2019 Tribeca TV Festival: recap and reviews

September 16, 2019

by Carla Hay

The third annual Tribeca TV Festival (which took place September 12 to September 15 in New York City) once again offered a diverse mix of programming representing various TV genres. This year, the entire festival took place at the Regal Battery Park Cinemas in New York City. In most cases, a new episode of a show premiered at the festival, and there was a post-screening Q&A with stars from the show and at least one executive producer. The event also featured a 25th anniversary reunion of “Friends” executive producers who curated two episodes from the classic sitcom. There were also “Tribeca Talks” celebrity conversations with Emmy-winning actor James Spader (who was interviewed by Whoopi Goldberg) and comedian Hisan Minhaj.

At the festival, I saw the first-episode premieres of two new series: The comedy “First Wives Club” (which launches on the  BET+  streaming service on September 19) and the crime-drama “Evil,” which debuts on CBS on September 26, 2019.

“First Wives Club” Review

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe in “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

The “First Wives Club” show is the TV version of the 1996 comedy film that starred Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler as three wives getting revenge on their ex-husbands, who dumped them for other women. The movie was rated PG, and the TV series (whose showrunner is “Girls Trip” co-writer Tracy Oliver) is definitely for mature audiences, since the show has nudity and explicit language that can be seen in R-rated movies. People will inevitably compare the TV show to the movie (which are both set in New York City), so here’s a helpful summary of the similarities and the differences:

Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton in “The First Wives Club” movie (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

In the movie, the three women (who have known each other since their college days) are reunited in the beginning of the story because of the suicide of their college pal Cynthia Swann Griffin (played by Stockard Channing), who’s been depressed that her ex-husband married a much-younger woman. Keaton played Annie MacDuggan Paradis, an intellectual, super-organized type who likes to pretend that things are going better in her life than they really are. Midler played Brenda Morelli Cushman, the loud-mouthed humorous friend who’s still very bitter over her divorce. Hawn played Elise Eliot Atchison, an Oscar-winning actress who drinks heavily and has become so insecure about her looks that she’s addicted to plastic surgery.

From the beginning of the movie, Brenda is already divorced from her sleazy ex-husband Morton Cushman (played by Dan Hedaya), an electronics-retail businessman who’s gotten engaged to his gold-digger mistress Shelly Stewart (played Sarah Jessica Parker). Brenda and Morton have a teenage son, who’s often embarrassed by Brenda’s blunt attitude. Annie has a better relationship with her own child: She and Aaron have a young, adult lesbian daughter named Chris (played by Jennifer Dundas), who helps Annie get revenge on Aaron.

The movie shows the breakup of Annie’s and Elise’s marriages. Annie’s ad-executive husband Aaron (played by Stephen Collins) leaves her for Annie’s therapist Leslie Rosen (played by Marcia Gay Harden). Elise’s movie-producer husband Bill (played by Victor Garber) has been cheating on her with ditzy actress Phoebe LaVelle (played by Elizabeth Berkley), who’s young enough to be his daughter. Annie and Brenda gave up their careers to become housewives and stay-at-home mothers, so their divorces have a different type of identity crisis than Elise’s divorce, since Elise has no children and still maintained her career throughout her marriage.

Ryan Michelle Bathe of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

In the TV show, Ryan Michelle Bathe is Ari Montgomery, the counterpart to Keaton’s Annie MacDuggan Paradis. Ari is an attorney who has given up her law practice to become the campaign manager for her senator husband David (played by Mark Tallman). In the first episode of the series, Ari and David are having problems in their marriage (he’s become bored and uninterested in her), but Ari is still projecting an image to the world that her life is perfect. Although Ari and David’s kids are mentioned, they are not seen in this episode. However, in the Q&A after the screening, it was revealed that Ari and David have a lesbian daughter (whom Buteau called “gender-bending”) who first appears in the show’s third episode. The daughter’s name is Versace, and she’s played by Tara Pacheco. At the Q&A, Oliver declined to elaborate on what Versace’s storyline is in the show.

Michelle Buteau of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET

Michelle Buteau plays Bree Washington, an orthopedic surgeon who is the counterpart to Midler’s Brenda Morelli Cushman. In the first episode, viewers see that Bree is separated from her businessman husband Gary (played by RonReaco Lee) because she found out that he cheated on her. (The other woman, who is described as a one-night stand, is not seen in this episode.) Buteau, who’s also a stand-up comedian in real life, seems to have some of the best lines in the show. In one scene that has the three friends on a high-rise window-washing platform (in a nod to a similar scene in the movie), Bree yells, “Bitch, you got us out here like brown-tittied Spider-Men!”

