Debra L. Lee speaks of her experiences in the television industry and leading a black female-focused network Monday.

BET Networks CEO, Debra L. Lee Explains Pledge to ‘Tell Stories Differently’

Debra L. Lee, chairperson and CEO of Black Entertainment Television Networks, discussed her highly successful career in entertainment Monday in the Alice Statler Auditorium. Lee — who was named one of the 100 most powerful women in entertainment by  “The Hollywood Reporter,” addressed BET Networks’ unique position as a source of black entertainment. “We’re BET — we’re different, and we should do things that other networks won’t cover or won’t put on the air,” Lee said. “Covering stories that no one else does — whether it’s Katrina 10 Years Later: Through Hell in High Water, an O.J. [Simpson] story or a documentary on Muhammad Ali and how he influenced hip hop — is, for sure, part of BET’s mandate.”
Lee also mentioned Madiba — a six-part miniseries on the life of Nelson Mandela which will air later this year — as evidence of BET’s commitment to “telling stories differently.”
“It’s the first time a black director [Kevin Hooks] has told the story of Nelson Mandela,” she said. “That may make a difference compared to having white directors tell Mandela’s story.”
Lee broached recent criticisms of the entertainment industry for its lack of black entertainment.

GUEST ROOM | An Ode to Binge-Watching

Many thanks to the Internet, the television world and the desire for more cutting-edge content, binge-watching has become America’s pastime. For many, there is nothing more satisfying (yet also daunting) than spending hours on end watching a series, and then finally completing it. In the days before readily accessible media, it would take (literally) years to start and finish a television show. You also had to start it as soon as it was on air in order to ensure you didn’t miss a beat. Fans had to make sure their DVR was set (if they even had it) in the event they couldn’t work with a network’s agenda to get a show out.

COURTESY OF ABC

Breaking Rules and Following Tropes: The Real O’Neals

For a network that gave us Black-ish, Fresh Off The Boat and Modern Family, a sitcom about a white Irish-Catholic family seems a little out of place. After all, this is 2016! Didn’t Shonda Rhimes promise to protect America from yet another all-white cast? Despite its first impression, the premise for The Real O’Neals tries to be more audacious that it initially appears. The series, which debuted earlier this month, follows the members of a supposedly perfect Christian family as they are forced to face circumstances that challenge their righteous  —  yet image-obsessed  —  lifestyle.

Photo Courtesy of TTV

KILLING TIME JOYOUSLY | Throwback – The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog

When I went home for winter break and saw The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog broadcasting on television for the twentieth time since its first airing in 2005, I still felt the nostalgia that only certain dramas can evoke in me. The plot is quite cliché and unrealistic at times, but it is one of those classic dramas that unknowingly makes you accept the impossible for the hour that it broadcasts just so you can immerse yourself in the romantic fantasy of the drama. As expected, The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog revolves around the love story between a poor girl and a rich man – you know the gist. But their relationship is actually much more complicated than you think, with Shan Jun Hao, the CEO of a hotel chain, constantly getting into accidents and losing his memory and Ye Tian Yu, an ambitious gold digger, falling in love with the contrived identity she gave Jun Hao when he first loses his memory. Not to mention, Jun Hao was already engaged with his childhood friend Fan Yun Xi when he falls in love with Tian Yu after Tian Yu takes care of him while he remains clueless about his own past.

COURTESY OF  AMC

An Interview with Semi Chellas of Mad Men

Semi Chellas is a writer and co-executive producer for the acclaimed television series Mad Men. The Emmy-nominated writer studied English at Cornell as a Mellon fellow, and on March 10 will be returning to campus to speak at Klarman Hall. In anticipation of her lecture, “Telling Secrets: Notes from the Writers’ Room,” the Sun had a chance to speak with Chellas about her experiences writing for Mad Men and her opinions on the television industry in general. The Sun: What are the day-to-day operations like working in the writers’ room? Semi Chellas: There were about 10 to 12 people in the writing room, including two advertising people — i.e. not advertisers for the show but people who worked in advertising — [including] one that worked in advertising in the 60s.

