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.
Bryshere Y. Gray
"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."
In terms of original movies, there's the previously-announced New Edition biopic - although it's more of a miniseries - in collaboration with Jesse Collins and his production company (recall Collins signed a first-look deal with BET earlier last year).
The currently-untitled miniseries, which will air over 3 nights, will see New Edition members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant serve as consultants and executive producers. Bobby Brown was not mentioned in the press release announcing the project.
The cast has now been made official: Bryshere Y. Gray will play Michael Bivins; Elijah Kelley is Ricky Bell; singer-songwriter Luke James is Johnny Gill; Algee Smith is Ralph Tresvant; Keith Powers is Ronnie Devoe, and Woody McClain plays Bobby Brown.
Meanwhile, Dante Hoagland, Caleb McLaughlin, Jahi Winston, Myles Truitt and Tyler Williams will play the younger versions of the group.
“It's been a long time coming and that time is finally here! Now that we have signed the deal, New Edition's journey will be captured in a three night miniseries to tell our life story through our very own eyes. We are happy to have New Edition Enterprises collaborate with BET Networks’ Debra Lee and Stephen Hill along with Jesse Collins Entertainment. From our beginning in the Orchard Park Projects in Boston to Hollywood and everything in between, just like The Temptations and The Jackson Five—we are ready to retrace our footsteps and show everyone how we got here. For the fans all over the world, this one's for you,” says New Edition.
“Personally, my relationship with New Edition goes back to being among the first to play ‘Candy Girl’ on my college radio station, so I’m ecstatic that BET is the place where the guys wanted to come to tell their complete, dynamic story,” said Stephen Hill, President of Programming, BET Networks. “Everyone’s been waiting for the New Edition saga to be told in all its triumphs and heartbreaks and we can’t wait to bring it to the screen.”
Jesse Collins added: “New Edition’s music is woven into the fabric of our culture. When I brought the idea to BET years ago, I wanted to create a film that would tell the story of how New Edition emerged into one of the most important groups of its generation. I am so grateful that Stephen Hill and his team are giving Jesse Collins Entertainment the opportunity to chronicle the lives of these music icons."
New Edition’s longtime manager Brooke Payne will also serve as a co-producer. With a script by Abdul Williams ("Lottery Ticket"), the untitled film is slated to begin shooting next month, with Chris Robinson ("ATL," "Real Husbands of Hollywood") directing, for a 2017 bow.
‘New Edition: The Movie’: Wood Harris, Michael Rapaport, Faizon Love & More Join Cast
by Denise Petski May 19, 2016 10:00am
Wood Harris (The Wire, The Breaks), Michael Rapaport (Boston Public, Justified), Real Husbands of Hollywood‘s Faizon Love and Duane Martin, singer/songwriter Tank and Bre-Z (Empire) have joined the cast of BET’s three-part miniseriesNew Edition: The Movie.
Harris will play Brooke Payne,
Rapaport is Gary Evans, Love will portray Maurice Starr, Martin is Louil Silas, Tank will play Jheryl Busby and Bre-Z is Peanut Bell. They join previously announced cast Bryshere Y. Gray Elijah Kelley, Luke James, Keith Powers, Algee Smith, Woody McClain as New Edition, along with La La Anthony, Yvette Nicole Brown, Monica Calhoun, Lisa Nicole Carson and Sandi McCree.
New Edition laid the foundation for modern-day boy bands including Boyz II Men, NSYNC, The Backstreet Boys, and New Kids On The Block. Written by Abdul Williams (Lottery Ticket), the 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. Principal photography is underway in Los Angeles with premiere set for 2017.
New Edition: The Movie is executive produced by Real Husband’s of Hollywood’s Jesse Collins for JCE Films, a division of Jesse Collins Entertainment; directed by Chris Robinson and co-produced by Brooke Payne, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant and Bobby Brown.
Bobby Brown Biopic To Air On BET
Fresh off the the ratings success of its New Edition entry, BET has picked up a miniseries focusing on Bobby Brown. Titled, The Bobby Brown Story, the team behind The New Edition Story will bring this new project to the network.
Bobby and wife Alicia Etheredge
The two-night, four-hour biopic will span Brown’s career as a founding member of New Edition to a successful solo run. The biopic will be written by Abdul Williams (The New Edition Story) and executive produced by Jesse Collins (The New Edition Story) for JCE Films, a division of Jesse Collins Entertainment.
BET’s ‘The Bobby Brown Story’ slated for fall 2018
BET is set to release the two-part followup to the “New Edition Story” with “The Bobby Brown Story,” which will be released in fall of 2018.
Woody McClain will be back to reprise the role of Brown after playing the singer in the miniseries, which will focus on Brown’s solo career after leaving the group, as well as his affair with Janet Jackson and his marriage to Whitney Houston.
The story will span 30 years of Brown’s life, from his time as a drug dealer in Roxbury to his successes in his career and personal life.
The biopic will also cover the devastating blow to Brown’s life as he and Houston were unable to overcome drug problems and divorced in 2007. Houston was found in a bathtub just before the 2012 Grammys, and their daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, was similarly found in 2015 in a bathtub. She died in July 2015 after spending six months in a coma.
However, there is a redemption aspect to Brown’s story, as the biopic will also tell the story of his sobriety and how he learned to be a better husband and father and was remarried in 2012 after finding love again.
“The New Edition Story” garnered record ratings for the network, so we’ll have to see if this story will be able to repeat the success.
