Soul, Sex and the ‘Ghetto Mess’ at TCA

On the eve of cable’s four-day TCA run, TV critics were treated to a little soul, courtesy of PBS. The network trotted out current R&B singing star Angie Stone to help promote its August 1 Great Performances episode “Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story,” a documentary based on the 1960’s soul music-based record studio that featured such artists as Otis Redding, Issac Hayes and the Staple Singers. 

While the silky-voiced Stone serenaded TCA writers with several songs from her upcoming album and classic Stax melodies like I’ll Take You There, TV critics struck a very flat note however when prompted by Stone to sing in unison a portion of The O’Jays 70’s hit Backstabbers. (note to writers: no need to trade in our pens for microphones anytime soon.)

But the buzz in the press room was how HBO during its session this afternoon was going to defend its sex-tinged new series Tell Me You Love Me, which reportedly features some very explicit sex scenes (I started to watch the series on my laptop during the five-hour plane ride from New York to California, but was afraid of being tasered by the white-haired grandma sitting next to me on the plane for watching dirty movies.)

Several critics were also anxiously awaiting Black Entertainment Television’s lunch panel Sunday, given recent published reports that at least two advertisers have pulled out of the network’s controversial home video clip show Hot Ghetto Mess. The series has been criticized mostly on the web as perpetuating black women and men as stereotypical sex-objects, gangsters and thugs through user-generated videos. A BET spokeswoman said that the network is “comfortable with the show, and once everyone sees it the audience response will speak for itself.”