Last week, I, like so many others, was glued to my TV absorbing the three-part miniseries on BET about New Edition, the tried-and-tested, boys-to-men band that first captured our hearts as preteens with their hit, Candy Girl. If I loved New Edition before this miniseries - and I did - my admiration and adoration has grown exponentially since it.
First and foremost, BET told an exceptional story that made me laugh, cry, roll my eyes, Tweet and, most importantly, dance and sing along. The series kept me intrigued and on the edge of my seat. Even when I thought I knew the whole story, I became privy to new information. I loved this miniseries because it was told from an authentic place. Each band member participated in its creation. Because it was not salacious or unauthorized, I took from it three "crucial" lessons.
(1) Give the People What They Want
It goes without saying that I am an NE fan. The first time I saw them in concert, I cried the entirety of their opening number. Like real tears. During a fast paced pop song. To the point that my sister thought something was wrong with me. Nothing was wrong. Actually, everything was right but I felt that it had taken me far too long to finally see them in concert and, with all that they'd been through, they deserved so much more.
My fandom is shared by many but greatly exceeded by those super fans who, almost religiously, follow NE's every move. They are the men and women who stood in the rain to be among, according to Leron Gubler, President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest (and most enthusiastic) crowds to witness a Hollywood Walk of Fame Ceremony, as New Edition's long overdue induction occurred on Monday, January 23. New Edition has scores of devoted fans - across the United States and around the globe - and BET Networks was smart enough to capitalize on it! And why not? When ratings and subscribers are critical indicators of a network's success, why wouldn't programming execs give the people what they want?
(2) This is Not an Anomaly
As I predicted, the miniseries was a ratings juggernaut. According to Variety, the premiere that was simulcast on BET and sister-net, Centric, together attracted 4.4 million viewers. Additionally, as reported in Multichannel News, the miniseries was one of the most social programs of the evening, as the January 24th premier "drew more than 2.1 million interactions across Facebook and Twitter from 936,000 unique social media accounts." But, this success is not an anomaly and it certainly isn't new for BET.
Remember the return of The Game? I do! I was a huge fan of the show and, in a previous life, worked for the now-defunct network, UPN, on which The Game first premiered. When UPN and the WB merged to form the CW, The Game had a short-lived run on the new network. It was resurrected by BET in 2011 and 7.7 million viewers tuned in for the fourth-season premiere.
By 2011, I was working for a network group and I vividly remember the shockwaves that The Game's premiere sent through the industry. Execs at mainstream nets scrambled to learn more about The Game, as they seemingly had never heard of its creator, Mara Brock Akil. Yet, BET's audience - especially Black women - not only knew her but followed her from Girlfriends. Many mainstream networks seemed to have wanted to duplicate The Game's ratings but were not yet ready to diversify their talent pools.
With the critical acclaim of ATL, 13th and Insecure on television and Hidden Figures, Fences and Moonlight on the silver screen, it should have gone without saying that the New Edition Story would be a hit. Yet, black writers, directors and actors are still fighting to be heard and seen in Hollywood.
Donald Glover, Shonda Rimes, Ava Duvernay, Mara Brock Akil, and Issa Rae are not anomalies. They are not the exceptions to the rule. There are plenty more of us out here. When we are give the resources and opportunities, we produce. And, if we fail, let us fail forward like our counterparts. We should not be given only one shot at creating movie magic. Remember the clothing line, FUBU? Well, that is what we want: let us tell stories that are for us and by us.
(3) Real Power is in Forgiveness and Redemption
Without a doubt, the men of New Edition experienced a lot of heart ache, headache and pain. From deceptive music contracts to drug addictions to constant competition, it often felt like their story would have no silver lining. Despite their individual successes as solo artists (Ralph Tresvant, Bobby Brown and Johnny Gill) and as a spinoff group (BBD), it seemed that too much was said and done to let bygones be just that.
In the movie, Ronnie Devoe's character says of his New Edition brethren, "We're great together. We just can't get it together." But, they did...and they have. Although I knew exactly how things would end, I was relieved to watch the fellas grow and mature, appreciate and exemplify the real power of forgiveness and redemption.
Thank you, New Edition, for sharing your story and teaching me invaluable lessons. I look forward to more great music and more awesome live performances. Mostly, though, I wish you and yours God's richest blessings. Now more than ever, I am #NE4Life and I will forever love Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph and Johnny.