- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Wooing older viewers

Viacom’s BET wants to draw more of the older, affluent black audience also prized by newer rivals, such as Comcast-backed TV One.

According to Multichannel.com, BET hopes to get there with new programming and a proposed new channel — Centric — that could take over existing channel slots used by BET J and MTV Networks’ digital outlet VH1 Soul. BET officials, however, wouldn’t spell out how they would achieve their stated base of 45 million subscribers when Centric launches in October, Multichannel.com reports.

BETN President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Mills would only say BETN and MTVN “will work very closely with our affiliate partners to hopefully achieve this [distribution] goal.”

BET J, though, was not part of BET’s upfront presentation to advertisers in New York on Thursday night, and several BET J programs, including the interview program “Leading Men,” were showcased as content for Centric.

The 89 million-subscriber BET plans new family and empowerment-tinged reality shows and news programming to bring in 25-to-54-year-old viewers, expanding beyond the core 18-to-34-year-old black audience it also wants to retain.

Paxton Baker, executive vice president and general manager of BETN’s 27-million-subscriber channel BET J, will oversee Centric, BET officials said.

Centric initially will feature entertainment/reality fare, but Mr. Baker said it could offer some news and public-affairs programming in the near future.

Some original shows already slated for Centric include “Model City,” a reality show about black male models in New York City, and “Keeping Up With the Joneses,” about a Houston-based female entrepreneur.

Centric also will revive the “Soul Train Music Awards,” after a seven-year absence from television.

Borrowed fare from MTVN will include MTV’s “Run’s House” and VH1’s ” I Wanna Work for Diddy.”

BET’s new fare includes “The Mo’nique Show,” a new nightly talk show starring the popular Baltimore-born comic and actress; “Crews Control,” a reality series following actor Terry Crews (“Everybody Hates Chris”) and his family; and “Monica: Still Standing,” a docudrama about the Grammy Award-winning artist as she balances family life and a musical career.

Leno to visit Ohio

Residents rocked by thousands of layoffs at the local airport or otherwise struggling to survive in the shaky economy are hoping laughter is the best medicine.

More than 2,000 people in Wilmington, Ohio, picked up tickets Monday to next month’s free comedy show by “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno, who is bringing his act to southwestern Ohio as a morale booster.

People in shorts, sunhats and baseball caps sat in lawn chairs or on the ground to form lines that stretched out from four entrances to the Roberts Centre, where Mr. Leno will hold his Comedy Stimulus show May 10, Associated Press reports.

Wilmington, a city of 12,000, has drawn national attention as a vivid example of the economic struggles of small U.S. communities during the recession, and both presidential candidates discussed its plight last year.

Mr. Leno — who returned to the “Tonight Show” Monday evening after a brief hospital stay — also has performed free comedy concerts in the recession-wracked Detroit area.

MTV hires ‘Stylist’

MTV is getting into the fashion-competition space with a new project from “The Real World” producers Bunim-Murray.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the network is set to announce a series order for “The Stylist” on Tuesday during its upfront presentation to advertisers. On the show, a group of fashion stylists design-savvy professionals who assemble clothes and accessories for celebrities and models — compete for a contract with a major agency.

“Stylist” marks a slight departure for the network, THR notes. MTV has aired occupation-based competition series in the past, including “Miss Seventeen.” However, the format for “Stylist” also would be at home on such networks as Bravo, TLC and the CW. The number of episodes and “Stylist” premiere date are not known.

In other MTV news, the network has renewed Reveille’s dating show “Parental Control,” THR says.

The sixth-season order of 80 episodes will make “Control” the network’s longest-running dating series, with more than 200 episodes. On the show, frustrated parents attempt to get rid of their son’s or daughter’s significant other by setting him or her up on blind dates.

TLC’s summer set

TLC’s smash series “Jon & Kate Plus 8” will return Memorial Day weekend as part of the channel’s all-new summer schedule, Broadcastingcable.com reported Monday. The show’s fifth season premieres May 25 at 9 p.m.

Following the return of “Jon & Kate” at 10 will be the series premiere of “Cake Boss,” featuring baker Buddy Valastro as he works to fulfill his father’s dream of establishing a well-known bakery in Hoboken, N.J. The show also explores Mr. Valastro’s relationships with his large Italian family.

TLC’s May 26 lineup features “The Little Couple,” in which newlyweds Bill Klein and Jen Arnold — both less than 4 feet tall — share the trials and tribulations of love and marriage. Another new high-end wedding series, “Wedded to Perfection,” is also upcoming.

The week of new programming concludes May 29 at 9 p.m. with the beginning of a seventh season of the makeover-and-style show “What Not to Wear.” Mayim Bialik, star of the ‘90s sitcom “Blossom,” will appear in the opening episode.

Olyphant on ‘Fire’

Timothy Olyphant is done with “Damages,” but his time on FX may not be over.

The actor, who joined the cable channel’s twisty legal drama this season, has been tapped to star in a pilot for FX, Zap2it.com reports. The show is based on an Elmore Leonard story titled “Fire in the Hole,” which follows a U.S. marshal as he returns to his Kentucky hometown.

“He has a certain jaggedness, but he also loves his job,” creator Graham Yost tells the Hollywood Reporter while describing the character.

“He is like an anachronism: He wears a hat, cowboy boots and a holster on his hip. It’s a little bit like he was born 100 years too late.”

Mr. Olyphant played the mysterious and conflicted Wes Krulik on “Damages” this season. He also starred on HBO’s “Deadwood” and in the movies “Hitman” and “Live Free or Die Hard.”

On tap tonight

American Idol (8, Fox5-WTTG) — The remaining five finalists perform Rat Pack standards.

Secrets of the Dead (10, WETA-Channel 26) — The eighth season ends with “Sinking Atlantis,” a report on the Minoan civilization, a Bronze Age society on the isle of Crete. Remarks by archaeologist Sandy MacGillivray also are featured.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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