BET has unveiled the most ambitious lineup of originals in the network’s 26-year history — a slate of 16 new series that includes projects from Will Smith, Vin Diesel, D.L. Hughley and Orlando Jones.
Speaking to an audience of media buyers and industry execs at BET’s upfront presentation in Gotham on Wednesday night, Reginald Hudlin, prexy of entertainment for the Viacom-owned BET Networks, touted “the diverse array of programming about black culture, ranging from reality shows, scripted comedies, gameshows, sports roundtables, music specials and primetime animation.”
One highlight of the schedule is BET’s first original sitcom, “Somebodies,” adapted from the indie movie of the same name that preemed at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Written and directed by Hadjii, the 10 half-hour episodes, which premiere in the fall, will explore a group of U. of Georgia graduates who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Exec producers are Pete Aronson and Warren Hutcherson, two of the executive producers on “The Bernie Mac Show.”
Orlando Jones’ series, “Bufu,” is an animated sketch-comedy half-hour created and voiced by Jones and Ali LeRoi (“Everybody Hates Chris”). It, too, premieres in the fall.
Hughley’s series, “S.O.B.,” kicking off in July, is a reality show that’ll “use hidden cameras to test the value systems of people,” said Hudlin. One scene shows the reaction of the staff and patrons of a segregated restaurant when a black couple try to get served.
“Hannibal,” the previously announced series exec produced by Diesel, is an animated half-hour about the life and times of the ancient African king. It’s scheduled for 2008.
From Will Smith’s Overlook Entertainment comes “Cipha,” an animated sci-fi series “set in a future world where hip-hop is outlawed … to shut down the voices of youth,” according to BET.
The most ambitious reality series on BET’s schedule, “Baldwin Hills,” focuses on the lives of 11 upper-middle-class black teens in suburban L.A. whose parents are professional athletes, TV personalities, doctors, lawyers and engineers. The first of the 10 weekly hours bows in July.
Other series include the reality show “College Hill Interns,” a spinoff of BET’s most popular series; “Iron Ring,” a mixed-martial-arts competition; “Hell Date,” a five-a-week relationship series; “Judge Mooney,” a sendup of courtshows featuring comedian Paul Mooney; and “Exalted,” a series of biographical documentaries of practicing ministers.