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BET Goes Scripted

BET will launch its first original scripted series, as well as several animated series, this fall -- part of an ambitious slate of original programming the network announced during its upfront presentation Wednesday.

BET Networks chairman and CEO Debra Lee said the slate represents the biggest investment ever in terms of original programming for the network.

“BET Networks is the No. 1 media destination for African Americans and consumers of Black culture,” Lee said. “Through creativity, collaboration and innovation, the next 12 months will see an unprecedented amount of new content from BET Networks.”

Among BET’s new shows is Somebodies, the network’s first scripted series about a group of 20-something “slackers” caught between graduating from college and finding a real career, according to network executives.

On the animation front, the network will team up with comedian Orlando Jones to create BUFU, an animated sketch-comedy show in the tradition of Saturday Night Live that will premiere this fall.

BUFU will join the network’s previously announced animation projects, Hannibal and Cipha, both set to premiere in 2008.

On the reality side, the network this July will debut Baldwin Hills, a reality docu-drama that will explore the lives of 11 upper-middle-class black teens as they grow up in an upscale Los Angeles neighborhood.

Also premiering in July is S.O.B., a hidden-camera series that takes a contemporary, comedic and somewhat outrageous look at stereotypes, racism, classism, religion and sexuality.

Also on the docket for fall is College Hill Interns, a spinoff of the network’s successfulCollege Hill reality series, which follows the interpersonal and business dynamics of eight college students living in a new city and working at summer jobs.

BET will jump into the combat-sports ring with Iron Ring, in which celebrities and sports personalities manage teams of mixed-martial-arts fighters.

Another sports-related series, Ballers, will follow athletes as they party off the field.

Other new shows include, The 5ive, a weekly series that will showcase the top five hottest things happening in news and entertainment; Hell Date, a reality/game show that provides unsuspecting contestants what they say they want in a soul mate; Judge Mooney, starring comedian Paul Mooney as a celebrity judge who will rule on real cases; Sunday Best, an American Idol-esque show that will provide undiscovered gospel singers a chance at fame; and Exalted!, a biography series spotlighting a different inspirational leader each week.

On the awards front, BET will team up with Black Enterprise to develop The Icon Awards, which will air in 2008 during Black History Month. The awards celebrate talented, ambitious, generous and crusading members of the African-American community.

Also new to the schedule is Christmas Wish, a special concert of holiday favorites by one of music’s biggest artists.

The Icon Awards and Christmas Wish will join such other award shows/specials as Celebration of Gospel, BET Awards, Hip-Hop Awards and Spring Bling.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.