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

Television
by Tambay A. Obenson
October 2, 2012 10:47 AM
30 Comments
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TJ Holmes

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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30 Comments

  • Orville | November 26, 2012 4:50 PMReply

    I think BET isn't doing a good job to let TJ's real personality show. TJ is a gorgeous and intelligent young man people need to remember he's only 35. TJ's show should be hitting the pulse of black youth pop culture and focusing on the issues and concerns young blacks are thinking and talking about.

    I remember watching CNN and feeling like that network didn't allow TJ to really be himself due to the format. I think BET should maybe do some focus groups or something find out what young black America WANTS to talk about. I think TJ's show should be more like ED Gordon's old show on BET or BET Teen's Summitt type of a show. But to try to make TJ be like Jon Stewart isn't going to work.

  • Zaidi Baraka | November 26, 2012 1:20 PMReply

    I think the show, like Jon Stewart's, should be expanded to an hour, and shown 4 times per week, which would give the producers ample time for quality program development and delivery. BET should also give the viewers a preview of who's going to be on the show to entice certain, if not all, viewers. They assume ALL OF US is going to drop what we're doing, and tune in every day for 30 minutes, regardless of who's featured on the show. I have a taped back ups of fourteen "Don't Sleep" shows on my DVD; and I don't think I'm going to watch them all because I don't know who's on what show, and it's old news, even if TJ is at the helm.

  • artie woodington | October 13, 2012 11:29 AMReply

    T. J., When I was 13 I was told by a Mormon Seminary teacher that I would not go to Heaven because I had black skin. Mormons decreed that Blacks should have equal rights in 1978, but do they still think that Blacks are evil, decendants from the devil, and will not go to Heaven?
    What I was told more than 50 years ago bothers me more today because a Mormon is trying to become President of the United States. I wish someone would look into this.

  • Bee Jenkins | October 9, 2012 6:08 PMReply

    T. J. Holmes appear to feel more relaxed and free in his new show on BET than as an anchor on CNN. I think he was just "waiting to exhale"! Congratulations T. J. and good luck in all of your endeavors.

  • Butta | October 7, 2012 7:42 PMReply

    I watched the first episode and even though it was the first time and seemed like a nervous first date, I enjoyed it. It has room to improve but I liked it. I googled the show to read about other reviews on it. I was sad to see that people (not AA) were shooting it down already, and was trying to set it up to fail. They said that being on BET is a failure itself. I disagree, It has been a long time since I have watched a show on BET (including the videos) because of the substance. However I looked forward to watching it and I love it. I have watched all the episodes in one night (yes, I DVR'ed it)! I think he did take a risk with the show and it was worth it. Finally a show with some substance and comedy that I can relate to (No, all African Americans aren't dumb). I will definitely be watching on a regular basis so keep your head up TJ!

  • Mark & Darla | October 7, 2012 2:04 AMReply

    I could see him as CBS evening news anchor.

  • Anton | October 5, 2012 4:18 PMReply

    I wanted to like it. I wanted T.J. Holmes to succeed (been a fan of his since his CNN days), but the show is simply awful. They need to do a major overall with the writing staff -- STAT! The big problem with the show is that it's attempting to make a handsome, straight-laced journalist into a quick-witted satirist. He's not a natural at it. Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher are good at what they do because they are seasoned comedians. To pull off a show in this format you have to be naturally funny. While T.J. sarcastic persona works sometimes, other times it falls flat. He's better when he interrogates right-wing conservatives and debunking their talking points. Yet even with that it's not as if he's charting new ground. Hell, we get that anytime you tune in to MSNBC and watch Al Sharpton or Michael Eric Dyson. I wished T.J. Holmes the best, he appears to be a nice, intelligent guy, but he deserves better than BET. I've seen what type of talk shows BET had in the past (remember that train wreck "Oh Drama"?), however, there were quality talk shows in the past like "BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley." In fact, T.J. would be better suited in a format like Tavis Smiley's PBS program rather than a format similar to "Real Time," "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."

  • CC | October 6, 2012 11:58 PM

    Anton, you nailed the problem with this show! T.J. Holmes often appears like the stuffy uncle trying too hard to hang with the cousins; he does not appear to be comfortable. He is not quite news anchor but he isn't a host or comedian either and switching among the three on one show does not work.