Jill Scott of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

Jill Scott plays Hazel Rachelle, a fading R&B star who is the counterpart to Hawn’s Elise Eliot Atchison. Hazel isn’t as obsessed with her looks as Elise is, but Hazel is worried about her career and getting older in an industry that prefers young artists. Just like Elise, Hazel works closely with her husband, so when their marriage ends messily, her career is also in jeopardy. Hazel’s cheating husband is Derek Ellsworth (played by Malik Yoba), the head of her record company, and he’s been having a not-so-secret affair with a sultry young diva named Stella Bentley (played by Tasie Lawrence), whom he’s been grooming to replace Hazel as his next big hitmaker. The episode’s first big emotional meltdown scene comes when Hazel finds out about his infidelity, and storms into a recording studio to confront Derek. And yes, things get thrown, and things get broken.

Jill Scott in”First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

The main difference in the comedy styles of the movie and the TV show is that the comedy in the TV show is less broad and more rooted in reality, which is why there’s so much adult humor in the show. And in a switch from how most adult-oriented TV shows portray sex scenes, in “First Wives Club,” the men, not the women, are the ones who are shown naked (backsides, not full frontal), at least in the first episode. That might be because “First Wives Club” show has a female gaze, since the majority of the show’s writers and directors are women.

In one hilarious bedroom scene, Ari and David have unsatisfying sex, but David thinks he’s an amazing lover. In the episode’s other sex scene, Bree takes home a hunky bartender named Jesus (played by Angel Garet) after he flirts with her at the nightclub where he works. Showing the sexual needs of the three main characters in the TV series is a big contrast from the movie, where the three main characters do not have any sex scenes, and only one of them (Elise) seems interested in dating again after her marriage ends.

Ryan Michelle Bathe, Michelle Buteau, RonReaco Lee, Mark Tallman and Tracy Oliver at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

At the Q&A, Bathe said she can’t watch her sex scene in the first episode: “I still haven’t seen it. I closed my eyes!” Tallman replied, “You’re really good in it. I’m just embarrassing.” Buteau said she was happy to represent for “thick” women: “My husband could not be more proud. As a size 18 broad, no one [on a TV show] is like, ‘Oh, go make out and open your legs.’ You’re usually [cast as] the best friend. Body positivity, all the motherfuckin’ way! Let’s go!”

Oliver also talked about how the show breaks convention by casting two “thick” women in leading roles: “I remember on day one of shooting the pilot [episode], Jill [Scott] came up to me and said, “Thank you for having two thick girls in your cast. I’ve never actually had that happen’ … Let’s expand the definition of what beauty is, and not just make this all about skinny women, and really diversify what everyone looks like.”

Ryan Michelle Bathe and Jill Scott in “First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

A previous attempt to make a TV version of “The First Wives Club” for the TV Land network fizzled in 2016. Vanessa Lachey, Megan Hilty and Alyson Hannigan had been cast as the stars of the show, which was going to be set in San Francisco. After the blockbuster success of 2017’s “Girls Trip,” Oliver was asked to do the TV version of “The First Wives Club,” which was going to be on the Paramount Network before the show moved to the BET+ streaming service.

Oliver said at the Q&A that in an industry where people have to beg for work and have to deal with constant rejections, being given this opportunity as a first-time showrunner “almost never happens.” She added that she was just as surprised when she faced no objections to her requirement that people of color would be the stars of the show: “That was the one opportunity I’ve had where I said what my parameters were up front, and they agreed to it.”

Michelle Buteau and Ryan Michelle Bathe in “First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

Another big change from the movie to the TV show is that there is no fourth friend who commits suicide in the beginning of the story. During the post-screening Q&A, Oliver explained: “With movies, you have the luxury of time. With a half-hour pilot [episode], if we’re laughing after a death within 10 minutes, it’s a little weird.” Instead, what brings the three friends back together is Hazel’s scandal-plagued and very messy divorce.

As for scenes from the movie that made it into the TV show, there are two memorable scenes that were mentioned in the Q&A. In the movie, Donald Trump’s first ex-wife Ivana has a cameo playing herself, and she gives this divorce advice: “Don’t get mad. Get everything.” (That became the tag line for the movie.) In the TV show, the famous ex-wife who delivers that line is Shaunie O’Neal, ex-wife of basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. The movie also has a memorable scene with the three women, dressed all in white, singing Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” Oliver said that the TV show also has a “You Don’t Own Me” scene, but she didn’t want to spill any more details:  “I can’t say anything about that, but what I will say is that we do our own White Party and a version of that [song] in the show.”

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

One of the best things about the show is that the chemistry between the three main characters seems very natural, not forced. And if the camaraderie looks genuine on screen, that’s because the three women have become friends in real life. Oliver says it was a stroke of luck, because before the show began filming, “They never actually did a chemistry read together, which is a disastrous way to ever do a show about friends … I don’t know how it happened, but they loved each other immediately.”

