Don’t Let BET’s Don’t Sleep Go Quietly Into That Good Night

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One step forward, two steps back.

I was pretty excited when BET finally decided to stop suckling at the ignorant teat of “The Game” and reruns of “Baby Boy” and feature programming that really mattered. I was even more excited to learn that my boy T.J. Holmes would be leading the charge.

BET’s “Don’t Sleep” has been on the air nearly two months now, and while it has experienced growing pains, it’s been a step in the right direction for black programming. I wrote a blog not long ago suggesting that T.J. cut out the lame attempts at comedy and focus on panel discussions. BET must read my blog (what up T.J.!) because they made those changes and Don’t Sleep has been much stronger because of it.

And now, more change is on the way, from

BET announced Monday that it is scaling back its much-anticipated late-night, half-hour vehicle for T.J. Holmes, the former CNN anchor, from half an hour Monday through Thursday to an hour once a week.

The show launched Oct. 1. CEO Debra Lee said last month the show is “designed to be a mix of entertainment and news and commentary. We hoped it would have been a Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert-type show […]. To be honest, the ratings haven’t been great in the past two weeks. Our audience always says they want this kind of programming, but they don’t show up.”

According to The Washington Post, the show is attracting about 50 percent fewer viewers than BET had in the timeslot during the same period a year ago.

So y’all could stay up and watch reruns of “The Game” last year but you’re too busy to watch a show that deals with real issues? Do we have to add those annoying toddlers from 106 & Park to make y’all watch?

We need to do better.

So where did things break down? Holmes provides a clue:

“Without question, the #1 comment has been that ‘Don’t Sleep’ is too short!  [Viewers] felt we needed more time to not only discuss issues but find solutions.”

I alluded to this in my last post: Early episodes of “Don’t Sleep” definitely seemed rushed, but that’s because too many things were packed into a tight time frame. The entire show came off as unfocused. Thankfully, that had been remedied in later episodes, where Holmes pretty much stuck to the panel format and nixed the wacky guest stars.

An extra half hour would help the show – if it was retaining its current timeslot. Packing a week’s worth of news into a one-hour program AGAIN returns to the problem of rushing through topics without a chance for viewers to digest them. We’re back where we started.

I think the main issue BET and its viewers have with the show is brought up by her highness Debra Lee:

“We hoped it would have been a Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert-type show.”

The show was sold to the viewer on the premise of being the black version of “The Daily Show,” which is pretty unfair. Holmes is NOT a comedian and trying to shoehorn jokes into the program has never worked. Holmes is a brilliant and well-spoken journalist, not a zany improv guy. If that’s what BET wanted they should have hired Kevin Hart and be done with it.

It saddens me that it seems like “Don’t Sleep” isn’t getting a fair shake – from viewers and the network – because it’s not “entertaining” enough. I find the show very informative, captivating and, therefore, entertaining. I don’t watch the show expecting a bunch of belly laughs.

I really hope this new direction works. I hope viewers actually tune in this time, and I’m hoping that BET gives the show time to gain ground. Remember, it’s been a LONG time since BET’s original late night news program was on the air. BET is essentially rebuilding an audience. That takes time.

If you want BET to actually have programming that touches on real issues in the African-American community, watch “Don’t Sleep.” If you don’t, BET will happily rerun episodes of “The Game.” Is that what you really want?

If it is, you should be ashamed.



  1. I am so upset that viewers and BET don’t seem to be giving Don’t Sleep a fair chance. It’s one of my favorite TV shows right now and the only reason I can tell you what channel BET is on. I hope the ratings improve so this show will stay alive!

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