    However, I disagree, the problem is not with the writing staff. The showrunner, network and producers failed. Attempting to compare this to Stewart, Colbert and Maher was a BIG mistake, and even worst is the shows disrespect of it audience. Holmes even says he wants to educate the audience; BET is not PBS. The successful self-identified competitors don't aim to educate as much as they aim to deliver well produced entertainment. The successful shows have elevated commentary on topics.

    I hope someone on the show reads your comment and thinks about re-positioning the show soon. There is much to work with here, and it is time for them to roll-up their sleeves and get to it.

  • D.C. Kirkwood | October 5, 2012 3:37 PMReply

    It sucks. Im done.

  • Londoner | October 5, 2012 11:36 AMReply

    This show is horrible. The format is terrible. The fat, ghetto, female stereotype is NOT comic relief. The production quality sucks as well as the visuals. Why isn't this show an hour long? The footage is chopped up with constant commercials. The worst thing TJ could have done was leave CNN to go to ratchet arse BET. Career killed and so young too, oh well.

  • Cathy | October 4, 2012 9:15 AMReply

    Well you got what you ask for; there will always be negative response no matter who does what in this country. The idea that one can summarize this show with a tumbs down watching one or two shows and return to the most disrespect channel CNN leave a major question in my mind "program mentalities." I had hope for at least one network would give blacks a news setting to watch other than your typical white male with blonde hair and blue eyes. It is never perfect no matter who does it yet it's worth noting there is no loud talking, door slamming, water throwing, hair pulling, crazy talking black t.v. show. I am 54, and will watch it until something is said that will cause it to be removed because it's giving out to much knowledge to the black community and we all know, that "want" work, because knowledge is power. If I am 54 and slavery still existed then, open your mind people and sit back for a ride of your life. Also, don't forget these black radio shows are giving you nothing and now you can add the church with it since they are becoming stuck on stupid with this war on the president concerning his personal opinion on gays. Can you just open your eyes and ears and see and hear what's being revealed to ya!

  • WOW | October 4, 2012 9:50 AM

    Cathy, you were doing fine until you threw a blanket over "the church". When you did that, you lost respect b/c not ever church has a war against the president. Come to think of it, your comment concerning CNN was equally ill-advised. How can you support such an ambiguous statement as "most disrespect channel"? I agree that "Don't Sleep" offers the black community much more than meets the eye, but if your thirst is quenched by the simple absence of loud talking, door slamming, and hair pulling, BET (in your way of thinking) could save money by putting any nondescript talking heads in front of the camera. I am sorry but you failed to give a compelling argument while trying to slap the hands of others.

  • Orville | October 3, 2012 9:14 PMReply

    I wonder why TJ Holmes left CNN? I fell in love with TJ Holmes when I watched CNN on the weekends a few years ago. People do tend to forget TJ is young, he definitely has a maturity to him without being stuffy.

    I wish TJ and Don Lemon did a television show together I hear they know each other pretty well. Sad that TJ Holmes is straight he's a hunk.

  • Amina | October 3, 2012 7:18 PMReply

    I was somewhat disappointed. A far more serious context/format would have been fine with me. It's just another 'entertainment tonight'. Mr. Holmes is the consummate journalist and somehow the two shows I've viewed are distractions.

    I still wonder what happened to Ed Gordon's program. Serious commentary and questions without antics.

    BTW: Sherri Shepherd was a poor choice for the panel's debut with no substantive input and promoting her wig line was rather sad!

  • THE PRESENCE | October 3, 2012 6:25 PMReply

    The show has a lot of great parts that don't work together as a whole. BET is the place where great ideas go to die so I don't expect it to get better.

  • Priss | October 3, 2012 1:36 PMReply

    He has a way about him that will appeal. Seemed comfortable already in a format that is very different that anything he has done. Had good comedic timing too. I didn't like the segment he calls BREAKDOWN I think. Works for Maher and Stewart since they are comedians and it has that edge. His "take" didn't. That can bd scratched IMHO. Enjoyed seeing Issa Rae as a correspondent last night. That was a huge and great surprise ESP for the S&A crowd I expect - those of us who have followed her since the beginning here. Good for her. I hope they incorporate more people like this instead of the same old tied talking heads. Last night with Sharpton and the RNC puppet was interesting but seems they are trying to just throw in a comedian for good measure which worked for me last night with loni love but not with Brandon Jackson the first night. Must be the quality of the comedian. I'm giving it a full one week trial. Thumbs up so far.

