Hustle Mindset

BET+ Deserves More Credit Than It’s Given


In the aftermath of the writers and actors strikes, there has been a noticeable contraction in Hollywood, which — to the surprise of no one that knows the industry — has already affected Black-led television shows far worse than their white-led counterparts.

As depressing as the state of Black television might feel right now, there are some bright spots. However, they are on a platform I worry not enough people even know about: BET+.

Last week, “Diarra from Detroit,” a hilarious dark comedy and mystery series helmed by its star, Diarra Kilpatrick, concluded its delightful eight-episode first season in satisfying fashion.

The series follows Diarra Brickland, a public school teacher in the midst of a divorce from her husband Swa (Morris Chestnut). After deciding to hit the dating scene by way of Tinder, she meets a handsome man, they hit it off, and just as she’s looking forward to their second date, he vanishes. Refusing to believe she had been ghosted, she soon finds herself embroiled in a decades-old mystery.

For fans of old mysteries like “Murder She Wrote,” “Columbo” and “Perry Mason,” “Diarra from Detroit” plays true to the whodunit format with a voice and wit that is contemporary, and yes, very Black.

Or, as the Washington Post’s Helena AndrewsDyer put it: “What if Nancy Drew were a chic Black woman? That’s ′Diarra from Detroit.’”

As I watched the pilot, I did think to myself how nice it was to see Black folks, often solely depicted as the victims in crime shows, drive the narrative ourselves.

For better or worse, Americans have developed a collective insatiable appetite for all things murder. “Diarra from Detroit” proves that we, too, can do well with the format, and if anything, can bring hilarity to amateur detective-focused art. More pointedly, the show proves that when it comes to mysteries, Black women don’t just have to be the victims.

And while I don’t want to give too much away about the show, believe me when I tell you that you want to see Phylicia Rashad play a character who claims to have slept with the entire original lineup of The Temptations.

The show has received rave reviews from critics, and as I’ve noted in recent months, has garnered some impressive press attention via outlets like NPR’s Fresh Air, New York’s Vulture and the Grio. (HuffPost also covered the series as one of the standouts at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2023.)

However, when I tried to tell some of my friends — the target demo of Black folks — about the show, I ran into familiar questions: “What’s that?” or “Where can I watch it?”

Followed by the usual, “Oh, I’m not paying for that,” or, “I’ll sign up when there’s another BET+ sale,” and of course, “Well, gimme ya password and I’ll check it out.”

I heard the same thing about other BET + favorites of mine like, the dark comedy “Average Joe,” created by Robb Cullen and starring Deon Cole, which premiered last June. The series follows a plumber who learns that his recently deceased father stole $10 million from the Russian mafia.

Deon Cole in “Average Joe” on BET+

Andrew Thomas Clifton/BET+

My beloved “American Gangsters: Trap Queens” is a docuseries that features Black women accused of all types of crimes, ranging from drug dealing to scamming to public corruption, narrated by Lil’ Kim.

There’s “Bigger,” created by Felischa Marye and produced by Will Packer, which follows “five thirty-somethings living in Atlanta as they try to build professional and personal lives they can be proud of.” It wrapped in 2021 following two seasons.

And there’s “The Family Business,” helmed by the playwright Carl Weber, a show I would describe as “secular Tyler Perry with a family devoted to drug dealing.” Don’t take that as shade; it is a compliment. In fact, when my mother died last October — though there is no such thing as distraction from a loss like that — I found myself focusing on that show weeks later and binged all of the episodes on Netflix. I mean, where else can you see LisaRaye, Tami Roman, Ernie Hudson, Sheila E. and seemingly half of Black Hollywood all on the same show?

I’ve since discovered his other show, “Carl Weber’s The Black Hamptons,” led by Vanessa Bell Calloway as the siddity-but-cutthroat matriarch.

There’s the recently released “Churchy,” created by Kevin Fredericks, which chronicles the son of a megachurch pastor who moves to Texas to start his own ministry.

Kevin Fredericks as Corey Carr Jr. in "Churchy" on BET+.
Kevin Fredericks as Corey Carr Jr. in “Churchy” on BET+.

KevOnStage Studios and SpringHill Company

For all the criticism BET has garnered over the years — namely about its original programming, or lack thereof — I find the content on the app more interesting than it’s often given credit for. In many cases, the series on the network’s streaming service are arguably more interesting than what’s airing on TV.

I enjoy the judge show “Ms. Pat Settles It” on BET, but I sure hope more folks know how well “The Ms. Pat Show” — starring actor/comedian Patricia “Ms. Pat” Williams as a former drug dealer and convicted felon turned suburban mom — works with the old multi-camera sitcom format.

When I poll people about the BET+ platform, they usually know Tyler Perry is all over it (I admittedly watch all of the Madea plays on there), but they don’t know much else.

Typically, I loathe when people play laptop label-head — or in this case, Google Docs television executive — but I do hope there becomes more symmetry between BET, the cable network, and BET+, the streamer.

In the age of inflation, people pick and choose what to spend their money on; on top of that, how often do many of your friends and family complain about how there are too many apps and platforms?

As of last year, BET+ reportedly had 3 million subscribers. That’s not nothing, but for a platform with so much varied content, it should have more eyes on it. As much as many of us in the media want to advocate for the app, it has to become more accessible.

I don’t know what it will take to get more people to tap into BET+, but I hope the folks running it figure it out. Because it’s clear that Black audiences deserve far more than what most networks have been giving us.

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