Go to any typical dinner party amongst professional generation X blacks folks and I’m 99% sure that one of the following topics will come up: 1.) Barack / Michelle Obama 2.) Django Unchained (well at least in the last few weeks) and 3.) Why BET is not as good as it Should Be/Was/Or Oughtta be. Talking smack about BET is a pretty common past-time for “educated” black folks (a close runner up is “Why Tyler Perry movies are terrible”) and has been since the end of the Donny Simpson Video Soul era. But that might all be about to change, thanks to the Little Man genius of Kevin Hart and his new show The Real Husbands of Hollywood.
BET has always been a strange bird when it comes to cable networks and the criticism they receive. On the one hand BET is one of the most profitable cable networks in the Viacom family and has been since Bob Johnson launched the network in 1980. On the other hand, the network receives a lot of criticism in the black community about low quality shows and sketchy management practices. BET has always remained profitable because they have the one two punch of a captive audience mixed with historically low wages and production costs. While other networks like TNT, TBS, USA and AMC began the long slow expensive march to creating original popular programs BET was satisfied making huge profits off of music videos, 106 and Park and showing re-runs of popular black sitcoms (all of which have little or no overhead). African American teens and fans of Hip-Hop keep BET as destination programming while the desire to see black programs keeps people coming back to see old sitcoms you can’t see anywhere else. But that’ recycling, not innovation. When the network has acquired high end shows like The GAME, draconian budget cuts keep the shows from maintaining the same level of writing, production and quality that turned them into African American household names to begin with. But Kevin Hart’s new show might signal a change in the culture at the nation’s first African American themed network.
The Real Husbands of Hollywood is based on a hilarious sketch by comedian Kevin Hart than ran when he was hosting the BET awards last year. The show is essentially a send-up of the various crazy reality Housewives shows, except with the husbands of various Black Actresses in Hollywood, acting like caricatures of themselves. The show, without question is one of the funniest new premieres of a sitcom that I’ve seen in years. Usually it takes a comedy a couple of episodes to find its way but Real Husbands brings you into the comedy and characters so quickly you feel like you are already in on the joke by the first commercial break. Hart (who is actually divorced in the show) plays a hyped-up, arrogant, loud-talking version of himself, his napoleon complex leading him into constant hilarious one-upmanship games with his prettier, or richer or more established co-stars like Boris Kodjo, Nick Cannon and his ridiculous foil Robin Thicke. The comedy actually owes a lot to a few other classic shows from the 90’s and early 2000’s. On the one hand it has the flavor of the old HBO hit the Larry Sanders Show where celebrities played extreme and self – mocking versions of themselves. But the camaraderie of the characters and the production quality owes itself to later seasons of the Bernie Mac Show where everyone sortof knew they were in on the joke. In other words it is a high – end, quality, well produced original scripted show on BET which means either 1.) BET has turned the corner or 2.) We’re headed for serious disappointment in about 3 or 4 months.
This show is going to be a hit; it’s funny, relatable and has a very talented star behind it. If BET has made a significant change in culture the show will last past the first season and we’ll be laughing next spring about a rotating bunch of husbands engaging in antics that would make the Real Housewives of Atlanta clutch their pearls. On the other hand, after a hit first season, inevitably Kevin Hart will want and deserve more money. In the past Black Entertainment Television has been willing to let talent walk rather than pay a competitive wage (ex: Letting Tia Mowery and Pooch Bell walk after two seasons despite them being the stars of BET’s highest rated program in a decade; The GAME). Let’s hope that won’t happen this time. African American satirical comedy is hard to come by in the post Dave Chappelle era. Plus it would be nice to see grown black folks throwing drinks in each other’s faces and calling each other names when everyone involved knows it’s just a joke.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.