Buteau said of the trio: “We’re all fire signs. We’re all only children. We all have so much in common. We’ve all had to fight for our place in whatever Hollywood was giving us. For this all-inclusive experience, it was like showing up to work with smiles every day. Also, working with boss-ass bitches who are moms and get stuff done, I follow you!”

BET+ will premiere “First Wives Club” on September 19, 2019.

“Evil” Review

Mike Colter and Katja Herbers in “Evil” (Photo by Elizabeth Fisher/CBS)

Husband-and-wife TV showrunners Robert King and Michelle King, who created the Emmy-winning hit “The Good Wife” (as well as the spinoff “The Good Fight”), have another potential hit with the crime drama “Evil.” Just like most of the Kings’ recent TV series, “Evil” features a complex woman in the lead role, and the series explores themes that have to do with ethics, ambition, and gray areas of morality.

In “Evil,” Katja Herbers plays Kristen Bouchard, a skeptical female psychologist who teams up with priest-in-training David Acosta (played by Mike Colter) and carpenter Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) to investigate the unexplained mysteries uncovered by the Catholic Church. Kristen and David naturally clash in the way they investigate—she doesn’t believe in the supernatural, and he does (which might remind people of the male/female investigator relationship in “The X-Files”)—and it wouldn’t be a King show without sexual tension. It’s revealed in the first episode that Kristen, who’s married with four young daughters, is sexually attracted to David, who has a colorful background as a world traveler and former war photographer. Kristen’s husband is frequently away from home, which explains why she’s feeling lonely. Because David is studying to become a priest (in other words, he’s preparing to lead a celibate life), it obviously adds a layer of tension to the “will they or won’t they hook up” subplot that the show is clearly setting up as an ongoing issue between Kristen and David.

Mike Colter, Katja Herbers and Aasif Mandvi (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS)

The first episode of “Evil” is a little overstuffed with villains, and rushes through several things in order to pack in numerous plot developments, but the good news for crime-thriller fans is that this show definitely has plenty of scares and suspense. Without giving away any spoilers, the three villains introduced in the first episode are:

  • A demon named George (played by Marti Matulis), who looks like something out of the “Insidious” movie series, and who taunts Kristen in what she believes are her nightmares.
  • A suspected serial killer named Orson LeRoux , who is in jail while on trial and is repeatedly interviewed by Kristen and David. (Shades of “The Silence of the Lambs.”)
  • A mysterious creep named Leland Townsend (played by Michael Emerson, the former “Lost” and “Person of Interest” actor who’s made a career out of playing mysterious creeps), who gleefully commits all sorts of mayhem.

Somehow, these villains are all tied in to an enigmatic group of evildoers called The 60.

Katja Herbers and Michael Emerson in “Evil” (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS)

Kristen’s therapist, Dr. Boggs (played by Kurt Fuller), is also introduced in the first episode. Fans of these types of shows can speculate that this character probably isn’t what he first appears to be. In other words, can Dr. Boggs really be trusted? We’ll have to wait and see. At the post-screening Q&A, “Evil” executive producer Robert King hinted at Boggs’ dark side, by saying that Boggs has “problems.”

There’s no shortage of real-life supernatural investigations to inspire stories for this show, so if “Evil” is a hit, it could go for years without running out of ideas. Expect to see many scenes of “possessed” people in this show, but Robert King also said don’t expect the show to be “all exorcisms, all the time.” “Evil” will also push some emotional buttons when it comes to debates over religion and spirituality.

Overall, “Evil” is one of the better-quality new shows being offered on broadcast TV this year. Some of the scenes are so terrifying, that “Evil” looks like it could also be on a cable network such as AMC (home of “The Walking Dead”) or FX (home of “American Horror Story”).

Katja Herbers and Mike Colter in “Evil” (Photo by Elizabeth Fisher/CBS)

At the post-screening Q&A, Michelle King said that, just like the female and male lead characters in “Evil,” she and husband Robert have very different beliefs when it comes to evil: “We don’t see the roots of evil in the same way. Robert typically thinks it comes through something religious, something demonic. I’m much more likely to jump to the psychological or the scientific.”

Robert King added, “When you look around and see some of the evil going on in politics or whatever, you kind of think there’s something going beyond …. what science can explain. When you see what’s going on with racism in this country, there’s something that holds people [to racism], and I don’t think it’s all in genes.”

“Evil” executive producers Robert King and Michelle King at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Robert King said that “Evil” will include a lot of timely social topics. For example, in the show’s sixth episode, Leland grooms a male incel loner to possibly become a mass murderer. “If you’re not writing about that today,” said Robert King,”I don’t know if you’re awake, because you’re watching what’s going on with lone gunmen [who commit mass murders], how people are creating communities around anger, frustration, bitterness, racism.”

