Tracee Ellis Ross, Malcolm-Jamal Warner Talk Black Family TV and 'Reed Between the Lines'

by Jasmin
October 12, 2011 7:14 AM
26 Comments
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Tracee Ellis Ross and Malcom-Jamal Warner had a chance to ponder what's missing in black TV when they spoke about their new BET series Reed Between the Lines in a recent chat with The Hollywood Reporter.

In the series, Ross and Warner star as a happily married couple living an upper middle-class life in suburban New York City with their three children. She’s a successful psychologist with two older children from a pervious relationship. And he’s an NYU English professor who becomes an online lecturer so that she can go to work and he can home school their youngest child.

“There is so much negativity on television and in life,” said Warner. “One of my missions in life is to show that being positive does not have to be corny. You can be positive and still be hip.”

Ross said of the series, “This is one of those shows that whether I were on it or not, I’d want to see back on television. It really celebrates the joy of marriage with all of its trials and tribulations.”

For BET, Reed represents an investment in original scripted programming at a time when there is a dearth of black-headlined series and virtually none on broadcast TV. It is an attempt to fill a void on television at a time when the population at large is becoming more multi-cultural.

Last night, the first episode of the show bowed to 3.3 million viewers. Did you tune in, and if so, what did you think?

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26 Comments

  • ANITA | November 4, 2011 3:41 AMReply

    I love Malcom, but this show is boring! Traacee looks older than Malcom. They should have had another actress to play his wife. This family seems unbelievable! Show is boring! No Cosby Show!

  • jayman2 | October 19, 2011 3:06 AMReply

    I really wanted to like this show. I'm a fan of Malcom and Tracee, but I think this show is doomed.

    The acting is terrible and it's not funny. They must be using canned laughter.

    I watched 2 episodes tonight and that's an hour of my life that I'll never get back. My loss!

  • Rob | October 14, 2011 11:06 AMReply

    @Afrostyling:

    You support The Game but consider the rest garbage???

    HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! News flash: it's all trash!

  • mantan | October 14, 2011 10:22 AMReply

    @afrostyling you indicating that "the game" is a good show said all you need to say, lol.

  • Afrostyling | October 14, 2011 4:15 AMReply

    And Observer, i dont have to "at least give anything a chance" just because its black. Two Broke Girls looked stupid as hell and i have never watched it. Footloose looks dumb so i wont be watching it. Same for Big Bang Theory. If it doesn't grab my attention, i dont bother.

  • Afrostyling | October 14, 2011 4:13 AMReply

    Oh Matan, i dont subscribe to that philosophy. And i dont whine about inadequate representation of black people on TV. I watch what interests me and i dont support anything just cause its black. So whenever Soul Plane 2 comes out, feel free to be first in line at the box office to purchase your ticket. And you can miss me with the uncut comment. The only reason why i even tune in to BET is because of The Game. Reed between the lines did not appeal to me so i will not be watching. Your problem if you dont like it.

  • Observer | October 14, 2011 3:07 AMReply

    @afrostyling: It appears you didn't read my full comment, I specifically wrote "I agree that black viewers are not expected to support any and every black project..." And also followed with the fact that we should AT LEAST give the show a try because it has potential.

    That said, I REALLY enjoyed Reed Between the Lines. Love, Love Tracee Ellis and her comedic timing and Malcolm is adorable. I certainly chuckled and smiled a LOT. It's a feel good tv show. Found the show adorable and look forward to the coming weeks!

    BUT, for those who did not love the early episodes, if you KNOW that something has potential, why not give it a chance? I compare it to music -- I may not have loved every [Maxwell / Insert Any Artist] song the first go-round but after listening to the album a few times songs grew on me. The same can be said for tv... Or food! Give it a try...

    I used to trash BET but have much respect for Debra Lee for making a concerted effort to to turn the station around. Let's try to support our own, eh???

  • Curious | October 14, 2011 2:43 AMReply

    I was looking forward to this series but it ended up being another example of why you shouldn't expect much from BET. There were no jokes and the parents needed to regulate on those children.

  • mantan | October 13, 2011 12:26 PMReply

    @ afrostyling why do you mean why do we have to support something just because it's black?

    as much y'all people complain about there not being any black shows/movies/actors/coffee/markers/pens/shoes/cars you would think you would at least give this show that's trying to bring something new/smart/different (albeit not that different since their biting on the Cosby Show so hard) a chance, but no all y'all want to do is complain.

    and isn't what this what were talking about on here is that we need to support black projects, y'all are acting like this show is second coming of 'homeboys in outer space". it may not be all that great right now but it does have some redeeming values and can only get better. tracy elllis ross and malcom jammal warner are no more untalented/unfunny than a slew of these new actors/actresses that are on these new shows now on abc/nbc/fox, but y'all stay watching that crap!

    what they need to do is bring back "uncut' to give y'all something to really complain about, lol.

