If you read this blog, you know that I’m quite hard on BET’s shows, The Game and Reed Between The Lines, for not being as good as they should be. But it’s worth stating that it’s terrific to finally be in a position to even critique original programming on the channel. It took forever for BET to start developing projects, so even if their first few shots out the gate aren’t perfect it’s still important that the network is even trying.
Which brings me to BET’s announcement of next year’s television lineup. A new Wayans family production doesn’t excite me, but this does:
Also being fast tracked is “Gun Hill,” which would be BET’s first scripted drama. The series, which stars Larenz Tate and is being developed by Reggie Bythewood (“New York Undercover,” “Get on the Bus”), gives what producers call “a twisted spin to the biblical Cain and Abel story”: The lives of identical twins on opposite sides of the law — one is a cop and the other is a con — become intertwined one night when the cop is killed and the con assumes his identity.
I think the challenge for Bythewood, Tate and BET is to resist the urge to make the show simple. We are in an era where audiences are really responding to nuance and antihero protagonists. It would be great to have a show like that that is about black people.
And with an actor like Tate, who can go from sociopathic O-Dog to charming Darius to the dynamic Frankie Lymon with impressive ease, there is no reason they can’t actually create a multifaceted character to rival Tony Soprano or Don Draper. Because if done right, Gun Hill could have the potential to do for BET what Mad Men did for AMC and The Shield did for FX. To do that, the producers have to eschew the simplistic positive/negative binary and go for broke.