Don’t Sleep With T.J. Holmes: A Work In Progress

Last year, when The Rock made his triumphant return to wrestling, my cell phone received so many notifications that it Harlem Shaked itself all the way under the dining room table. Knowing that I’m a pretty big wrestling fan, everyone was hitting me with messages saying “Turn to wrestling! Your boy Rock is back!”

My reply: “Who said that was ‘my boy?’ I don’t like Rocky.”
One of my exasperated friends replied: “You hate everybody. Do you like ANYONE besides dead rappers?”
Well duh.
Although I’m sure he wasn’t talking about him. 
There is one guy that I’m a huge fan of – T.J. Holmes. I’ve been a big fan of ol’ Loutelious (that’s his government name) since his stint as a CNN anchor. T. Jr. (that’s what his mama n’ dem call him) impressed me with his intelligence, poise and when it came down to it, his take-no-prisoners opinions. The wifey calls him my boy crush but I wouldn’t go that far. I’m a grown man, playa, I don’t have crushes. 
When T.J. jumped from CNN to freakin’ BET of all places, it raised eyebrows and turned heads, Exorcist style. BET isn’t exactly known for stimulating programming (Hell Date!!?!?). But instead of moping around like Bow Wow at his album release party, I was optimistic – I had enough faith in T.J. that he’d bring much-needed common sense to a lost network.
That new direction started this week with the debut of  “Don’t Sleep.” It’s an appropriate name since I almost have to slap myself to remain awake to watch it at 10 p.m. CT. Unfortunately, reviews of the new show have been very mixed to say the least. And although I’m not the most unbiased party in this situation, I urge that viewers stick with it as the kinks are worked out.
So what’s the issue with “Don’t Sleep?” It doesn’t seem to know what type of program it is. The first half of the show mimics the success of  “The Daily Show,” with guest correspondents weighing in on current topics. On Tuesday night, Issa Rae of “Awkward Black Girl” fame weighed in on Juicy J’s atrocious “Bands A Make Her Dance” video. Issa tore apart the video in hilarious fashion and the audience ate it up. But that’s the problem – that’s almost the ONLY thing the studio audience reacted to. T.J.’s quips in his opening monologue just received sympathy chuckles (although, sigh, a Bow Wow reference got ’em going…). It makes me worry that T.J. is going over the audience’s heads.
Halfway through, the show switches to a bevy of celebrity panelists, conjuring that Bill Maher vibe. Topics like black incarceration on Monday and the presidential election Tuesday were fine, they just seemed much too short. And AGAIN, the studio audience only seemed to react to goofy hood references about the panelists’ incarcerated cousins.
T.J. also has a “number of the day” feature, where he uses a number to illustrate key points in black society. For example, Monday’s number was “5,” which was revealed to be the percentage of incarcerated black men in the U.S. If T.J. kept his number of the day and built the show around his “Sleeptalkers” panel, I think the experience would be much more streamlined and engaging. Currently, it bounces around too much and forces T.J. to play comedian – that’s not his forte’.
I’m proud that BET is doing something (ANYTHING) to keep young viewers abreast of national news. And I’m confident T.J. is the man to helm the ship. Give it some time, folks, I’m sure T.J. will work through this rough patch. I hope you all support a BET show that’s at least trying to deliver substance.
Don’t sleep on T.J. If a grouch like myself is a fan, he can’t be all bad.

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