Happy 30th Anniversary to Bobby Brown’s second studio album Don’t Be Cruel, originally released June 20, 1988.
The rise of an artist can be a funny thing. When you discover them greatly informs your perception of their career. Take Bobby Brown for example. As a kid growing up in Australia, I was aware of him as part of New Edition, but his 1986 debut solo album King of Stage didn’t really hit it big down under (or anywhere, for that matter). So when Brown unveiled his follow-up Don’t Be Cruel in 1988 (on the same day that his former group New Edition released their fifth studio album Heart Break), I was under the (misguided) impression that this was his debut effort.
It wasn’t until Brown toured Australia in support of Don’t Be Cruel that I was introduced to King album tracks like “Girlfriend” and “You Ain’t Been Loved Right.” For me, and I’d assume many others, Don’t Be Cruel was the debut album Brown deserved rather than the forgettable King of Stage. (Side note: it was a dismal concert with Brown shouting his way through songs rather than singing, and if memory serves me correctly, extended periods of dry humping the floor. But I was obviously a glutton for punishment as I returned several years later for the Humpin’ Around Tour too, which was equally spectacularly disappointing.)
What Don’t Be Cruel has going for it are the songs, the production team helmed by the dynamic duo L.A Reid and Babyface and then up-and-coming producer and New Jack Swing pioneer Teddy Riley (though his work is uncredited), and of course, Bobby Brown, swinging the right mix of braggadocio, bravado and seduction throughout the album.
Whilst the recording process was plagued by Brown’s absence due to an increasing drug dependence, most of the behind-the-scenes drama didn’t make its way into the grooves of the tracks (at least, not noticeably at the time). What remains is a solid R&B album that straddles the modern blueprint set by the likes of Michael Jackson and Prince coupled with the emerging influence of New Jack Swing.
The idea to bookend the album with the “Cruel” prelude and reprise came from a dearth in material and something needed to pad out the album’s track list, but at the time it felt like the opening and closing credits of a film.
So with the album proper starting with “Don’t Be Cruel,” Brown uses the sweetness and range in his voice to great effect in the verses, and the addition of the rap (an ever increasing signature on this album) feels like a natural fit with the track rather than an of-the-moment gimmicky tack-on. The instant the groove hits, with its slight shuffle and reverb-heavy sonic claps, you knew this would be a song that would drag many to the dance floor. With an almost seven-minute run time, the track does tend to overstay its welcome post the five minute mark, offering little variation. But it stills holds a definite tinge of nostalgia to it.
“My Prerogative” produced by an uncredited Teddy Riley, is the standout track on the album. With its early New Jack Swing influence, “My Prerogative” hits you from beat one. With a fuller arrangement than the sparse “Don’t Be Cruel,” the track has a swagger to it that is as much about the groove as it is about Brown’s vocal delivery. Giving a bit of attitude to the track, Brown owns the lyrics and gives each word more gravitas. This was a landmark track not just for Brown, but also for the burgeoning New Jack Swing movement that would dominate the charts for years to come. As for Teddy Riley not getting credit for the track, his influence is undeniable especially considering Brown’s shout-out during the ad libs.
Borrowing a phrase from Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.,” Babyface created a smooth as silk seductive slow jam in “Roni” that allowed Brown to put his charm and bag of seduction to good use. The stacked harmonies in the pre-chorus pull you in and deliver on the chorus. Brown’s spoken word/rap section is a little cringe-worthy and comes off as a poor man’s LL Cool J, and fails on the “come on” meter. Strangely enough, during the second pass, when the words are sung more than rapped, the infraction doesn’t seem as sever.
The candle light seduction continues with “Rock Wit’cha,” but the song only really comes together in the chorus and has somewhat tepid verses. However, with that melodic hook in the chorus it was enough to have the song worthy of a single release.
And who can forget “Every Little Step” with that new jack swagger and skipping beat. The joyous, feel-good track of the album, the song is all bright and bouncy with Brown’s vocals filling out the sparse arrangement. Whilst rumors have surfaced that perhaps Brown didn’t fulfil all lead vocal duties, with Ralph Tresvant reportedly brought in to finish off the lead due to Brown being off on a bender (and the second verse does have a slight difference in tone which could be Tresvant). Regardless, “Every Little Step” was the breakout hit of the album and it still possesses the ability to get your head bobbing and feet yearning to bust out the running man.
With the previous songs holding down the lion’s share of the album, it’s at this juncture that the album loses steam. “I’ll Be Good To You” is a cool enough song that smacks of being another (uncredited) Teddy Riley track, and perhaps feels more aligned to Guy’s eponymous debut album that came out a week prior to Don’t Be Cruel.
“Take It Slow” and “All Day All Night” are standard by-the-numbers R&B fare that was being offered by the dozen at the time. And album closer “I Really Love You” remains unfocused and unfinished, suffering from a terrible mix.
But by then, it didn’t matter. The hook and appeal of the first five songs are what carried the album. With five Top Ten Singles and over seven million in sales, Don’t Be Cruel set Bobby Brown up as the new star for an emerging sound, and for a period of time he was the most exciting male artist on the planet.
While the 1992 follow-up Bobby was more consistent and musically stronger, Don’t Be Cruel was Brown’s shining moment. 30 years on, it’s a fun nostalgic trip with some solid tracks, but perhaps your memories are better served spinning the singles rather than the album in its entirety.