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TV One Takes a Longer Look Back

1/24/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

TV One will revive its “Way Black When”
franchise with the Jan. 31 debut of a three-week
special on African-American culture, with an eye
toward creating late-night programming.

The Way Black When Primetime special will showcase
black pop culture across the decades of the
1970s, 1980s and 1990s via 15 one-hour, talk showthemed
specials, according to Toni Judkins, TV One
senior vice president of original programming.

The first week’s shows will focus on the 1970s hosted
by actor Sinbad, followed the next week by a look at the
1980s hosted by actress Niecy Nash. The final week of
the specials will center on the 1990s and will be hosted
by actor/hip hop artist Christopher “Kid” Reid.

As a series of short vignettes, TV One’s 2010 debut of
the Way Black When franchise proved so popular with
its viewers that the network decided to significantly expand
the offering during Black History Month.

“You may see 20 [celebrity] biographies on television
and maybe one of them is of an African-American,”
she said. “This allows us to celebrate and say to
our viewers, ‘What was important to you when you
grew up you is important to us.’ ”

If successful, Judkins said the franchise could expand
into a regular late-night talk show series or an
annual big programming event.

“It could be a couple of different things,” he said.
“My goal is to turn Way Black When into our first tentpole
awards show,” she said. “It also allows us to test
out the late-night talk show space, and if it’s successful,
we may be able to do something in that space.”

The network is also looking at other original programming
opportunities in 2010, including the potential
launch of a yet-to-be-named sitcom series to
compliment its first scripted show, Love That Girl!,
which bowed earlier this month. Love That Girl!,
which stars Tatyana Ali, averaged 366,000 viewers for
two Jan. 10 premiere episodes — well above the network’s
primetime average of 211,000 viewers.

Judkins said the network is also exploring the potential
of launching a drama series.

“We’re a little ahead of the game — we didn’t think
we’d get to scripted that quickly,” Judkins said. “Love
That Girl
was an opportunity that was presented to us.”

Judkins also said the network will look to mine the
reality genre with potentially new projects launching
later this year. The network recently renewed its
most popular reality series LisaRaye: The Real McCoy,
which follows the life of the actress and former first
Lady of Turks and Caicos, as well as its dating reality
series Donald J. Trump Presents the Ultimate Merger.

“It’s really a multi-pronged approach for us: We’re
looking at more reality and continuing to build on
our sitcoms, and then when do we really get into the
talk-show business or the tentpole event business?”
she said.