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Thoughts On T.J. Holmes’ New BET Late Night Series ‘Don’t Sleep’… (Premiered Last Night)

Thoughts On T.J. Holmes' New BET Late Night Series 'Don't Sleep'... (Premiered Last Night)

It’s the first episode, so you can’t always expect to be immediately captivated. It might take some time for all the various parts to gel.

Going up directly against highly-rated The Daily News with John Stewart on Comedy Central, certainly is bold; although the target audiences for both shows aren’t exactly the same; which beckons the question – who is the target audience for BET Networks’ new fall series, Don’t Sleep!, hosted by T. J. Holmes, which made its debut last night, MondayOctober 1 from 11-11:30 pm?

A quick scan of the live studio audience indicated that it comprised of primarily younger (under 40) African American men and women.

Keep in mind that host T. J. Holmes is only 35 years old himself. I actually thought he was older; not because he looks older, but just in the way he carries himself. There’s a definite maturity and a charisma that I think are characteristics that’ll help sell the show, and keep viewers returning.

And given the reaction he often gets from women, I’d guess that his looks certainly don’t hurt.

But this isn’t a beauty pageant after all, and Holmes is certainly no fool. 

BET’s overall target demo is African Americans, ages 18 to 49, so it skews younger. And in their initial press release announcing the show, they boasted that Holmes would be joining the ranks of Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and Bill Maher. Good company, but the writing on the show would need to be edgier than what I saw last night, if it’s to be at all compared to the shows hosted by the other 3 gentlemen – especially given its similarities to Bill Maher’s show, in terms of structure (specifically the middle segment, which features a panel discussion with 3 guests, as they tackle hot-button issues, that comes after the host’s opening monologue and news commentary).

And I’m not even talking about tossing a few curse words in, every now and then. But given how rapidly it seemed to move along from one segment to the next, as well as the music used in transition, and at times in the background while Holmes spoke (one thing I suggest they don’t continue to do), it’s clear that the producers are going for something cool and hip; tackling serious issues that are of importance to the black community in the USA, but not being too earnest or severe with the delivery, which should keep its younger audience edutained – the key word.

So it’s not what we’d call hard political commentary, debate and discussion; but I don’t think that’s the show’s intent. This is how BET describes it:

“With hilarious “correspondents,” T.J.’s sure to have viewers rolling with laughter over the absurdity of today’s hot-button issues.”

Just don’t let it get too frothy, BET.

I suppose a happy middle is what they’re aiming for. We’ll just have to wait and see if the show hits its mark, as it evolves over the long term, and finds its voice. I’ll keep watching.

And by the way, get rid of that closing line T. J. delivered (You can go to bed now); or maybe it’s more in how he delivered it, than what he actually says. I hope that’s not going to be his nightly outro.

Maybe a second half-hour is needed (Bill Maher gets a full hour, for example), which would afford Holmes and the show to really dive into the topics tackled. The 30 minutes (with all the commercials) felt really short for a late night show like this.

It’s worth noting that Don’t Sleep! is co-produced by Madeleine Smithberg – the Emmy and Peabody award-winning producer, co-creator and former showrunner of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

If you watched it, what did you think? And if you didn’t, you can watch it on BET’s website right how (click HERE to do so).

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