Herbers shared how she develops the character of Kristen Bouchard: “I work on intuition, and I go with what’s on the page. The scripts are absolutely incredible.” She also added that she works off of the flow of her fellow actors, but she’s not a Method actor: “I’m not one of those people who needs to go into solitary confinement … I did have to study psychology for about a year. I have very little knowledge of the Catholic Church.”

“Evil” co-stars Mike Colter and Katja Herbers at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Colter commented on his David Acosta character: “I think he is a work in progress. He’s trying to achieve something that few people can, and be happy in that world.”  Colter added that what attracted him to the role was that David was described as “the most interesting man in the world.”

When asked if Leland Townsend is “evil,” Emerson replied: “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘evil.’ I think he’s playful. He’s a kind of a gamesman, maybe. He likes stirring things up. It delights him to watch things spin out of control. The wreckage appeals to him.”

“Evil” co-stars Aasif Mandvi and Christine Lahti at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Mandvi said that he’s had “many” supernatural experiences, so he’s almost the opposite of his Ben Shakir character: “Ben is a guy who really believes only in the things you can touch, taste, feel, smell, hear. He lives in a world of pragmatism and empirical truth. David needs that in his life as well.”

Christine Lahti, who is not in the first episode of “Evil,” was nevertheless at the Q&A. She plays Kristen’s divorced mother Sheryl, whom Lahti described as a “free spirit” and former rock groupie. “I’m the surrogate babysitter,” Lahti said, “My character is a little more comic relief than anything.” She added that Sheryl is “hungry for a relationship,” because she “got rid of [her] husband, who was very controlling, about 15 years ago.” Lahti teased that Sheryl does find love on the show, “but I’m not going to tell you who it’s with.” Robert King dropped a hint though: “She ends up dating somebody on this stage.”

“Evil” co-stars Michael Emerson and Kurt Fuller at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Fuller said his Dr. Boggs character is “the person in this show that Kristen is actually honest with. She trusts [Dr. Boggs] and tells [him] everything that’s going on with her. If it wasn’t for her sessions with [], she would spin out of control.”

Robert King said that members of The 60 will definitely be in the show. “Some may be in the White House, some may be in ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” he teased.

Here’s a photo recap of the festival:

Day 1

Tribeca Talks: James Spader and Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg and James Spader at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Epix’s “Godfather of Harlem”                           HBO’s “Room 104”

(Series premiere: Sept. 29, 2019)                     (Season 3 premiere: Sept. 13, 2019)

“Godfather of Harlem” co-stars Forest Whitaker and Ilfenesh Hadera at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)
“Room 104” star/executive producer Mark Duplass at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival  in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

BET+’s “First Wives Club”

(Series premiere: September 19, 2019)

Mark Tallman, Ryan Michelle Bathe, executive producer Tracy Oliver, Michelle Buteau and RonReaco Lee at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival at Regal Battery Park Cinemas in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Day 2

“Friends” 25th Anniversary Reunion

“Friends” executive producers Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Amazon Prime Video’s “Goliath”

(Season 3 premiere: October 4, 2019)

“Goliath” co-stars Lawrence Trilling, Amy Brenneman, Billy Bob Thornton, Shamier Anderson, Nina Arianda and Tania Raymonde at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

AMC’s “Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America”

(Series premiere: October 13, 2019)

“Hip Hop: Songs That Shook America” executive producer Amir “Questlove” Thompson, panel moderator Lola Ogunnaike and  executive producer Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Day 3

The CW’s “Katy Keene”

(Series premiere: Sometime in  2020)

“Katy Keene” co-stars Ashleigh Murray, Katherine LaNasa, Julia Chan, Lucy Hale, Jonny Beauchamp and Camille Hyde at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Freeform’s “Party of Five”

(Series premiere: January 8, 2020)

“Party of Five” co-stars Niko Guardado, Emily Tosta, Elle Paris Legaspi and Brandon Larracuente at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival  in New York City at Regal Battery Park Cinemas on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

CBS’s “Evil”                                                                                       ABC’s “Bless This Mess”

(Series premiere: Sept. 26, 2019)                     (Season 2 premiere: Sept. 24, 2019)

“Bless This Mess” co-stars Dax Shepard, Pam Grier and Lake Bell at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City September 14, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)
“Evil” co-star Mike Colter at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival

Day 4

Starz’s “Leavenworth”

(Series premiere: October 20, 2019)

“Leavenworth” panel: New York Times national correspondent David Philipps, executive producer David Check, Mike McGuiness, executive producer Steven Soderbergh, Sarah Girgis, executive producer Paul Pawlowski and attorney John Maher attend the “Leavenworth” screening at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival at Regal Battery Park Cinemas on September 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Hulu’s “Looking for Alaska”

(Series premiere: October 18, 2019)

