*HBO has teamed with film and TV director Salim Akil for “Mr. Director,” a single-camera comedy project Akil is set to write, produce and direct.
Currently in development, the show is envisioned as being in the vein of Larry David’s documentary-style HBO comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but with the backdrop of Black Hollywood.
Like David, Akil will play a version of himself in “Mr. Director,” which will explore the life and times of Salim in the business and highlights the outrageous, circuitous path taken to become one of Hollywood’s Top 50 showrunner/directors.
Akil is currently finishing Season 7 of BET’s “The Game,” on which he serves as director as well as co-showrunner alongside the series’ creator, his producing partner/wife, Mara Brock Akil.
Under Akils’ rich multi-year deal with BET, Salim Akil also executive produces Brock Akil’s new series “Being Mary Jane,” and directed the 90-minute pilot, which aired as a movie to big ratings in July, drawing 4 million viewers and a 2.0 adults 18-49 rating.
On the feature side, Salim Akil directed “Jumping The Broom” and “Sparkle.”
*“Being Mary Jane” has yet to air its first season (or even a second episode). Still, BET has already ordered a season 2, according to Deadline.com.
The decision to quietly move forward comes after the 90-minute pilot’s impressive 4 million viewers.
Union stars as a successful TV news anchor in the series from Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, the duo behind BET’s flagship comedy “The Game,” which is currently in production on Season 7.
Tracee Ellis Ross, Malcolm Jamal Warner of BET’s “Reed Between the Lines”
Meanwhile, Deadline is reporting that BET has given up on its Tracee Ellis Ross comedy “Reed Between the Lines.”
Ross starred as Dr. Carla Reed, a successful psychologist trying to balance her family and career, and Malcolm-Jamal Warner as her husband. It was renewed for a second season in April 2012 but underwent a revamp later that year when Ross departed.
BET is yet to schedule Season 2. The first season of “Reed” spawned a spinoff, “Young Man On Campus” starring Jacob Latimore, which didn’t go past the pilot stage.
*An average of 3.8 million people tuned in for the sixth-season finale of BET’s “The Game” at 10 p.m. Tuesday night, and 1.9 million watched the replay at 10:30, reports Deadline.com.
The episode is this season’s No. 1 comedy series telecast on all of cable among women 18-49 (1.7 million).
The sitcom that follows the “football family” of the San Diego Sabers — exec produced by Mara Brock Akil, Salim Akil, Kenny Smith, Erica Montolfo-Buro and Kelsey Grammer — wound up its third consecutive season as cable’s leading weeknight sitcom in 18-49.
BET announced in April that the former CW comedy series (canceled by that network in May of ’09, resuscitated by BET in early ’11) had been picked up for a seventh season.
(L-R) Monie Love, Lil Mama, MC Lyte, Lady of Rage, MC Smooth attend the “Female Legends of Hip Hop Panel Discussion” held at the LA Film School in Hollywood. (Dec 22, 2012)
*BET is building up its unscripted offerings, putting four unscripted pilots into development this year – including a reality show featuring MC Lyte, The Lady of Rage, Yo Yo, Smooth, Monie Love and Lil Mama attempting to relauch their careers.
Titled “Hip Hop Sisters,” the series joins a fitness entry featuring celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins from BET’s most prolific producers Salim and Mara Brock Akil (“The Game,” “Being Mary Jane”) as well as a music competition series featuring once-big secular singers trying gospel.
Each of the four projects, BET noted in announcing the news Tuesday, displays the “thrills and triumphs” of second chances experienced through transformations of health, spirit, career and character.
The news comes after BET unveiled a robust slate in April featuring the renewals of six series including “Let’s Stay Together,” “Real Husbands of Hollywood” and “The Sheards.”
Below, more details of the four pilots in development at the Viacom-owned network:
(L-R) Yo-Yo, Lil Mama, MC Smooth, MC Lyte, Lady of Rage, Monie Love
HIP HOP SISTERS is a docudrama following the relaunch of six female rappers’ careers. MC Lyte, The Lady of Rage, Yo Yo, Smooth, Monie Love and Lil Mama join forces and declare themselves the Hip Hop Sisters. Their goal is to reclaim their titles as the Queens of Hip Hop — as they manage their drama-filled personal careers and lives and search for the next great female MC. MC Lyte joins Lemuel Plummer (Vindicated, The Sheards) as executive producer.
