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BET Unveils ‘Boomerang’ Reboot, Don Cornelius Bio Series as Cabler Boosts Original Programs

BET has ordered five new scripted series and six unscripted projects for the upcoming season. The slate includes a comedy remake inspired by the 1992 pic “Boomerang” and a look at the life of “Soul Train” maestro Don Cornelius.

BET unveiled its 2018-19 season programming slate on Tuesday amid the crush of cable upfront presentations this month. The Viacom cabler has vowed to boost the volume of original series by 21% over last year. BET Networks president Scott Mills emphasized the cabler’s “special connection with the African-American audience.”

During the past few years BET has faced increased competition for African-American audiences from OWN, TV One as well as Viacom’s own VH1. The original programming push is in keeping with Viacom’s larger strategy of focusing its cable resources on six core channels, of which BET is one.

“Creating powerful, engaging and provocative content has been BET Networks’ legacy for decades,” said Connie Orlando, Head of Programming, BET Networks. “With the increase in our original programming slate for 2019, we’re committed more than ever to telling the most compelling and authentic stories about the black experience.”

BET also has the sudser “Peachtree Place,” set among a group of 30-somethings in Atlanta, coming from producer Will Packer.

BET’s unscripted slate includes a docu-series “Ladies Night” that follows a contemporary tour of 1990s female soul and hip-hop stars En Vogue, Salt, Pepa, Spinderella and SWV. There’s also music competition series “The Next Big Thing,” steered by Swizz Beats and A&R veteran Tina Davis.

Here’s a rundown of BET’s new series orders:

SCRIPTED SERIES 

AMERICAN SOUL – Inspired by the personal trials and professional successes of a young, ambitious and troubled impresario Don Cornelius. The drama series is an unflinching look at the entrepreneur, his Soul Train dancers, crew and musicians in an unforgiving Hollywood in the 1970’s – how they work, play, rise and fall against the backdrop of Soul Train — “the hippest trip in America” and one of the most predominant television shows for African-American culture.  Produced by Jesse Collins Entertainment, AMERICAN SOUL is executive produced by Jesse Collins, Jonathan Prince, Devon Greggory and Tony Cornelius with Co-Executive Producer Andy Horne.  Greggory and Prince, who created the series will also pen the pilot.

FORMAT: One-hour drama

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 10

 THE ARCHER CONNECTION [WORKING TITLE] – The ten-episode half-hour series follows the life of tech genius Archer Grant, a young, black, iconoclastic mastermind who has developed Archer App – a software that measures the sexual chemistry between its user and anyone in the room. In launching the app and managing its rapid growth, Archer clumsily navigates between worlds – hipster Brooklyn, bloodthirsty Wall Street, underground hip-hop, innovative Silicon Valley – while trying to avoid the treacherous grip of capitalism and his own precarious sex addiction.  THE ARCHER CONNECTION is co-executive produced and written by Chad Sanders.

FORMAT: FORMAT: Half-hour dramedy

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 10

BOOMERANG – BET and Paramount Television are partnering to reboot the 1992 American romantic comedy film BOOMERANG, in which a successful executive finds that his lifestyle choices have turned back on him when his new boss turns out to be a bigger deviant than he is.   This updated version explores contemporary workplace dynamics, including the changing role of gender, office politics, relationships, and the conflicts between Generation X and Millennials. 

FORMAT: Half-hour comedy

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 10

 GAMES DIVAS PLAY – Based on the popular book by Angela Burt-Murray, this sultry new thriller takes viewers inside the high-stakes world of professional sports where everyone plays to win. With an ensemble cast of dynamic characters including an ambitious reporter, a millionaire basketball player, a desperate housewife, a scandalous groupie, and a murderous stalker, the series follows three women Nia, Vanessa and Laila and the men in their lives.  In a ruthless battle for success, these women’s passions and motivations are seldom altruistic, but their life choices and drive will determine what it really takes to stay on top.  GAMES DIVAS PLAY is executive produced by Tracey Edmonds of Edmonds Entertainment, Angela Burt-Murray and Vanessa Middleton, who also serves as showrunner for the series.

