This past weekend, I caught TJ Holmes back in the anchor chair, moonlighting as a substitute anchor on MSNBC and I have to say, he looked WAY more comfortable then he’s looked on his new show Don’t Sleep on BET. I watched Don’t Sleep and from the beginning, I new that something was off. The content was great and the meaning was there but it sat between two worlds and didn’t seem to have its own identity other than it was a show that focused on the African American community. Was it funny, serious…both? Whatever it was, it wasn’t clicking with viewers and BET hit the panic button.
I’ve been a fan of TJ’s since his days on the SF Bay Area news affiliate, KNTV. While serious, he was able to have fun delivering the nightly news and was a big reason many of us tuned in to his newscast. When he moved on to CNN, I was glad to see that his style of journalism was being seen by a broader audience because he made you want to watch the news. When I learned about him moving over to BET, I wasn’t as optimistic.
I was excited because it was TJ but knowing that BET, who for so long had pushed quality programming aside for the quick dollar that ratchet television brings was involved, I hoped for the best and like everyone else tuned in to the first episode. I got the premise of the show but knew right away that something was missing. The writing was strong but the show was missing that “Je ne sais quois” and for me it was boring. It was obvious, as the show progressed and the viewership went down, that I wasn’t the only one who noticed that the show just wasn’t working.
BET noticed, as well, and immediately panicked cutting the show to once a week for an hour instead of the four days a week originally scheduled and The President of BET, Debra Lee, came out swinging telling us that the shows ratings proved that the African American community didn’t want quality programming. Huh? I laughed hard at that one! We wanted quality programming but it seemed that BET forgot not only how to provide quality programming…they also forgot what quality programming looked like.
TJ as the host of Don’t Sleep didn’t seem to be connecting with the viewers the way he did as an anchor and the format while good on paper, wasn’t exactly what “we” as viewers were looking for in an all about “us” show. A show like Don’t Sleep needs time to find its voice and instead of hitting the panic button a month in, what BET should have done was give the show the time needed and the right people to tweak it instead of cutting it and declaring that the reason they don’t put out quality shows is because the viewers won’t support.
Seeing that TJ is making moves says that something is coming down the pipeline and while I want his show to succeed, I’m not mad at him for exercising his options.