Monday Aug 30, 2010 – By The Grio Last night saw the airing of the 62nd annual prime time Emmy awards.
The critically-acclaimed comedy 30 Rock was nominated for “Best Comedy
Series” for the fourth time in as many years (it was unseated from its
throne by the new series Modern Family). The increasingly popular show
features the talents of Emmy winners Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and nominee
Tracy Morgan, who portrays a character known as Tracy Jordan, a rich
black comedian known as much for his childish antics as his broad
comedic abilities.In this setting, Jordan is used as a satirical look at black
actors/comedians and their behavior in the white-dominated entertainment
industry. He often complains of racism, indulges in debaucherous
behavior with strippers, and is accused of fathering children out of
wedlock, among other things. The character has been simultaneously
criticized and praised–at times being written off as another
stereotypical representation of black men and a brilliant use of satire
to observe and send up the way Hollywood views and treats black
celebrities. With 30 Rock entering its fifth season, I think about the Tracy
Jordan character and its longevity in comparison to other popular
satirical representations of black life, namely Chappelle’s Show, which
went off the air after two seasons, and the recently wrapped animated
series The Boondocks, which managed to last three. I have to wonder if
the Jordan character can maintain its freshness, humor, and bite or will
it meet an early demise like that of its satirical brethren. And that
leads me to the larger question: is black satire built to last?
Consider Chappelle’s Show. After two hugely successful seasons which
propelled Dave Chappelle to “funniest man in America” status and set
records with the DVD sales. But with a new $50 million contract in hand
for the production of a third season, Chappelle bolted without warning,
taking a highly publicized and rumor laden trip to South Africa. In his
first interview after returning stateside, Chappelle spoke to Oprah
about his decision to quit the show. Part of his reasoning was that
during the filming of a sketch in which faeries encouraged various
people of different ethnic groups to participate in stereotypical
behavior, Chappelle noticed a white crew member laughing in a way that
made the comedian uncomfortable. He said it was at that moment he felt
he was doing something “socially irresponsible” with his art.
But Chappelle wasn’t doing anything different than what his prior
work would suggest. The difference, as William Jelani Cobb, a professor
of history at Spelman College and author of the recent book The
Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, noted in
his 2006 essay “The Devil and Dave Chappelle” was the audience. Where
the first two seasons spoke to an audience that was “in on the joke”,
the audience that tuned in after the infamous Rick James parody was a
bit less savvy and aware of Chappelle’s intent in using satire. Were the
original audience could appreciate the nuance and sociopolitical
underpinnings of the “Black Bush” sketch in which Chappelle imagines the
backlash that would be received had former President George W. Bush
been black, the new audience seemed to only respond to his less
intellectual work. And rather than play into that and become the very
thing that he was attempting to skewer, Chappelle left.
The welter of expectations and "highly anticipateds" surrounding the
premiere of David Simon's "Treme" all but demands a measure of critical
blowback. Certainly there will be obligatory mewling about the new
10-episode HBO series being good but not as good as "The Wire,"
which launched Simon into the elite cadre of television artistes.
There may be some random chest-beating over white folks' unfortunate
tendency to get mushy in the head about black musicians and the South in
general, and probably more than a few blog-ready over-analyses of the
politics/wisdom/hubris/sentimentality of taking on post-Katrina New
But it's all sound and fury. With "Treme" (which refers to a New Orleans
neighborhood and is pronounced treh-MAY), Simon, co-creator Eric
Overmyer and their team of writers (including the late, great David
Mills) have proved that television as an art form can not only rival
Dickens, but it also can hold its own against Wagner.
Full of the same complicated characters, crisscrossing story lines and
well-informed immediacy that made "The Wire" one of the most astonishing
shows on television, "Treme" flips the theme of urban decay and infuses
it with music.
