BET Networks announced today its upcoming programming schedule for BET and Centric at its annual Upfront presentation, including new original scripted series, movies, as well as reality series, and the network’s returning hits.
"We have developed a deep and authentic relationship with our audience over the last 36 years, and it is that genuine connection that has allowed BET to expand into a global multiplatform brand. This year, we are committed to reaching far beyond the television screen and continuing to deliver more of the premium content that our audiences have come to expect," said Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO, BET Networks. "With BET being more accessible across more platforms, we are creating a powerful 360 degree experience for our audience to interact with the BET brand like never before."
The full lineup and breakdown of each series follows below, via press release.
Of note is a new scripted drama series starring Anika Noni Rose and Ruben Santiago-Hudson titled "The Yard," set at a fictional HBCU, which was profiled on this blog last week.
There’s also a new scripted anthology series from Irv Gotti titled "Tales," which cinematically dramatizes the lyrics from various classic hip-hop tracks, each episode an hour long, helmed by different directors and screenwriters per "song story."
Meanwhile, John Singleton is writing, directing and executive producing a crime/drama series titled "Rebel," with a female lead who happens to be an Oakland police officer.
In terms of original movies, there’s the previously-announced New Edition biopic, as well as a African National Congress-focused event miniseries with Nelson Mandela’s story in the foreground. Laurence Fishburne is starring as Mandela, with Orlando Jones and David Harewood playing ANC leaders Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu. Kevin Hooks ("Passenger 57") is directing and executive producing.
And there’s a lot more… including the return of "Being Mary Jane" for all those folks who’ve been wondering whether it was a done deal or not, since the Akils are no long at BET.
It’s a long list, so dive in and take a look for yourselves. In future individual posts, I’ll discuss in more detail what I think are the highlights. Last year, I spoke to what I felt appeared to be BET’s investment in more weighty, scripted, original programming, as well as its embracing international co-productions like its acclaimed miniseries, "The Book of Negroes." With TV One and the still very young Bounce TV, as well as OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network) all seemingly making scripted original programming (telling stories with black leads) a priority, BET has to continue to be aggressive or risk relinquishing its crown. But it’s encouraging seeing black TV networks invest in scripted programming. Competition for eyeballs is a good thing… for the consumer. It can only get better from here.
TALES – From executive producer Irv Gotti Lorenzo comes "TALES," a 60-minute scripted anthology series of "song stories" weaving classic hip-hop songs into visually stunning 3-act narratives. Far beyond the music video or the live event, "TALES" brings hip-hop alive in a completely new way for television. With "TALES," each song’s lyrics are imagined as cinematic adventures with a different director and screenwriter per song story. The series is a multi-platform cross-collaboration with TIDAL, the global music and entertainment platform, where the director’s cut versions of each episode will live exclusively after premiering on BET. Subscribers will be able to stream the series on their web browser or through the TIDAL mobile app. "TALES" is produced and created by Irv Gotti and his Visionary Ideas production company.
THE YARD – Starring Tony Award (R) winners Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, The Princess and The Frog) and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Billions, American Gangster) along with actors Jazz Raycole (The Soul Man, My Wife and Kids) and newcomer Peyton Alex Smith, "THE YARD" is a dynamic scripted dramatic show that takes viewers inside the unique, culture-filled world of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). "THE YARD" follows ambitious yet troubled Dr. Eva Fletcher (Rose), the newly-elected President of the fictional Georgia A&M University. Upon arriving, Eva is charged with saving the prestigious HBCU from bankruptcy and her twenty-year marriage from crumbling while managing a tumultuous relationship with her rebellious only daughter. A diverse group of freshman also promises to keep Eva’s hands full. The multi-talented cast also includes TV icon Jasmine Guy and Sean Blakemore ("General Hospital") as well as exciting emerging talents – Zoe Renee, Michelle DeFraites, Erica Michelle, Jake Allyn, Larry Rhem, and E. Roger Mitchell. The emotionally-charged series is created by Felicia D. Henderson (Gossip Girl, Soul Food) and Charles Holland (CSI: Miami, NY Undercover), based on a concept created by Rob Hardy (How To Get Away With Murder, Power). The show is executive produced by Henderson and Hardy, who will also direct. Hardy executive produced Stomp The Yard. Co-executive producers on the project include Holland, Will Packer and Mitzi Miller. "THE YARD" is production of Rainforest Entertainment and WaterWalk Productions in conjunction with BET Networks.
BENCHED – "BENCHED" is a one-hour original scripted dramedy about a reluctant, recently appointed judge who is not quite ready to give up his life as bachelor to begin a new life as a public servant. Each week, he confronts the underbelly of the criminal justice system that has derailed a generation of African Americans, including those close to him – as he upholds the tenets of the same system. "BENCHED" is created by Scott Brown.
