Hot Ghetto Mess Review: Was there Too Much Made of This Show?
Is this what everyone was so worried about?
True, the debut episode of BET's We Got to Do Better, aired at 10:30 tonight, was a disjointed, hyperactive sprawl, playing out like an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos drenched in urban cool. But it was hard to reconcile the tsunami of outrage mounting against this show nationwide with the mostly mediocre program BET unveiled tonight.
The balance of the show was divided between clips of people acting stupidly -- which, despite the show's original title Hot Ghetto Mess, featured folks of all races failing to act sensibly -- and clips of people asked questions requiring a particular knowledge in a segment called "streetwalkin'."
So the clips featureed an awful commercial in which a guy holding a joint urged people to use his wireless service named G-Mobile; a teeth-challenged black man who made up his own words to the star spangled banner, and an overweight white woman who plunged into a mud bath while competing in something called the Redneck Games.
The question segments were more interesting, asking an assortment of average people questions such as: "Are there any African Americans on the Supreme Court (most people shown couldn't provide the answer: Clarence Thomas)," or "What does the NAACP stand for? (most people didn't get that one, either)
"I'm hoping that, by seeing examples of people acting like damn fools, you will be less likely to replicate the behavior yourself," said host Charlie Murphy, who must not have re-recorded his segments after BET tried to tamp down protests by changing the show's name; he kept calling the show by its original moniker, Hot Ghetto Mess.
I'm betting the protest around the show mostly convinced producers to change the graphic images. The logo of the Web site on which the show is based, which features a stereotypical blackface-style character behind a red circle with a line through it was absent. Instead, there were circles with lines through a handgun, a blinged-out necklace and other examples of ghetto excess.
Mostly, it felt to me that the point of this show was blunted by spreading the focus to groups outside of the black community. It gives those are protesting less room to complain, but it also, curiously, seems to sap the show of its pro-black mission.
BET seemed to capitalize on the attention by loading up the show with commercials for their other new programs -- or the protests targeting advertisers were more effective than they've admitted.
At any rate, We Got to Do Better probably should do better. Even if its success will just revive another argument -- whether these extreme images of black folks should be tolerated by people of good conscience anywhere.