BET Takes Scripted Leap

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BET will join the growing list of cable networks launching scripted series when it debuts the comedy series Somebodies on Sept. 9.

The series is the first scripted project for the 28-year-old African-American targeted network, which has been criticized for relying on music videos and reality programming.

BET hopes the show — based on the Sundance Film Festival film of the same name by film producer Hadjii, which follows a group of college friends trying to find their way in the world — will lay the groundwork for other original scripted shows to follow on the channel.

The show joins TBS’s Tyler Perry’s House of Payne and ABC Family’s Lincoln Heights as the only scripted series on broadcast or cable television featuring a predominantly African-American cast.

“My goal is to make good shows, and I feel like Somebodies is something that’s really smart, funny and different,” said BET president of Entertainment Reggie Hudlin.

Hudlin said the show balances the quirky comedic intelligence of the long-running sitcom Seinfeld with “contemporary cultural authenticity.”

Hudlin would not project a rating for Somebodies, but hopes the show will find its audience. BET’s 0.5 household rating for the second quarter was down 17% from a 0.6 during the same period last year.

“As we’ve expanded the range of original programming on the network, we hope this becomes another franchise for us,” he said.

As for BET’s critics, Hudlin said the network will never please everyone, but he believes the network’s programming provides something for all age groups and demos within the African-American community.

“There are some people who will always find something to criticize, so I can’t predict what will ever make them say, 'You guys are making a lot of great changes,’ ” he said. “All I know is that we did a show here that I think is smart and different and when people see it, they like it.”

Hudlin said the network is also in pre-production on several scripted animated shows and live-action projects, but would not disclose specifics.

“We’re committed to launching more scripted series in addition to our reality and music shows and specials,” he said. “I want Somebodies to be a success, but you can’t judge an entire genre on the success and failures of one show.”

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