REBEL – "REBEL" is an extraordinary take on the seminal police drama that examines the unique and conflicted relationship officers of color have with their jobs – at a time when police forces are rife with brutality and misconduct. Oakland police officer, Rebecca "Rebel" Cole, has always excelled by playing by the rules. She has always known that she must be better and smarter on the job because she is both black and female. After her brother is slain by police, Rebel soon becomes disillusioned with the system and is forced to take matters into her own hands and become a private investigator and a champion for her community. Caught between family loyalty and the fraternity in blue, Rebel’s actions set in motion a cause-and-effect crisis that can’t be undone. "REBEL" is produced by Mar Vista Entertainment for BET and co-written, executive produced and directed by visionary filmmaker John Singleton. Dallas Jackson also serves as Executive Producer.
COMEDY GET DOWN – "COMEDY GET DOWN" is the first scripted comedy series about what really happens behind the scenes of a massive stand-up comedy tour featuring five legendary comics – George Lopez, DL Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin and Charlie Murphy. They’re hilarious, insane and unapologetic on stage, but the second they step off is when the real show begins. The storylines are based on actual events that have taken place not only on their wildly successful Comedy Get Down arena tour, but throughout the 25 plus years each has been a nationally headlining comedian. A workplace comedy at its core, the 30 minute, single-camera series explores the personal and professional relationships of these five comic titans as they navigate the challenges of life on the road: seedy venues, racist road managers, pushy wives, angry baby mamas, obsessive fans, demanding celebrities, shady politicians and more. Free 90 Media’s Tom Brunelle and Brad Wollack serve as Executive Producers along with 3 Arts’ Michael Rotenberg, Greg Walter and Kimberly Carver. Eric C. Rhone from A Bird and A Bear Entertainment also serves as an Executive Producer.
COMPELLING NEW UNSCRIPTED PROGRAMMING ON BET:
MUSIC MOGULS – Birdman. Dame Dash. Jermaine Dupri. Snoop Dogg. They’ve spent the last 20 years making hits, stars and headlines, as well as laying the foundation for some of today’s biggest acts. Although they’ve sold millions of records and taken the risks to live the life of a mogul, not every calculation yields the desired return. Over eight 60-minute episodes, this hard-hitting docu-series takes you into their lives as each entrepreneur navigates both familiar and new territory – from grooming new talent and building new empires to raising their college-bound children. Being a music mogul is grown man business; learn what it takes to stay at the top of the game. Music Moguls is produced by L. Plummer Media (The Westbrooks, Preachers of LA, Living with Funny) with Lemuel Plummer, Bryan "Birdman" Williams, Snoop Dogg and Chad Greulach serving as Executive Producers.
GARY OWEN FAMILY – Gary Owen is arguably Black America’s most beloved non-Black comic. He became part of the family as the first Caucasian man to host BET’s ComicView, and confirmed he was here to stay with his star turns in the Think Like A Man films, Ride Along and Meet The Blacks. He also starred in his own hit stand-up comedy specials including I Agree With Myself, True Story and the upcoming I Got My Associates. Now, he brings his own interracial and blended family to BET in a 30-minute unscripted series that is colorful, truthful and hysterical. Gary Owen loves his wife so much, he wants to marry her again – and the path down the aisle is paved with non-stop laughter as he balances planning a wedding with raising his three rambunctious children and growing his white-hot career. "GARY OWEN FAMILY" is produced by Bunim/Murray Productions. Bunim/Murray’s Gil Goldschein and Jeff Jenkins serve as Executive Producers along with Gary Owen, Stella Bulochnikov, Brian Sher and TIP "T.I." Harris.
JOYFUL NOISE – "JOYFUL NOISE" is the gospel music hour that delivers the perfect blend of performances from today’s gospel super stars, rising new artists, powerful personal testimonies and insightful man-on-the-street interviews with the inspirational Willie Moore Jr. Hosted by one of gospel music’s most gifted artists, two-time GRAMMY(R), Soul Train, Dove and Stellar Award winner Tye Tribbett, this series is sure to strengthen the genre’s appeal with younger audiences, while honoring the core values of its rich traditions. The radical singer, songwriter, and preacher who’s known for his edgy and energetic live performances and hosting abilities, continues to shatter the mold of what is traditionally known as Gospel music. A true innovator, with one of the most relevant voices of this generation, Tribbett is set to create a dynamic new caliber of hosting. In addition to a variety of musical performances, each show will also feature a power-filled sermonette by one of the nation’s leading pastors, setting the tone for a more compelling worship experience. Finally, "JOYFUL NOISE" will showcase amazing local churches from around the nation, giving viewers the opportunity to get their hometown church featured on the show. "JOYFUL NOISE" is guaranteed to deliver the kind of entertainment that feeds the spirit and uplifts the soul.