The pilot, directed by Agnieszka Holland and which premieres Sunday,
opens with Treme's first second-line parade since the storm and ends
with a traditional funeral. In the hour and a half in between, music is
woven into the narrative like gold thread through a medieval tapestry --
sets played in clubs by real local stars including Kermit Ruffins (who
apparently makes some mean barbecue), snatches aired in protest by the
slacker-gadfly DJ Davis McAlary ( Steve Zahn), gigs picked up by
profligate trombonist Antoine Batiste ("The Wire's" Wendell Pierce) and
drum rituals of Albert Lambreaux (Clarke Peters, also of "The Wire"), a
Mardi Gras Indian chief determined to raise his tribe and his community
Far from the show-stopping set pieces of "Glee" or the distracting
emo-soundtracks of so many adult dramas, the music of "Treme" enters
seamlessly at regular intervals, as essential to the story as the
players or the plot.
Add a cast that includes not only the above-mentioned stars but also
Oscar nominee Melissa Leo, "Deadwood's" Kim Dickens, Khandi Alexander (
"CSI: Miami") and John Goodman, and you have not so much a television
show as a modern American opera, full of flop sweat, spectacle and
something that looks suspiciously like hope.
If "The Wire" was about the inevitable, irreversible decay of the
American urban center, "Treme" is about something else. The exact nature
of that something is not immediately clear. Certainly, it is not as
simplistic as resiliency or renewal -- the mold that is consuming so
many homes is not the only source of rot run wild. But in the wake of
destruction, the natural order demands growth of one thing or another.
Compared with "The Wire," which though gorgeously complex had the solid
scaffolding of crime and punishment, "Treme" is based on something much
Get out the crimson and cream and the pink and green. Get ready to “skee-wee” or “ooo-ooop.” The best fraternity and sorority step teams around the nation are competing at the "Sprite Step Off," the
largest step competition ever held, with $1.5 million in scholarships
up for grabs. And MTV2 will be there, right up until the contest is
decided on Feb. 20th in Atlanta, GA.Premiering on MTV2 on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 3 p.m. EST, “Sprite Step Off”
is a six-episode documentary will follow six step teams around the
country as they lead up to the main event. Rapper/actor Chris
“Ludacris” Bridges will host.“I love that MTV2 and Sprite are giving a step competition national
exposure and introducing this creative dance form to an audience
outside of the urban college landscape," says Ludacris. "The teams
competing on the show are not only dedicated but diverse and will take
step competitions to a new level."If you attended a black college, are part of one of the nation’s
historically black fraternities and sororities or if you saw the
feature films “School Daze,” “Stomp The Yard,” or “Drumline,” you
already have some idea what stepping is all about.The major black fraternities and sororities, founded for the most part
because blacks on white campuses were excluded from white
organizations, have long had a tradition of stepping. Stepping is
simply a choreographed set of dance steps incorporating many historical
African-American dances and cadences and from which each sorority or
fraternity has created their signature moves.While college and universities nationwide hold regional step
competitions every year, and there has been a national step competition
in the past, the "Sprite Step Off" is one of the largest of its kind
ever produced. The scholarship money riding on it is certainly a huge
upgrade from the traditional step shows.“This step competition promises to be the hottest dance challenge to
hit college campuses and cities this year,” said Chris McCarthy, senior
vice president of strategic development and digital TV networks for
MTV. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Sprite to bring these
student performances to television as part of our new original series
lineup for MTV2 and to provide a platform for the rich and historic
tradition of college stepping.” CONTINUE READING...