“Looking for Alaska” co-stars Jay Lee, Kristine Froseth, Charlie Plummer and Denny Love at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Tribeca Talks: Hisan Minhaj

Hasan Minhaj at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Apple TV +’s “Dickinson”

(Series premiere: November 1, 2019)

“Dickinson” panel: Adrian Enscoe, Ella Hunt, Hailee Steinfeld, Alena Smith, Anna Baryshnikov, Toby Huss and Jane Krakowski at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Amazon Prime Video’s “Transparent”

(Series finale: September 27, 2019)

“Transparent” panel: Jill Soloway, Jay Duplass, Alexandra Billings, Shakina Nayfack, Judith Light, Faith Soloway, a guest and Jude Dry at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

BET announces launch date, programming for streaming service BET+

September 9, 2019

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

The following is a press release from BET and Tyler Perry Studios:

BET Networks, a unit of  Viacom Inc. (NASDAQ: VIA, VIAB), and Tyler Perry Studios announced that, BET+, their joint venture and premier subscription video-on demand service, will launch in the U.S. on Thursday, September 19.  For $9.99 per month, BET+ will feature more than 1,000 hours of premium content, including exclusive new original programming and fan-favorite series, movies, and specials from BET Networks, as well as a host of leading African American content creators, including Tyler Perry, Tracy Oliver, Will Packer and more.

“We are thrilled to offer a streaming experience of content curated for the underserved African American audience with BET+. African Americans have a higher SVOD adoption rate than any other consumer base on the market, which is why BET+ is a natural complement of BET’s linear network, which has been and continues to be the leading home of black culture for decades,” said Scott Mills, President of BET Networks.

“In our first year, we will release a BET+ original project almost every month, adding to our lineup of deep and diverse content,” said Devin Griffin, General Manager BET+. “We’re focused on super-serving lovers of Black stories by working with top talent, and supporting fresh new voices, on both sides of the camera.”

BET+ will offer consumers an original and diverse collection of premier African American-focused dramas, sitcoms, film, stand-up comedy, and specials in the streaming universe. Itwill also be the official home of Tyler Perry’s collected works across film, television, and the stage. BET+ programming will be ad-free, with new titles added on a monthly basis.

BET+ will launch withseveral FIRSTS including:

  • First time Jill Scott will star and Tracy Oliver will executive produce a new series for BET+ with “First Wives Club.”
  • First time Will Packer will executive produce a new series for BET + with “Bigger.”
  • First time original series from Tyler Perry to premiere on a streaming service.
  • First time the beloved comedy series “Martin” will be available on a streaming a service.
  • First time the iconic BET comedy series, “Comic View” will be available on a streaming service.
  • First time Tyler Perry’s stage plays will be available to viewers on a streaming service.
The stars of “Bigger” (Photo courtesy of BET)

Premiering at launch, BET+ will feature new exclusive original series “First Wives Club” – a nine-episode scripted drama from acclaimed “Girls Trip” screenwriter Tracy Oliver – and “Bigger”– a ten-episode series from Will Packer, blockbuster hit-maker of titles such as “Ride Along” and “Think Like a Man.”

  • “First Wives Club,” the modern television remake of the classic 1996 revenge comedy starring Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton, now stars an all-star African American cast including Jill Scott, Ryan Michelle Bathe and Michelle Buteau. After neglecting their friendship, best friends Ari (Ryan Michelle Bathe), Hazel (Jill Scott) and Bree (Michelle Buteau) reunite to help each other through rough patches in their lives. Together, they navigate music superstar Hazel’s tabloid-ridden divorce, campaign manager Ari’s unsatisfying marriage and orthopedic surgeon Bree’s cheating husband.  Along the way, the women learn that as long as they have each other, there’s nothing they can’t do. All episodes will be made available at launch.
  • “BIGGER,” a half hour scripted comedy starring Tanisha Long, Angell Conwell, Rasheda Crockett, Chase Anthony, and Tristen Winger, takes place in the East Atlanta neighborhood, Little Five Points. The series follows a single-black-woman who is dealing with the threat of marriage to a boring-in-bed boyfriend and the sudden, random death of a college acquaintance. The tragedy drives her ambitious group of friends to take a deeper look at their stagnant lives, asking themselves— is there something bigger and better in life. The first three episodes of the series will be made available at launch with additional new episodes rolling out on a weekly basis.

In addition to its new original content, BET+ will stream the beloved comedy series “Martin.”

BET+ will house Tyler Perry’s box office-topping theatrical films, including films from the “Madea” series; original series and a selection of Perry’s stage plays: “Meet the Browns,” “Daddy’s Little Girls,” “Temptation: Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor,” and more.

