Jodi Williams, Tatyana Ali, Bentley Kyle Evans, Cathy Hughes

*An exuberant Cathy Hughes, the powerful and likeable Radio One founder/chairperson, could hardly contain her excitement at the special programming presentation TV One hosted on Wednesday, February 2, 2010 for the media at Cipriani, on 42nd Street in Grand Central.  Hughes’ contagious excitement was also caused by her TV station having celebrated its highest-rated and most viewed year ever!

The real-life and entertainment network for African American adults has introduced a high energy, new talk/variety series for Black History Month, Way Black When, and will bring back new seasons of its most popular series throughout the year, including a reality series, a reality competition series and its two beloved bio-pic series.

Launched in January 2004, TV One (www.tvoneonline.com ) serves more than 51.5 million households, offering a broad range of real-life and entertainment-focused original programming, classic series, movies, and music designed to entertain, inform and inspire a diverse audience of adult African American viewers.  In December 2008, the company launched TV One High Def, which now serves nearly 10 million households.

In 2010, TV One delivered its highest-rated year in the network’s history, experiencing double digit growth in primetime among households, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.  Season to date (2010-2011), the trend is continuing, with ratings up by double digits over the same period last year among households (13 percent), and among adults 25-54 (16 percent) and 18-49 (18 percent).

Karen Wishart, Cathy Hughes, Keith Bowen, Smokey Fontaine

The success of TV One is attributable to its stellar staff – many of whom attended the luncheon — including TV One EVP/chief legal officer Karen Wishart; TV One/Radio One EVP and chief revenue officer Keith Bowen; SVP of original programming Toni Judkins; TV One president and CEO Johnathan Rodgers; SVP of program strategy and acquisitions Maureen Guthman; Interactive One chief content officer Smokey Fontaine; actress Tatyana Ali, star of TV One’s first original scripted series; Bentley Kyle Evans, creator of Love That Girl!; and Jodi Williams, publisher of Radio One’s The Frequency Magazine.

Bel Biv DeVoe and Mint Condition thrilled luncheon attendees with over-the-top performances leaving them clamoring for more.  Hughes told the keyed up crowd that they’ll just have to watch Way Black When if they wanted to hear more.

During the program, Hughes, who also hosts the popular One on One show, announced plans for new and returning series through fourth quarter 2011 and here’s what viewers can eagerly look forward to:

Way Black When is a high-energy, one-hour talk show designed to reflect back on the golden age of black culture that emerged during the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. The talk show will showcase Black pop culture icons across three decades – the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s — including actors, comedians, athletes, musicians and many more — from Black Power through Hip Hop. Each week a host who embodies the decade’s essence guides a live studio audience and television viewers on their trip back through ‘blackness,’ including Sinbad for the ‘70s; Niecy Nash for the ‘80s and Chris “Kid” Reid for the ‘90s.  Providing the music for the prime time odyssey will be the house band, Mint Condition, known for its diverse musical style and captivating live performances.

LisaRaye: The Real McCoy — TV One’s top-rated series returns for a new season.  Filmed in Puerto Rico, Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas, LisaRaye continues working to fully re-establish her critically acclaimed acting career, while balancing a far-flung and complex personal life.  This season the beautiful, outspoken star of film and television is kicking her own acting career back into high gear with a new scripted series; burnishing her brand with a new line of jeans; raising money for charity to help friends; helping to get her daughter Kai’s career off the ground, and looking for love – and spirituality.

Donald J. Trump Presents The Ultimate Merger — Toccara, the super model, Celebrity Fit Club and America’s Top Model contender, and Essence magazine contributing style editor, will set out in search for her perfect mate in season two of Donald J. Trump Presents the Ultimate Merger by putting a cool dozen hot and successful bachelors through a gauntlet of tests in her search for Mr. Right.  These challenges are designed to play upon their weaknesses, test their business acumen, measure their seductive strengths, and draw out their true intentions.  Donald J. Trump and Trump Productions president Andy Litinsky created the eight episode reality series that is produced by Trump Productions LLC and Juma Entertainment.

Unsung — This series of one-hour biography specials celebrates the lives and careers of successful artists or groups who, despite great talent, over the years have been under-recognized or under-appreciated.  The 12 new episodes of the critically acclaimed NAACP Image Award-nominated bio series reveals the multiple factors that have kept these artists from achieving the iconic commercial status they deserved.  And, in the process, these specials “sing” the praises and celebrate the artistry that has kept fellow artists and fans talking about them for years.

Life After — TV One returns with 10 new episodes of its buzzed about series Life After, the real, behind-the-scenes story of how some of America’s favorite celebrities have dealt with major turning points in their lives, be those moments public or private, triumphant or tragic. Part biography, part confessional and all celebration of the human spirit, each episode of Life After focuses on a well-known person or group and tells the story of a transformative event in their lives and its effects upon them ever afterward.

Trumpet Awards — TV One again in 2011 serves as the television home for the Trumpet Awards, which were created in 1993 to honor African-American achievement in diverse fields such as law, religion, politics, public service, sports and entertainment.

(Photos above by Ronnie Wright)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.