This Fall BET Networks is offering a diverse line-up of original programming. From a new face on the late-night talk show scene, to a fiscally focused game show, to a heart-pounding look at the lives of Compton, Los Angeles firefighters and a series of thought-provoking specials, BET’s new slate provides a broad spectrum of real-life stories.
PREMIERES SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 AT 6:30 P.M.*
There’s a force-of-nature behind the door to Room 325 at Frankford High School in Philadelphia. Her name is Wilma Stephenson and she teaches Culinary Arts. She has taught at Frankford for 40 years, long before Culinary Arts became part of the school’s curriculum. Infamously blunt, Mrs. Stephenson runs a “boot camp” at Frankford, disciplining her students into capable chefs and responsible students. Behind her tough-talking exterior is a teacher, who cares passionately about getting the best out of her students and making sure they receive the opportunities – including scholarships to top programs – that will help them to escape the meager minimum-wage job opportunities of Northeast Philly. She can be cantankerous, and she knows it, but she will do anything for the students who get with the program and show true promise and the hunger to succeed. PRESSURE COOKER, a Participant Media and Non Sequitur Production, directed by Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker, documents Mrs. Stephenson and those students committed enough to surrender themselves to her enlightened despotism through two semesters in Culinary Arts. By the end of the school year, 13 of her students will have made it through the gauntlet. These seniors aspire to scholarships that will enable them to move on to a future of opportunity. At a school where over 40% of students don’t even make it to their senior year, Ms. Stephenson’s class stands in stark contrast, with 11 members of last year’s class earning over $750,000 in scholarships. She offers the kids her version of the American Dream: You choose a realistic goal. You work hard. You work the system. You get out of Northeast Philly.
“BRING YOUR ‘A’ GAME”
PREMIERES SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 AT 9:00 P.M.*
Actor and director Mario Van Peebles and producer Karen Williams partnered with the Twenty-First Century Foundation (a national foundation created to facilitate giving for Black community change) to produce a documentary entitled; BRING YOUR ‘A’ GAME. In the documentary, prominent Black men from diverse professional fields are asked one simple question: “What does it take to bring your ‘A’ Game and to succeed in life?” Using hip, computer-generated, videogame-style design and music to present messages of success strategies, educational achievement, mentorship, and discipline, BRING YOUR ‘A’ GAME seeks to reach out to its target audience of young Black males who lack adequate role models and the tools for professional success. Interviewees include: Richard “Dick” Parsons, Chris Rock, Ice Cube, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Spike Lee, Kevin Liles, Mayor Cory Booker, Lou Gossett, Jr., Hill Harper, Damon Dash, Kevin Powell, Geoffrey Canada, Bruce Gordon and Allan Houston. Alongside the famous faces, everyday people also share their stories of success, including Ernest Austin (Ex-Offenders Action Network), the “Three Doctors” from Newark, New Jersey, Dr. Sampson Davis, Dr. Rameck Hunt and Dr. George Jenkins, and Van Jones (White House Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation).
“HEART OF THE CITY”
PREMIERES SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 12 AT 10 P.M.*
BET News travels to cities across America to examine the real issues devastating some African American communities in the original series HEART OF THE CITY. Along with highlighting some of the worst problems facing our nation’s urban centers, the series will also reveal the efforts of individuals who have dedicated their lives to bringing about positive change in their communities. The premiere episode of HEART OF THE CITY takes viewers to Detroit, Michigan – ground zero of our national education crisis. The episode will try to discover why so many African Americans in Detroit schools are failing and why its system is failing our kids.
PREMIERES WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, AT 10:00 P.M.*
Chronicled by actor, singer Tyrese Gibson, FIRST IN, is a 10-episode half-hour original series that delves into the lives of Compton’s firefighters and paramedics as they try to balance the high stress of a gruesome 72-hour work schedule and family life. Emotions run high as the men and women work long hours in a fast-paced, high intensity atmosphere compounded by the daily pressure of saving lives. Though Compton only has a population of about 100,000 people, there are a reported 75 active gangs operating within the area, making it a unique environment for the city’s emergency teams.
With one of the highest crime rates in the country, gunshot wounds, gang related violence, and mangled cars are just another day on the job for these highly trained professionals. Day after day, all the drama is caught on tape as the team – an ambulance operator, multiple firefighters, an intern and one of the youngest Battalion Chiefs in the country, Marcel Melanson, of the Compton Fire Department – fight battles both at home and on the job.
“PAY IT OFF”
PREMIERES FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2, AT 10:00 P.M.*
In these tough economic times, wouldn’t it be nice to get out of the red and on the path to financial freedom? Everyone is looking for some relief, especially debt relief. Hosted by actress/comedienne Kim Coles, BET introduces the groundbreaking new game show PAY IT OFF, which gives contestants the chance to change their lives and pay off mounting debt just by answering a few questions. PAY IT OFF is the first game show of its kind specifically aimed at helping individuals defray their bills and debts – one game at a time. While most game shows focus primarily on the mechanics of the game play, PAY IT OFF focuses on the personal debt dilemmas of everyday people. This unique game show is divided into five rounds with increasing levels of difficulty within each round. As the game play progresses, the contestant has a chance to win more money to pay towards his/her debt. If the contestant makes it successfully through all five rounds, he/she then has the chance to earn $25,000 in the final “Back in the Black” bonus round.
PREMIERES TUESDAY, OCTOBER 27, AT 10:00 P.M.*
After a brief hiatus from the music industry, Monica is back in the spotlight with an intimate, profound docu-drama that takes a look at her day-to-day world in the new original BET series MONICA: STILL STANDING. Beginning Tuesday, October 27, Monica will open her heart and life to viewers every week at 10:00 pm* and take them on her personal journey of survival and enlightenment. Viewers will have the chance to experience the many faces of Monica as she balances family, deals with trials, triumphs and health challenges, records her fifth album, “STILL STANDING” and tackles the hardest job of all – being a full-time mother of two young sons. Even with all of the success in her entertainment career as a Grammy(R) Award-winning, multi-platinum recording artist and actress, Monica’s life has not been without its challenges. Yet, through the spiritual guidance of her parents, family and fiancee she withstood the storms of life and that same support keeps her standing today. Strong, poised and vivacious, Monica wants to show viewers and fans that anything is possible once you set your mind to do it. She wants them to know “sometimes you have to go through to get to.”
“THE MO’NIQUE SHOW”
PREMIERES MONDAY, OCTOBER 5, TIME 11:00 P.M.*
The sassy and sultry Queen of Comedy Mo’Nique returns to BET this fall for her highly anticipated late night show debut, THE MO’NIQUE SHOW. Carving out a well-deserved spot on the late-night show circuit, comedienne Mo’Nique takes the show host helm, granting BET viewers VIP access to the hottest party on television. From A-list celebrity guests to sizzling performances by the hottest musical artists in the game, Mo’Nique delivers viewers a fun-filled hour of entertainment every night. Boasting show announcer Rodney Perry, a resident deejay, the Big Jim and the Penthouse Players house band, plus Mo’Nique bringing the funny as only she can, THE MO’NIQUE SHOW will undoubtedly force viewers to push their bedtime an extra hour. Each night promises to offer something different; whether the show opens with a funny monologue or eye-popping skit, Mo’Nique is determined to keep her show format fluid, leaving viewers curious as to what the following night’s show will bring.