BET+ will offer a premium selection of African American TV, movie and musical content including BET’s beloved library series, films, documentaries, and specials such as “The Bobby Brown Story,” “The New Edition Story,” “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” “The Quad,” “Being Mary Jane,” “Love & Happiness: An Obama Celebration, ” “College Hill,” “Comic View,” “Hell Date,” “Keyshia Cole: All In,” “Nellyville” “Reed Between The Lines,” “Ali: People’s Champ,” “Katrina: 10 Years Later,” “Killer Curves,”“BET Awards,” “Hip Hop Awards,” “Soul Train Awards,” “Black Girls Rock,”“Boomerang,” “Harlem Nights,” “Baby Boy,” “Belly,” “Coach Carter,” “Coming To America,” “Higher Learning,” “Losing Isaiah,”  “Poetic Justice,” “Tina Turner Live In Holland,” and more will be available at launch.

In the coming months, BET+ will also feature stand-up comedy specials from D.L. Hughley, Eddie Griffin, Nick Cannon, Sasheer Zamata (Saturday Night Live), Lil Rel (Get Out), Gina Yashere (The Daily Show), Sinbad and more.

Library series from Viacom’s Portfolio of BET sister networks, including VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta,” “Basketball Wives,” “T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle,” Comedy Central’s “Why? With Hannibal Buress”, MTV’s            “Todrick,” TV Land’s “Soul Man,” Nick @ Night’s “Instant Mom,” and more will also join the service.

BET+ will be available at launch on mobile and connected TV devices with a dedicated web experience coming later this year.

BET will continue to feature new originals and loved series, including the Tyler Perry original series, “The Oval,” and “Sistas” premiering Wednesday, October 9 on BET. BET fans will have additional access points to BET content on BET.com and the BET Now app for TV Everywhere users.  In addition, BET’s recently launched channel on Pluto TV, the leading free streaming television service in the U.S., will continue to feature hundreds of hours of classic films and box office hits from the best of black Hollywood.

For BET+ updates, exclusive social content and more follow the official hashtag #BETplus.

2019 Tribeca TV Festival: programming and schedule announced

August 12, 2019

“Transparent” cast members (Photo courtesy of Amazon Prime Video)

The following is a press release from Tribeca Enterprises:

The Tribeca TV Festival will return September 12-15 for its third edition. The lineup is a showcase of new series debuts, new episodes from fan favorites, talks with creators and stars, and one-night-only events that can only be seen at Tribeca. The 2019 Tribeca TV Festival will take place at Regal Battery Park in New York City. Tickets go on sale today, Monday, August 12, at 11am ET at tribecafilm.com/TVFestival.

Programming highlights feature the 25th anniversary celebration of Friends with two episodes curated by executive producers Marta Kaufman, David Crane, and Kevin Bright, who will participate in a post-screening conversation. The Tribeca TV Festival will close with the series finale of Amazon Prime Video’s groundbreaking Transparent. The Tribeca Talks series returns with conversations with Hasan Minhaj and James Spader. Tribeca will host an exclusive, sneak-preview of Freeform’s Party of Five pilot episode in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

New series premieres include Starz’ true crime docu-series Leavenworth executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, Godfather of Harlem from EPIX starring Academy Award®-winner Forest Whitaker, Vincent D’Onofrio and Giancarlo Esposito, First Wives Club, a modern television remake of the classic 1996 revenge comedy from BET+, CBS’s Evil from Executive Producers Robert and Michelle King, Hulu’s Looking for Alaska, the limited series based on the book by John Green, AMC’s docu-series Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America featuring executive producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter, The CW’s Riverdale spin-off Katy Keene starring Lucy Hale, the season three premiere of HBO’s Room 104, the season two premiere of ABC’s Bless This Mess starring Lake Bell and Dax Shephard, and the season three return of Amazon’s Goliath starring Billy Bob Thornton.

“We’re returning this year with a lineup that highlights the ever-changing ways audiences consume television. Featuring selections from classic cable networks, to premium cable, to streaming entertainment, the Festival will always highlight the best storytelling in the medium,” said Paula Weinstein, EVP of Tribeca Enterprises.

“This year’s Tribeca TV Festival program, like TV itself, has something for everyone. We are bringing channel surfing to the big screen, as our audiences can experience- in just 4 days- the full spectrum of episodic storytelling; and we hope, discover their new favorite show along the way,” said Cara Cusumano, Tribeca’s Festival Director.

Previous Tribeca TV Festival programming included anniversary celebrations for Law & Order: SVU, Shark Tank, The Real Housewives of New York City, plus programming that included a surprise world premiere screening of Will & Grace’s reboot, a conversation with Tracey Ullman and Meryl Streep after screening Tracey Ullman’s Show, and more.

The Tribeca TV Festival is an extension of the annual Tribeca Film Festival’s television programming which has included the world premieres of Chernobyl, The Boys, The Hot Zone, The Handmaid’s Tale, Genius, The Night Of and more.

