*The Associated Press has posted a piece exploring VH1’s new direction in black reality shows – and specifically, the difference in tone between the bawdiness of “Flavor of Love”/”I Love New York” era shows, and the more upscale vibe present in its new offerings built around Chilli, Brandy & Ray J Norwood, and Shaunie O’Neal.
“On her new VH1 reality dating show, Rozonda Thomas — better known as Chilli from the groundbreaking hip-hop group TLC — doesn’t lounge in bubble baths or hand out fake bling to her suitors. Instead, the 39-year-old singer and mother meets bachelors at black-tie affairs and confers with a dating expert, as well as her 12-year-old son,” writes AP entertainment writer Derrik J. Lang.
The cable network synonymous with “Flavor of Love” and its sleazy spin-offs is trading trampiness for fabulousness with a new slate of series starring seemingly well-adjusted rich and famous black Americans. VH1 executive vice president Jeff Olde admits that the shift from oh-no-they-didn’t fare to more mature material is totally intentional.
“We constantly have to evolve and tell our audience different stories,” he says. “I love that we’ve been able to get more diverse with our audience by — in large part — attracting African-American women to the network. We got them in the door with some shows, and now I’m excited about where we’re going and how we’re telling them different kinds of stories.”
For the notoriously trashy VH1, it’s not reality as usual. While cat fights will flare up with the “Basketball Wives” and Chilli promises a tiff with her sassy matchmaker on “What Chilli Wants,” these new shows certainly aren’t selling buzzworthy moments akin to “Flavor of Love” contestants spiting on each other or suddenly defecating on the floor.
“I watched ‘Flavor of Love’ myself,” attests Chilli. “It was definitely one of the shows I thought was interesting, but it made sense for Flav to do it just that way. For me, I wanted to do my show in a way that I would be comfortable with, and I was very happy that VH1 was on the same page with me. They did have a formula that has been working for them.”
Olde dismisses any past criticisms of “Flavor of Love” and its offspring, mostly produced by 51 Minds Entertainment, by calling the franchise ignited by black rapper Flavor Flav and his multiracial harem “big fun romantic comedies.” (Olde confirms that “I Love Money 3,” featuring murder suspect and suicide victim Ryan Jenkins, as well as the Jenkins-free “I Love Money 4” won’t air.)
Instead of lewd antics from “Flavor of Love” standout Tiffany “New York” Pollard or that toxic spill of “Charm School” women, the network is now interested in transformative experiences from celebrities, such as third season “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino or rapper Sandy “Pepa” Denton from Salt-N-Pepa. The evolution is already proving successful.
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