  • getthesenets | October 3, 2012 11:06 AMReply

    when did this trend of just doing a Black version of a popular idea become the norm?I keep expecting dude to just rip off his mask to see Stewart underneath.

    BET aired a MUCH better version of a topical/news/pop culture show several years ago called the "Chop Up".....this Don't Sleep is just horrible.

    Is there a permanent slot for a heavyset Black woman to sit between the 2 "sides/talking heads" during the panel discussions each night as comic relief?

    just terrible...people are going to give it a chance because it seems like anything is better than what would normally air in that time slot, but after 2 weeks....people will start tuning out.

    the d.l. hughley show briefly that ran on cnn was basically the exact same show and it was horrible also.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | October 3, 2012 8:51 AMReply

    It takes A LOT to hang with the holy trinity of Maher/Stewart/Colbert. Many of my AA peeps faithfully watch Stewart and Colbert -- Maher to a lesser extent ('course he's on HBO, not basic cable). It's a tall order. First seasons are all about experimentation so... have it! Anything beats "The Game."

  • Adam Scott Thompson | October 3, 2012 8:59 AM

    PS: What Holmes was wearing... THAT'S a suit. Steve Harvey, take notes.

  • James | October 3, 2012 2:32 AMReply

    Definitely needs to be an hour long!

  • James | October 3, 2012 2:30 AMReply

    Tuesday night's show flowed a lot better (loved the panel). Since I expected the format and TJ's different sense of humor (a bit sarcastic) it seemed more natural. The first night felt like when you finally date the woman you've been interested in and she's not quite what you expected yet the more you get to know her you realize you like the person she truly is.

  • D.A. | October 3, 2012 12:39 AMReply

    I enjoyed the first episode. I think with some subtractions and readjustments it will definitely grow to it's full potential and end up becoming a much desired 1 hour segment. I really want it to be a one hour segment.......and soon. I think that 2nd half hour is missing.

  • zeus | October 2, 2012 11:58 PMReply

    I like the show and he is so easy on the eyes. I will definitely become a regular viewer. He needs to work on his comedic delivery more though.

  • YungGuy | October 2, 2012 11:33 PMReply

    I like the show and as mentioned just feels it really needs to be an hour long. Just as soon as you get into it, it has to go off....not cool.

  • Africameleon | October 2, 2012 3:56 PMReply

    It was ok, and yes TJ is gorgeous. It felt a little like BET's version of REEL TIME, THE COLBERT REPORT, or THE DAILY SHOW though. TJ should stick to what he know, and let his guests bring the funny. But I really liked it and I'll watch again.

  • Selah | October 2, 2012 2:39 PMReply

    I actually liked the first show despite it's experimental feel. There are no shows like it on BET and it definitely gave me a reason to watch the network again. It should be a little more serious since TJ is probably more comfortable in a less comedic setting. Keep up the good work TJ, and thanks for giving people a chance to learn and become politically active.

  • ALM | October 2, 2012 2:15 PMReply

    This man.....*Swoon*

  • ASWILLIAMS | October 2, 2012 12:08 PMReply

    I actually thought it was pretty decent. I was watching the Bears defeat the Cowboys last night so I was flipping back my remote back and forth. I`am going to keep an open mind on this newly debuted show especially when T.J. and the panel like Sherri Shepard, Hill Harper and Brandon T. Jackson discussing the high rate of incarceration among Afro-Americans in the U.S. This show looks like it will talk about the issues facing our community and our people in the Post-Civil Rights era and Obama era.

  • CW | October 3, 2012 10:13 AM

    I saw both episodes and while it will take time for this show to develop, I was not impressed. Having comedians on there to discuss topics that they clearly have no knowledge of such as politics is embarrassing. Does comedy have to be in every subject that "we" talk about? It's too early to say if he is on the level of Maher and the others...this is just the second episode. Hopefully BET won't turn this into a buffoonish half hour of silliness since BET is known for that although they are no longer a black owned company which folks seem to forget!! Good luck TJ, I think I will pass on this one. Miss you on CNN!

  • Adam Scott Thompson | October 3, 2012 8:49 AM

    Just HAD to mention my Cowboys, didn't you? LOL

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