FORMAT: One-hour drama

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 10 

PEACHTREE PLACE – Follows five 30-something year olds living in Atlanta as they try to build professional and personal lives they can be proud of, but find that being a real adult is easier said than done. Unresolved feelings from college are uncovered and secrets revealed, forcing these friends to finally deal with uncomfortable truths about love, sex and reluctantly, growing up.  PEACHTREE PLACE is executive produced by Will Packer and co-executive produced by Sheila Duckworth and Felischa Marye, who also serves as a writer on the series.

FORMAT: Half-hour comedy

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 10

UNSCRIPTED SERIES

FINDING JUSTICE – From executive producers Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and David Leepson, this compelling docuseries tells the powerful stories of heroes, leaders, advocates and change agents in African American communities across America as they uncover injustices and fight to bring healing and change.  With the grit and edge of investigative journalism and the profound heart of a powerful documentary, each episode delivers a riveting look at the faces of change in Black America. FINDING JUSTICEis produced by Seven Bucks Productions and Leepson Bounds Entertainment.

FORMAT: Crime, Docuseries

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 6

DREAM TEAM – In the summer of 1992, a basketball team comprised of 11 future Hall of Famers showed up at the Olympics in Spain and changed the face of sports and global culture forever. DREAM TEAM is an intimate journey from the spark of an idea to the podium in Barcelona, examining an incomparable legacy that still resonates 25 years later. Based on acclaimed sports journalist Jack McCallum’s New York Times bestselling book that follows the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball team, the five-episode docuseries from BET and Paramount Television, will explore how a group of extraordinary and complex individuals became a team and how that team transcended sports.  DREAM TEAM is directed and executive produced by Emmett and Brendan Malloy of Malloy Brothers Productions. Underground’s Trevor Engelson and Five All in The Fifth’s Douglas Banker also executive produce. McCallum will serve as a consultant for the series. The docuseries is created with the cooperation and support of USA Basketball and the NBA.

FORMAT: Limited series

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 5

THE NEXT BIG THING [WORKING TITLE] – This hybrid docu-music competition series highlights super-producer Swizz Beats, Tina Davis, music veteran A&R Exec (Def Jam, Empire), former manager of Chris Brown as we follow a league of powerhouse music icons, put up-and-coming artists through the ultimate development boot camp. After being coached and challenged on performance preparation, these artists must give the best performance of their career to land a deal with one of six major record labels.  Produced by Releve Entertainment, the series is executive produced by Swizz Beats, Tina Davis and Holly Carter.

FORMAT: Music Competition

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 10

LADIES NIGHT – This new docuseries follows the personal and professional drama of the iconic 90’s girl groups En Vogue, Salt, Pepa, Spinderella and SWV as they embark on a national tour.  With a run of shows across the US, these iconic artists must create, choreograph, and execute a night featuring all of their famous hits. With major money on the line, the OGs will need to put their pride to the side in order to launch something truly memorable. Produced by Entertainment One’s Tara Long, Mark Herwick, Madison Merritt serve as executive producers.

FORMAT: Docuseries

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 10

THE GRAND HUSTLE – From the streets to the boardroom, T.I. wrote the book on hustling and now he’s looking for the nation’s next big hustler to see who will come out on top. Set in the streets of Atlanta, these contestants use the city to prove they have what it takes to out-hustle the rest! In the end, T.I. will choose one person to be named King or Queen of the Hustle – landing a six-figure job working at one of T.I.’s companies. Produced by 51 Minds Entertainment, THE GRAND HUSTLE is executive produced by Christian Sarabia, Clifford “T.I.” Harris, Brian Sher, Vinnie Kaufman and Johnny Petillo.  Petillo also serves as showrunner for the series.

FORMAT: Competition, Docuseries

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 12

THE HUSTLE: BROOKLYN – This new coming-of-age docuseries set in Brooklyn, follows a cast of young and sexy millennials with a balance of economic backgrounds, focusing on transitional moments of their lives. Produced by Entertainment One & Creature films, Tara Long of eOne and Mark Ford and Kevin Lopez serve as executive producers.

FORMAT: Docuseries 

NUMBER OF EPISODES: 10

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