Chappelle's Show was Negrodamus, not Blackstadamus. I must have gotten confused by the presence of Nastradamus.