*BET held a session at the Television Critics Association press tour Saturday to promote their upcoming inauguration coverage, introduce a new head of programming and unveil its promising new series following young urban professionals in New York.
This is a historic time,” said BET CEO Debra Lee, speaking to reporters at the Universal Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles.
As previously reported, BET will saturate its schedule next week with coverage of the nation's first black president, Barack Obama.
In addition to a full day of live reporting from the inauguration on Jan. 20, the network will air two specials: “King to Obama,” looking at the impact the slain civil rights leader had on the president-elect, and “The Obama Effect,” in which a cross-section of African-Americans of different ages and backgrounds “reflect on how Obama’s rise has moved them,” Lee said.
Obama's presence also figures prominently in “Harlem Heights,” BET's upcoming reality show following a group of young college-educated professionals living and working in the New York neighborhood. In a departure from many reality shows, most of the "Harlem Heights" cast members either knew each other, or knew the show's creators and producers. Among the cast is Brooke Crittendon, a former assistant to MTV News chief David Sirulnick and ex-girlfriend of Kanye West.
During Saturday morning's Q&A session, Brooke tried to keep her famous ex-boyfriend a secret, apparently unaware that the room full of TV critics were all on laptop computers connected to wi-fi and a click away from Wikipedia. She explained that her reason for doing the show was to repair some of the tabloid damage she endured during her relationship with West.
"I was involved with a very famous rapper for a number of years," she said. "And I worked in the news and documentary department (at MTV). So a lot of our pop news involved myself. But because I sort of played the background to the person that I was dating, I had to go through people saying things about me or just sort of assuming who I was... I just was like, 'I just want to let people know what I really am and what I really do. I’m not just this person’s girlfriend.'”
When a reporter (likely without a laptop) asked Brooke to reveal the rapper's name, she replied:
"Part of my personal journey beyond actually wrapping the show is to not mention that person, because if I’m trying to get from under the shadow of being that person’s girlfriend, I feel like to constantly drop their name and that association is sort of saying, 'Hey, I don’t want you to think I’m just that, but I did used to date this really cool person,' you know what I mean?"
The show was acquired before Obama became the nominee of the Democratic Party, but cameras were rolling on the night of Nov. 4 and captured several of the cast members' emotional reactions to Obama's victory.
“None of us expected the election to be so meaningful to us and the people in Harlem,” said Loretha Jones, BET's new programming president. “We happened to be with these people on Election Night. And you saw their reaction to the election.”
"Harlem Nights" was acquired before Jones joined the network to replace former head of entertainment Reginald Hudlin. Since being named president of entertainment along with Stephen Hill in November, she has enjoyed “a pretty smooth transition” and said “it’s been very easy for me to get inspired about what BET has in store.”