2019 TRIBECA TV FESTIVAL LINEUP:

Bless This Mess (ABC) – Season 2 World Premiere

Executive Producers: Lake Bell, Liz Meriwether and Dax Shepard

After making the move from big city New York to rural Nebraska, newlyweds Rio (Lake Bell) and Mike (Dax Shepard) are getting accustomed to their new life as farmers. From neighborly feuds to a house full of chickens, Rio and Mike’s marriage and sanity are put to the test as they try to make the most out of their new life on the farm. Co-created by Liz Meriwether (New Girl), get an advance look at the hilarious Season 2 premiere, directed by co-star and co-creator Lake Bell.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with co-creator and star Lake Bell, and co-stars Dax

Shepard and Pam Grier.

●                    Event Details: Saturday, September 14 at 8:00pm

 

AUGUST 28, 2019 UPDATE:

Dickinson (Apple TV+) – World Premiere

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, Dickinson audaciously explores the constraints of society, gender and family from the perspective of rebellious young poet, Emily Dickinson (Steinfeld). Set in the 19th century, Dickinson is a coming-of-age story that finds Emily Dickinson to be an unexpected hero for our millennial era. The series features a world-renowned ensemble cast, including Haliee Steinfeld, Jane Krakowski, Toby Huss, Anna Baryshnikov, Ella Hunt and Adrian Blake Enscoe.
  • After the Screening: A conversation with creator Alena Smith, executive producer and star Hailee Steinfeld, and star Jane Krakowski.
  • Event Details: Saturday, September 14th at 8:30pm

Evil (CBS) – New Series Premiere

Executive Producers: Robert and Michelle King

The highly anticipated new series from Robert and Michelle King (The Good Wife, The Good Fight), Evil finds a skeptical female clinical psychologist as she joins a priest-in-training and a contractor as they investigate supposed miracles, demonic possession, and other extraordinary occurrences to see if there’s a scientific explanation or if something truly supernatural is at work.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with executive producers Robert and Michelle King and cast

●                    Event Details: Saturday, September 14 at 8:30pm

First Wives Club (BET+) – Special Screening

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe in "First Wives Club"
Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe in “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET+)

Executive Producer: Tracy Oliver

From Tracy Oliver, the co-writer of Girls Trip, comes a modern television remake of the classic 1996 revenge comedy First Wives Club. After neglecting their friendship, best friends Ari (Ryan Michelle Bathe), Hazel (Jill Scott) and Bree (Michelle Buteau) reunite to help each other through rough patches in their lives. Together, they navigate music superstar Hazel’s tabloid-ridden divorce, campaign manager Ari’s unsatisfying marriage to her political candidate husband, and orthopedic surgeon Bree’s cheating husband. Tired of always being the ones to make sacrifices in their lives, Ari, Hazel and Bree vow to prioritize their friendship and, along the way, the women learn that as long as they have each other, there’s nothing they can’t do.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with creator and executive producer Tracy Oliver and star Michelle Buteau

●                    Event Details: Thursday, September 12 at 9:00pm

 

Godfather of Harlem (EPIX) – New Series World Premiere

Executive Producers: Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein

Bumpy Johnson (Forest Whitaker) returns from Alcatraz after an eleven year absence to reunite with his family and reclaim his Harlem territory from Italian mob boss Vincent “Chin” Gigante (Vincent D’Onofrio). He finds an unlikely ally in his old friend Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch). From the creators of Narcos and starring Academy Award®-winner Forest Whitaker, don’t miss this early look at your new historical crime obsession.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with executive producers Chris Brancato and Paul Eckstein, star Ilfenesh Hadera and star and executive producer Forest Whitaker

●                    Event Details: Thursday, September 12 at 6:30pm

Goliath (Amazon Prime Video) – Season 3 World Premiere

Executive Producers: Lawrence Trilling, Geyer Kosinski, Jennifer Ames, and Steve Turner

In the third season of Goliath, the unexpected death of an old friend leads Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) to take a case in the drought-stricken Central Valley where he comes face-to-face with a new Goliath: a billionaire rancher (Dennis Quaid) and his sister (Amy Brenneman). As Billy and his team pursue the truth, old enemies and personal demons resurface, forcing him to confront his own mortality.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with executive producer Lawrence Trilling,

stars Billy Bob Thornton, Nina Arianda, Tania Raymonde, Amy Brenneman and Dennis Quaid

●                    Event Details: Friday, September 13 at 7:00pm

Hip Hop: The Songs that Shook America (AMC) – New Series Premiere

Executive Producers: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, and Alex Gibney

From Executive Producers Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Alex Gibney, and directors Erik Parker and One9, this documentary series focuses on six groundbreaking songs pivotal to the evolution of American music and culture. The premiere of episode 2, featuring Kendrick Lamar’s Alright, brings artists, collaborators, and other influential musical and cultural figures together as they deconstruct and examine the impact the song had on them personally, while dissecting the socio-economic and cultural conditions that inspired the landmark work and gave voice to a generation. In addition to Thompson, Trotter and Gibney, this project is also executive produced by Shawn Gee, Stacey Offman, Richard Perello, and Shea Serrano. Angie Day, Erik Parker and One9 also serve as co-executive producers.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with directors and co-executive producers One9 and Erik

Parker, executive producers Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter, and co-executive producer Angie Day.