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Girls’ Fifth Season Goes Off Like a Bomb

The first episode of HBO’s Girls hotly anticipated season five is simply and ineptly named “Wedding Day.”  A more fitting title may instead be “The Abominable Bridesmaids,” or “Rain on Her Wedding Parade,”or even perhaps most accurately, “Lives of 20-Somethings Go Off Like Bombs in Slow Motion (at a Wedding).”

Girls has been a staple of quirky feminist television since 2012, drawing much of its plot line from writer Lena Dunham’s own life experiences. Few other shows offer such powerful statements on the modern female existence, incorporating key elements on issues of self-image, body shaming in the social media and hard-hitting takes on women’s rights to services such as abortion. Naturally, the show has drawn several points of controversy — namely regarding its ethnic representation. In The Independent, Catherine Scott critiques both the writers and characters in the show in a scathing review, “What’s there to celebrate for feminism when black, Hispanic or Asian women are totally written out of a series that’s supposedly set in one of the most diverse cities on earth? But also, what’s there to celebrate for feminism when a show depicts four entirely self-interested young women and a lead character having the most depressing, disempowered sexual relationships imaginable?”

At the end of season four last year, audiences were left with a number of dilemmas spawning from the four main characters’ hectic personal relationships.

Despite its flaws, The People vs. O.J. Simpson is still an engaging watch.

Imperfect Crime: The People vs. O.J. Simpson

There is no doubt that The People vs. O.J. Simpson will gain popular traction just by virtue of the nature of its content. Whether it deserves this traction is a valid question; given the interesting cast (Cuba Gooding Jr., David Schwimmer, John Travolta) and its place on a cable channel new to making homemade dramas (FX), it seems that The People vs. O.J. Simpson is predestined to be flawed. While regurgitating a beaten crime story — especially considering the emotional distress the Simpson family must continually face — seems questionable, the show demonstrates how the case has obvious parallels to today’s racial tensions.

Call Girl Conglomerate

In today’s job market, many of us are probably rethinking our career goals. Prostitution may or may not have occurred to you as an option, but we’d be lying if we said it hadn’t occurred to us. These days, you can see a highly debated version of the high class prostitute lifestyle, one very different from Julia Roberts’ fairy tale, on Showtime’s series Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billy Piper, which is based on the true-life confessions of Belle de Jour, a call girl-turned-writer in London. Although Belle’s actual identity is kept secret, London’s most (in)famous call girl agreed to chat with The Sun about prostitution, her university days and how she would have made Twilight differently.

Bring on the Bloodshed

Gossip Girl is alluring and utterly addicting. Desperate Housewives, despite Eva Longoria’s recent departure from modelesque glamour and Teri Hatcher’s ever-escalating ability to irritate me (though she used to be my favorite) will always hold a special place in my heart. I hear Lost is fantastic and that The Office is the best thing that’s ever happened to NBC (no, I would not know this from personal viewing experience — please don’t hurt me). As for Grey’s Anatomy, in my opinion if it hopes to be remembered as anything at all, its best bet would be to go off the air immediately. Although a friend recently told me that something amazing just happened with Izzy, I’m going to have to say that it’s too little, too late.

Break Out Your TiVo!

Around this time last year, I was unbelievably sad. No, not because the semester was starting back up again, but because my usual favorite thing about late January, new and returning mid-season shows, would not come to pass because of that horrible period you might recall as The Writer’s Strike (though I prefer the name “Oh Hello, Boredom! Yes, please, come, hang out with us for three months, seven days and some-odd hours.”)
Thankfully, that’s long gone, and therefore I can happily guide you in all the good and bad returning and new shows of mid-season 2009, (or what I’d rather call, “Tata, Boredom! It’s been swell — NOT. Don’t let the door hit you on your monotonous behind on the way out.” Am I being silly? Yes, I am, but that’s the-return-of-TV joy for you.