PHOTOS: 51 New and Returning Summer Series
GONE GOSPEL is one-hour music competition docuseries that takes popular musical artists of yesteryear and immerses them in a Gospel boot camp, giving them a second chance to dig deep and transform their lives as they write their own personal inspirational anthem. In each episode, the castmembers will be mentored by gospel greats as they compete against each other in challenges that will test them musically and emotionally. At the end of the journey, one winner will be crowned. Gone Gospel is hosted by award-winning producer and gospel artist Kirk Franklin. Franklin also serves as executive producer alongside Marilyn Gill (Sunday Best, The Mo’Nique Show).
BACK TO ME WITH JEANETTE JENKINS gives participants the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remove their roadblocks and start a journey back to healthy living. Every week, two subjects will be chosen based on their home video submission to have their bodies and lives transformed by celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins — the trainer behind many of the hottest bodies in Hollywood including: Kelly Rowland, Tia Mowry, Paula Patton and Robin Thicke. From their first-day surprise by Jeanette until their final reveal, the participants will be empowered to remove all of their past excuses and tap into their greatness — resulting in a much-improved mind, body and spirit. Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil executive produce along with Lisa Haese (The Biggest Loser) and Jeanette Jenkins.
INTERNAL AFFAIRS chronicles the fascinating true-crime stories of internal affairs officers. It presents a series of stunning human dramas as officers face the most daunting personal challenges of their lives. Investigating officers can find themselves ostracized and shunned by their peers. The discovery of their colleagues’ criminal activities haunts them and takes them to places they’ve never anticipated. At the same time, their dedication to law enforcement brings with it the commitment to treat these criminals as any other. It’s these emotional human elements combined with high-stakes criminal investigations that makes Internal Affairs unique, compelling and provocative. Produced in partnership with Fox Television Studios, the series is being executive produced by Ted Haimes (The Locator, Aftermath).
*Director Salim Akil knew he was stepping into some delicate territory when he agreed to take on the remake of “Sparkle,” the 1976 musical film starring Irene Cara and Philip Michael Thomas that went on to become a cult fave.
“Black folk love this movie,” the filmmaker said of the original in an interview alongside his wife, “Sparkle” screenwriter Mara Brock Akil. Alas, the pressure was on for both Akils to do right by the fans.
“In taking on this project, the thing that drew me to it was I was a bit afraid. I felt like I was on the edge,” admitted Salim. Not only was he putting his own spin on the beloved material, which follows the journey of three singing sisters on the rise to stardom, the 42-year-old Hollywood vet said he bent over backwards to make sure the film’s setting of late 60s Detroit was as authentic and precise as possible. Listen below.
Meanwhile, Mara Brock Akil said her goal with the screenplay was to keep the 1968 time period authentic, yet also contemporary enough to appeal to today’s young crowds.
“We kept saying, we don’t want to do a documentary of 1968. The conversation has to remain fresh because we’re talking about empowering women,” she told us. “That’s still a new story for a lot of women.
“It’s a cult classic, but a lot of 20-year-olds don’t know ‘Sparkle.’ Thirty year olds, they know ‘Sparkle’ vis-à-vis En Vogue who remade the song, ‘Giving Him Something He Can Feel,’ but they don’t really know the whole story. So how can we be modern?”
Below, Mara Brock Akil explains how she went about modernizing the late 60s, and how one aspect of the screenplay even mirrors current debates about auto-tune.
“Sparkle,” also starring Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke and Mike Epps, premieres on Saturday, March 23rd at 9 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively on STARZ. Watch the trailer below and scroll down for additional show times.
Additional show times (all are ET/PT)
Tuesday, March 26th 9:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 4th 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 10th 11:05 p.m.
Sunday, April 14th 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, April 23rd 10:40 p.m.
STARZ IN BLACK
Wednesday, May 1st 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, May 5th 8:00 p.m.