ONE SHOT – "ONE SHOT" is a high-octane hip hop lyrical competition series hosted by Sway Calloway, iconic hip hop personality and radio host. Sway leads a panel of hip hop legends in a nationwide quest for the next explosive hip hop star with mass appeal, on-the-fly musicianship and command of the stage. Neither battle show nor glossy newcomer search, "ONE SHOT" provides the first and only dynamic platform for America’s best rising hip hop talent. Each contestant’s main competition can be found in the mirror. Sway serves as Executive Producer along with Mike Smith, Dominick Wickliffe p/k/a "Kxng Crooked", Rod Sepand p/k/a "King Tech", Nancy Nayor and Dean Hadaegh. Zach Hermann and Erika Smith serve as Co-Executive Producers. Julie Insogna Jarrett and Seth Jarrett will also serve as Executive Producers for production company, Jarrett Creative.
POWERFUL NEW MOVIE EVENTS ON BET:
NEW EDITION: THE MOVIE – New Edition laid the foundation for how modern-day boy bands look, feel, and sound. Boyz II Men, N’SYNC, The Backstreet Boys, and New Kids On The Block all took their cues from Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph and Johnny. After 30 years of breaking hearts on the record and from the stage, New Edition finally gets the biopic that their stellar tenure in entertainment so richly deserves. This 3-part miniseries follows the group from their humble beginnings as kids in Boston to global megastardom – weathering the highs and lows of controversy, personnel changes, and the ultimate cost of fame. Bryshere Gray (Empire), Elijah Kelley (The Butler, The Wiz Live!), Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Luke James, Keith Powers (Straight Outta Compton), Algee Smith (Let It Shine) and Woody McClain(Autographs) have joined the cast to bring the iconic music group’s legend to life. Written by Abdul Williams (Lottery Ticket), "NEW EDITION: THE MOVIE" is executive produced by Jesse Collins Entertainment (Real Husbands of Hollywood) and directed by Chris Robinson (ATL).
MADIBA – BET partners with executive producers Lance Samuels, Kweku Mandela and Daniel Iron for an original production that focuses on the story of Nelson Mandela, the globally beloved humanitarian, as well as the many other leaders of the African National Congress — Oliver Tambo (Orlando Jones) and Walter Sisulu (David Harewood) — who fought alongside Mandela in the multi-racial, multi-national movement that led to the end of South African apartheid. Academy Award(R) nominee Laurence Fishburne completely transforms in the lead role, under the direction of Kevin Hooks (Passenger 57, Prison Break), who also serves as Executive Producer.
EMPOWERING NEW PROGRAMMING ON CENTRIC:
QUEEN BEE – Entrepreneurs are an enormous force in American business and culture, and African American women are among the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs in the nation. They have the ideas, the creativity, and the drive, but too often they fly under the radar and don’t get the mentoring and capital they need to launch their product or take their company to the next level. Developed by Jon Housman, Ora TV, and SWSI, this ground-breaking reality competition series discovers amazing entrepreneurs building real-life companies, and then challenges them to take their skills to the next level. Mentored – and put to the test – by a panel of celebrities and successful entrepreneurs, our contestants will go through a series of intense challenges in an effort to win the competition – and a potentially life-changing opportunity to become Queen Bee. Jon Housman and Jamie Schutz serve as Executive Producers.
MONICA MORTON – On Centric, real women are stars. This year, we meet the real-life investigator and crisis manager that scandal-plagued celebrities and athletes already rely upon: MONICA MORTON, P.I. With her pistol in one hand and lipstick in the other, Monica uses her quick wit and sharp tongue to solve cases in this unscripted series. Mike Sinclair is Executive Producer.
PREMIUM RETURNING HITS ON BET:
BEING MARY JANE – Hailed as "spicy and explosive" by Essence Magazine and given an "A-" by Entertainment Weekly, "BEING MARY JANE" is a game changing smash hit drama. The third season earned a 2016 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in A Drama Series, and Gabrielle Union’s critically acclaimed performance has shattered the Internet with non-stop chatter about Mary Jane’s unbreakable spirit in the face of tragedy, extortion, and intimate relationships. Gabrielle Union returns for what promises to be an explosive Season 4 of the breakout original drama series. This never predictable, always engaging, one-hour drama delivers gasp-worthy realness every week. See what life and love have in store for Mary Jane in the tantalizing new season of "BEING MARY JANE."
