*As the host of my own daytime show, I can tell you that it is an exciting time to be working in television right now.
While visionaries such as Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey steadily work their plan, writer/producer hyphenates like “The Game’s” Mara Brock Ali, “Love That Girl’s” Bentley Evans and “Scandal’s” Shonda Rhimes are also holding court. New cable outlets with Magic Johnson and P Diddy, and broadcast models like Bounce TV, are further proof that more opportunities for minorities are forthcoming.
Even mainstays such as BET and TV One are seeking out original programming. And let’s not forget digital content creators including “Awkward Black Girl’s” Issa Raye and LA Web Fest’s Michael Ajakwe, both part of a small but growing cadre of creative people of color redefining what success in Hollywood looks like.
Entertainment Studios, the company founded by comedian turned Hollywood industry mogul Byron Allen, has also been quite busy over the last few years. Moving from overnight and educational/informational television programming to daytime and primetime syndication is no small fete, particularly for an independent studio. Yet Allen, as the Chairman and CEO of the LA based company, has been overseeing Entertainment Studio’s (ES) phenomenal growth with aplomb as buzz continues to spread over his most recent broadcast offerings.
With twenty-nine shows currently running and seven cable networks, the latest being “Legacy.tv for African Americans,” you would think that Allen, 50, had his hands full. Realizing a need to give prominence to extraordinary talent currently not seen as leads on primetime network shows, however, the married father of two girls is now directing his energies toward the situation-comedy genre.
Recently I was invited down to witness the making of a solid pilot featuring a premise that is sure to delight television audiences seeking quality family fare.
The show “First Family” showcases a literal who’s who of television royalty. Christopher B. Duncan (Jamie Foxx Show) plays the President of the United States, with Kellita Smith (Bernie Mac Show) as the First Lady. It was incredible watching these seasoned performers tell the story of a loving couple who make it a point to always put family first.
The actual series will follow the day-to-day on-goings of the President’s frenetic life inside the White House managing kids, bickering relatives and yes, the entire country.
“First Family” co-stars the hysterical John Witherspoon (“The Wayan’s Brothers”) and music icon Gladys Knight (currently seen on “Dancing With The Stars”) as the President’s parents. Several entertainment news outlets, including TMZ, are already reporting that a major network has expressed interest in the sitcom, with production being rushed in order to capitalize on Gladys’ “Dancing” fame.
America’s Court’s Judge Ross with the incomparable Gladys Knight
With the outrageous Jackee (“227,” “Sister, Sister“) and sensational Marla Gibbs (“The Jeffersons,” “227”) rounding out the ensemble as the First Lady’s big sister and mother respectively, to say there were comedic sparks flying everywhere would be an understatement.
As Allen noted, “”The amazing all-star cast we have assembled is truly special and television audiences around the world will laugh out loud and grow with them.”
If nothing else, those making the biggest inroads in the broadcast, cable and online content industries are not focused solely on Black shows. Rather, it’s clearly about writing, producing, directing, and distributing great shows on a global level that just happen to have Black people in front of and behind the camera. No one can dispute the challenges and obstacles that presently exist in the competitive, highly coveted business of show. But In 2012, the word “action” definitely has a new look. And from what I’m seeing firsthand, it’s a good one.
Kevin Ross presides over Entertainment Studios’ nationally syndicated America’s Court with Judge Ross. “Boss” Ross (as he is affectionately called) is also a producer on the hit daytime court show, currently in its 2nd season on broadcast and cable networks. After graduating from Morehouse College and Southwestern School of Law, the Los Angeles native worked as a deputy district attorney for eight years, including three as a hardcore gang prosecutor. Later, Ross would go on to become the youngest elected judge in the state of California, adjudicating well over some 60,000 cases during his seven years on the bench. Follow him on Twitter at @kevin_ross.
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