  • Mecca | October 13, 2011 8:27 AMReply

    @ Cruz777

    How dare you say "The Big Bang Theory" is crap! It is NOT! I 2 1/2 Men & How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, Whitney & 2 Broke Girls are REALLY dumb shows!

    I think we should at least try to give "Reed Between The Lines" a chance. I don't love it but let's just wait and see if anything changes within the show.

  • cruz777 | October 13, 2011 5:17 AMReply

    while i didn't find funny, it's no worse than some of the comedies that are popular (crap like 2 and 1/2 men, big bang theory, etc).

    however, two issues,

    it's way too safe. there is absolutely no edge, even with the secretary. you don't have to be explicit or mean-spirited but damn.

    the other issue is, despite having a laugh track, they didn't use it when they were supposed to. if you compare it to big bang theory and how they use it (over use it is more accurate) it's obvious they need to learn a few lessons. it doesn't matter if the joke, line, or situation is mildly funny or falls flat, you use the laugh track. that's the point of the laugh track,. that's how they get some people (way too many people, imo) to laugh at things that are nowhere near funny a lot of the times. that is why sitcoms without them are still risky business.

    i'm not a fan of cliches, but there was a lack of one in the first ep that stood out and was an example of a missed opportunity. the daughters non-reaction to her parents randiness within her eyesight. it's a cliche, but damn if it ain't the truth more times than not. and a funny throw-away line from a teen should have been a no-brainer.

  • Orville | October 13, 2011 3:22 AMReply

    I can see what some people's comments are saying that BET is playing it safe in order to make a profit. Well, my hope is that BET will start to take some risks and move beyond the sitcom formula. My guess is, BET likes the sitcoms because they are cheaper to produce than to make a black drama. I think BET is moving in the right direction filling a void but I think the network should take more risk and exploring different sides of the black life experience. Not all black people want to see yuppies living in the suburbs.

  • Orville | October 13, 2011 3:19 AMReply

    I got to say BET is the ONLY network that is creating programming for black audiences. BET is smart The Game was a huge success when it premiered in January 2011 getting over 7 million viewers in the first episode! 3.3 million viewers for Malcolm Jamal Warner and Tracy Ellis Ross show is huge! It might seem small but cable TV is different than mainstream television. BET might not be perfect but I commend BET for FINALLY realizing that black audiences are hungry for positive images of black people.

    The next phase for BET I feel is to move beyond the heterosexual black sitcoms and promote black gay and lesbian stories. I would love to see a black gay and lesbian TV show on BET now that would be really progressive!

  • Observer | October 13, 2011 2:12 AMReply

    Can those who have posted negative comments at least support the show to see if it catches its groove? Many shows begin slowly and build / become stronger over time. The Game was absolutely horrible on BET but I continued to watch (and will continue to watch) because I believe that it will become better. As much as the show sucked, I wanted the show to get a 2nd BET Season so that the writers could improve.

    Let's not trash a show that has potential, at least let give the writer's space to make improvements before indefinitely turning the channel. I agree that black viewers are not expected to support any and every black project, BUT, when a show airs that we KNOW has potential, let's at least try to offer support and help the show to grow stronger instead of tearing it down.

    The set design is, of course, poor b/c there is not much by way of budget. That said, if we continue to watch and the advertising dollars roll in, the set design can improve.

    As an earlier commenter posted, BET was STUPID to air the show at 10:00pm, when viewership would most certainly be low.

  • CareyCarey | October 13, 2011 2:03 AMReply

    Challenge accepted Sphinx, one two three four five six ten.

  • Sphinx | October 13, 2011 1:50 AMReply

    Challenge: Can Carey Carey comment in 10 words or less?

  • afrostyling | October 13, 2011 1:34 AMReply

    "Can those who have posted negative comments at least support the show to see if it catches its groove? "

    See, this is what annoys me. Why would i want to support a show i have absolutely no interest in? Because its a black show? Please tell me why i should support it? Aside from the fact that its an all-black cast?

    I am supporting The Game because i started watching it on the CW and i love it. That is the only reason why i even bother perusing my TV Guide just to figure out which Chanel # is BET. And what do you mean trash the show? Some of y'all really need to learn how to handle constructive criticism and difference in opinion. The people who have commented on here DO NOT LIKE THE SHOW! Thats it! Try to get over it!

  • Cherish | October 12, 2011 12:35 PMReply

    "Malcolm can’t carry Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable’s jock strap, don’t even try it, okay. And there’s only one Rudy! "

    This right dere. The kids were annoying as hell. They need to stop.