REAL HUSBANDS OF HOLLYWOOD – The fakest reality show ever has become a juggernaut all its own, spoofing reality spouses to strong ratings and widespread critical acclaim. People’s Choice Award winner Kevin Hart returns to lead the all-star cast (Nelly, Nick Cannon and Cynthia Kaye McWilliams). The series is also a social media phenomenon and remains among the most tweeted comedy series in all of cable TV. A brand new season of "REAL HUSBANDS OF HOLLYWOOD" will provide more appointment television full of hysterical situations between the husbands and their celebrity wives, cameos by A-list special guests, and laugh-out-loud cliffhangers. Kevin Hart serves as Executive Producer along with Jesse Collins, Ralph Farquhar, Stan Lathan, Chris Spencer, and Dave Becky.
RETURNING MEGA-SPECIALS AND TENTPOLE EVENTS ON BET:
BET AWARDS ’16 – In its sixteenth year, The "BET AWARDS" franchise is the #1 program in cable television history among African American viewers, and a top 10 awards show on television among total viewers. The BET AWARDS ’15 was a worldwide trending topic as the live telecast was the #1 most social cable special of 2015. Featuring the biggest stars in music, sports, Hollywood, and philanthropy on one stage for one incredible night, the "BET AWARDS ’16" promises to be a star-studded night packed with unforgettable buzzworthy moments.
BET EXPERIENCE – Returning for its fourth year, BET Experience at L.A. LIVE presented by Coca-Cola(R) is four-day event showcasing the best in music, comedy, and entertainment. The immersive experience has grown exponentially over the last three years, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the downtown Los Angeles area. The BET Experience at L.A. LIVE presented by Coca-Cola(R) includes a series of interactive events such as a free Fan Fest, live music, Sprite Celebrity Basketball Game, and Genius Talks with A-list talent. BET Networks and AEG have also recently announced the star-studded lineup of electrifying concerts including Fetty Wap, A$AP Ferg, Tory Lanez, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, Usher, Bryson Tiller, Katt Williams and Mike Epps.
BET HIP HOP AWARDS – The "BET HIP HOP AWARDS" returns for its tenth year to highlight the best in hip hop music, with dynamic performances and breakthrough freestyle cyphers that set social media on fire. The only show of its kind, the "BET HIP HOP AWARDS" celebrates legendary hip hop icons, today’s hottest rap artists and emerging hip hop stars of tomorrow – all on one stage. This show serves millions of people who love hip hop culture, a culture which continues to define a generation and defy convention.
BLACK GIRLS ROCK! (TM) – Created by executive producer Beverly Bond, "BLACK GIRLS ROCK!" is an award show celebrating the nexus of achievements made by brilliant and visionary Black women. The two time NAACP Image Award-winning special is both timely and timeless, saluting dynamic women leaders and trailblazers in the arts, entertainment, business, philanthropy and more. Past celebrants include Ruby Dee, Marian Wright Edelman, Shonda Rhimes, Angela Davis, Rihanna, Kerry Washington, Janelle Mon�e, and Taraji P. Henson amongst many others. From Living Legends to Young Gifted and Black celebrants – "BLACK GIRLS ROCK!" (TM) highlights the wide spectrum of talent and contributions of women of color who are shaping our world.
CELEBRATION OF GOSPEL – The biggest night that celebrates gospel music, America’s truly original and internationally loved art form, only happens on BET. "CELEBRATION OF GOSPEL" is a star-studded evening of spirited performances and moving renditions by today’s hottest and most talented artists from the worlds of Gospel and R&B.
THE BET HONORS – Returning for a 10th year, "THE BET HONORS" shows the world "what extraordinary looks like" by shining the spotlight on the achievements of distinguished leaders in the fields of music, education, entertainment, technology and business. Airing during Black History Month, "THE BET HONORS" is a shimmering night of dynamic performances and tributes that cross genres and generations. Previous honorees include Lee Daniels, Eric Holder, Kanye West, Patti Labelle and Phylicia Rashad.
RETURNING MEGA-SPECIALS AND TENTPOLE EVENTS ON CENTRIC:
SOUL TRAIN AWARDS – With BET Networks’ recent acquisition of the iconic Soul Train franchise, this year’s "SOUL TRAIN AWARDS" promises more love, peace and soul than ever before. Featuring one-of-a-kind musical collaborations and powerful tributes from world-class performers, the "SOUL TRAIN AWARDS" brings you the most celebrated and rising voices in soul and R&B. The "SOUL TRAIN AWARDS" is simulcast on Centric and BET.
CENTRIC SOUL WEEKEND – "Centric Soul Weekend" will be an amazing on the ground experience shared by viewers, artists and clients alike, as Las Vegas comes alive with a celebration and showcase of the best of African-American culture.