Oprah Winfrey plans to end her syndicated television show in September 2011, as she turns her efforts toward a new cable-television channel she plans to launch with Discovery Communications Inc. Ms. Winfrey told her staff of her decision on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the matter. Ms. Winfrey plans to make an official announcement on her talk show Friday morning, according to a spokeswoman.The move is a big blow to the syndicated television market, in which Ms. Winfrey has grown to become a juggernaut. "The Oprah Winfrey Show," which launched in syndication in 1986, attracted 6.6. million viewers for the week ended November 8, according to Nielsen Co. Local television stations, which use Ms. Winfrey to anchor their daytime hours, could also smart from Ms. Winfrey's decision. Her show has been one of the few whose ad rates have held steady in the recession, according to one ad buyer. "In our market she does extremely well and always has," said Barry Smith, director of programming and creative services for KFMB-TV, a CBS affiliate in San Diego, Calif., owned by Midwest Television Inc. "It's going to be a task" to replace her, Mr. Smith added.The news was first reported on the Web site of a local ABC station that airs the show, New York's WABC-TV. Ms. Winfrey's decision also represents a hit to CBS Corp., which distributes Ms. Winfrey's show in syndication. "We look forward to working with her for the next several years, and hopefully afterwards as well," the company said in a statement supplied by a spokesman. Ms. Winfrey is likely to turn her attention to her new television network, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, which she announced with cable programmer Discovery Communications in January of 2008. The new channel is structured as a 50-50 joint venture between Ms. Winfrey and Discovery, and includes Oprah.com. "I will be involved in every single element of programming," Ms. Winfrey said in an interview with the Journal at the time. Since then, the network has seen its launch pushed back. In January, OWN hired former MTV president Christina Norman to be chief executive. She took over from former Viacom Chief Executive and MTV veteran Tom Freston, who has quietly served as a consultant for the network, according to people familiar with the situation. SOURCE OF THIS POST
Minorities, seniors and female actors have achieved few gains in recent years in the number of film and TV roles they receive, according to casting stats released by the Screen Actors Guild, reports Variety.“The diverse and multicultural world we live in today is still not accurately reflected in the portrayals we see on the screen,” SAG president Ken Howard said in a statement. “We will continue to work with producers, hiring executives and industry professionals in accurately portraying the American scene by ensuring equal access to employment opportunities for all of our members.” The latest statistics, released Friday, showed minority performers reached a high mark in 2007, with 29.3% of total roles, and then declined last year to 27.5%. The breakdown of film and TV roles for 2008 was 72.5% Caucasian, 13.3% African-American, 6.4% Latino-Hispanic, 3.8 Asian-Pacific Islander, 0.3% Native American and 3.8% other-unknown. SAG noted in its report that U.S. Census data from 2000 showed that the nation's population was 73.4% Caucasian, 11.5% African-American, 10.6% Latino-Hispanic, 3.7% Asian-Pacific Islander and 0.8% Native American. SAG also said that Asian-Pacific actors were the only minority group to gain from 2007 to 2008, increasing from 3.4% to 3.8%, thanks to gains in TV. Producers who are signatory to SAG contracts are required to submit hiring data to the in order to examine the trends of “traditionally underemployed and disenfranchised members.” SAG also noted that people with disabilities remain “virtually invisible” in casting even though 20% of the U.S. population has a disability. Wheelchair bound actor Darryl "Chill" Mitchell of the new Fox sitcom "Brothers," is one of the few disabled actors starring in prime time.
charismatic, bold comedian and actress, can pinpoint exactly when she
started to fall out of love with late-night television. It happened in
the spring of 1994, when Arsenio Hall, the man who broke the genre's
color barrier, walked away from his popular syndicated show.
Arsenio left late-night, so did I," she recalls. "I just hated to see
him go. When you watch television, you want to see people who look like
Starting on Monday, Mo'Nique will do her part to make that
happen by hosting her own hourlong blend of talk and variety. "The
Mo'Nique Show" is set to air Monday through Friday on BET, and she's
promising it will be a blast.
"We want you to feel good. It's a
party, baby," she purrs. "When you're done watching, you're going to go
to bed with a smile on your face. We're setting you up to have the
sweetest dreams possible."
That's a rousing mission statement,
indeed. But Mo'Nique won't be the only one looking to bring a fresh
look to a late-night scene long ruled by white guys. Also adding some
color are Wanda Sykes and George Lopez, who launch their own programs
in early November.
"The Wanda Sykes Show" (Fox) will air on
Saturday nights and feature the irreverent comedian's take on the
events of the week, along with discussion panels and comedy segments.
Meanwhile, "Lopez Tonight" (TBS), airing on weeknights, will offer an
"outdoor street-party atmosphere" with celebrity guests and musical and comedy performances. CONTINUE READING..