  • Cherish | October 12, 2011 11:24 AMReply

    and note to BET -

    Stop beating us over the head about POSITIVITY. YOU AIRED THIS SHOW AFTER THE HIP HOP AWARDS!!

    If you really cared about being family oriented, you would have aired this show at 8 PM (you know - What's considered family viewing hour) and ran the Hip Hop Awards at 9pm.

    Too bad the kiddies couldn't watch. But at least they got to see Rick Ross.

  • Cherish | October 12, 2011 10:59 AMReply

    I'm staritng to long for the days of Norman Lear and those old Jewish writers.

    Whatever the premise is, whether two professionals with a family, working class folks, people in the projects, in the end of those shows were FUNNY.

    Screaming at BET: YOU ARE WRITING A SITCOM, FOR GOD SAKES!! YOU"RE SUPPOSE TO BE FUNNY!

    Take "The Jeffersons." A Black couple who ran their own business and moved up from Harlem to Queens, to the Upper East Side. Can you make jokes about that situation? Yes. But jokes weren't just about that. It was about married life, about anything. About that annoying maid. It was FUNNY.

    And the main characters and supporting cast were given personalities. They weren't perfect. They got on each other nerves sometimes. But you can still see they were a loving couple.

    That's POSITIVE. and FUNNY.

  • afrostyling | October 12, 2011 9:09 AMReply

    I just cant bring myself to support anything BET affiliated...except the Game.

  • Shanea | October 12, 2011 9:07 AMReply

    I really wanted this to be good but I must agree with the previous commenters: This was not funny or entertaining. It was actually kinda painful to watch. As CareyCarey stated "It was a poor remake of The Cosby Show". 'Nuff said.

  • CareyCarey | October 12, 2011 8:40 AMReply

    I didn’t read the article because I saw the sitcom. So let’s talk about positivism. That program was positivly horrible. Who were trying trying to fool. From the set design; living room, stair case and kitchen area, it was a poor remake of The Cosby Show.

    I said this at another post, however, I think it’s apropos to repeat it here.

    It’s was tired, trite, slow and boring as hell. First, ol’boy Malcolm Jamal Warner is not Bill Cosby, okay. In that regard, the whole show appeared to try to emulate the whole essence of the Cosby Show and it failed miserably. Look, I am reminded of the idea that some are considering remaking the classic Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier movies. Well, without a doubt Bill Cosby’s comedic expertise, timing and presence was the driving force behind their success. The same can be said about the Huxtables; no Bill, no Huxtables. However, just as important to the success of “Uptown Saturday Night” and “Lets Do It Again” the supporting cast in The Cosby Show and the movies in question, were paramount to their success, not to mention the writing. Can we talk about the words coming from those annoying kids?


    Now we have an attempted rip-off of The Cosby Show going by the name of Reed Between the Lines. Yeah, I’m Reed(ing) between the lines, and there’s a News Alert! Tracee Ellis Ross is no Phylicia Rashad, okay, forget about it. Malcolm can’t carry Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable’s jock strap, don’t even try it, okay. And there’s only one Rudy!
    Besides, truth be told, Malcolm Warner was really the one deposable part of the Cosby Series. His acting has always been “questionable” and now he’s trying to lead a series. I don’t think so.


    So, although I don’t believe I’ve ever watched a single episode of Girlfriends (so I’ll have to take yawls’ word on it’s “success” quotient) however, having watched 15 minutes of Reed “ if you accept the challenge” Between The Lines, I can’t help but believe Tracee Ross might find her new stairway to heaven in a Girlfriends film, not her re-make of Clair Hanks Huxatable.

    If I want to hear "positive" messages I know where to go. I thought sitcoms were suppose to be entertaining and funny?

  • politicallyincorrect | October 12, 2011 8:06 AMReply

    I hate crap shows masquerading as “positivity” even more because other black people try to make you feel bad when you complain about them. If it sucks, it sucks.

    I totally agree with this, but it was the first episode those are always rough around the edges

  • ernest | October 12, 2011 7:58 AMReply

    sucked not funny laugh track typical sitcom junk need anything else...oh it was so not "the mis-adventures of awkward black girl"!

  • Anwar | October 12, 2011 7:54 AMReply

    I tuned in. It was painful. Poorly written and acted and as corny as can be. So, I don't know what Theo is talking about! I'm all for "positivity" on television but if the quality is not there, what difference does it make? In fact, I hate crap shows masquerading as "positivity" even more because other black people try to make you feel bad when you complain about them. If it sucks, it sucks.

    And the show began almost is if we're supposed to know the characters already. Didn't set anything up. Might as well have called it "The Joan and Theo Show with some annoying kids with weird clothes tacked on."

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