●                    Event Details: Friday, September 13 at 8:15pm

 

Katy Keene (The CW) – New Series World Premiere

Executive Producers: Greg Berlanti, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Michael Grassi, Sarah Schechter, and Jon Goldwater

A spinoff of the hit series Riverdale, Katy Keene follows the lives and loves of four iconic Archie Comics characters — fashion legend-to-be Katy Keene (Lucy Hale), singer/songwriter Josie McCoy (Ashleigh Murray), performer Jorge Lopez/Ginger (Jonny Beauchamp), and “It Girl” Pepper Smith (Julia Chan) — as they chase their twenty-something dreams in New York City…together.  As these aspiring artists take on the runway, the recording studio, Broadway, and the NYC social scene, they will find more than just a career in the big city — they’ll find long-lasting friendship. Starring Lucy Hale, Ashleigh Murray, Katherine LaNasa, Julia Chan, Jonny Beauchamp, Lucien Laviscount, Zane Holtz and Camille Hyde.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with executive producer Michael Grassi, and cast members Lucy Hale, Julia Chan, Jonny Beauchamp, Katherine LaNasa, Zane Holtz, Camille Hyde, Ashleigh Murray, and Lucien Laviscount.

●                    Event Details: Saturday, September 14 at 3:00pm

Leavenworth (Starz) – New Series World Premiere

Executive Producers: Paul Pawlowski, David Check, and Steven Soderbergh

From executive producers Paul Pawlowski, David Check, and Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, comes a controversial true-crime story playing out in the military justice system. Clint Lorance is serving a 19-year sentence for murder at The United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth. While deployed in Afghanistan in July 2012, the former lieutenant ordered fire on three local men riding a motorcycle, killing two of them and outraging his platoon. As determinations on Lorance’s fate unfold, questions probe the merits of his conviction, analyze the system at large and ultimately test the balance of guilt and innocence in the circumstances of today’s wars.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with executive producers Steven Soderbergh and Paul Pawlowski, Platoon Soldier Mike McGuiness, New York Times National Correspondent David Philipps, and Lorance’s lawyer John Maher.

●                    Event Details: Sunday, September 15 at 5:00pm

Looking for Alaska (Hulu) – New Series World Premiere

Executive Producers: Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage

Adapted from the first novel by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars), Looking for Alaska is an 8-episode limited series that centers around teenager Miles “Pudge” Halter (Charlie Plummer), as he enrolls in boarding school to try to gain a deeper perspective on life. He falls in love with Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth), and finds a group of loyal friends. But after an unexpected tragedy, Miles and his close friends attempt to make sense of what they’ve been through.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with acclaimed author and executive producer John Green, executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, and stars Charlie Plummer, Kristine Froseth, Denny Love and Jay Lee.

●                    Event Details: Sunday, September 15 at 2:30pm

Party of Five (Freeform) – New Series Sneak Preview in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month

Executive Producers: Amy Lippman, Christopher Keyser and Rodrigo Garcia

In this reimagining of the classic ‘90s series, Party of Five follows the five Acosta children — Emilio, Lucia, Beto, Valentina and baby Rafael — as they navigate the daily life struggles to survive as a family after their parents are suddenly deported to Mexico. Mixing family drama with incredibly relevant current events, Party of Five, from original series creators, Amy Lippman and Christopher Keyser along with executive producer Rodrigo Garcia and co-executive producer Michal Zebede, is a contemporary update for a whole new generation.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with executive producer and writer Amy Lippman, co-executive producer and writer Michal Zebede, and cast members Brandon Larracuente, Niko Guardado, Emily Tosta, and Elle Paris Legaspi

●                    Event Details: Saturday, September 14 at 5:30pm

Room 104 (HBO) – Season 3 World Premiere

Executive Producers: Mark and Jay Duplass

Created by Mark and Jay Duplass (HBO’s Animals and Togetherness), the late-night half-hour anthology series Room 104 returns with 12 new episodes, telling unique and unexpected tales of the characters who pass through an unassuming room of a typical American chain motel. While the room stays the same, every episode of the series features a different story, with the tone, plot, characters, and even the time period, changing with each installment. Filled with plenty of twists and surprises, Season 3 offers a new discovery from one episode to the next, telling tales of everyday people striving for connection and meaning inside a single room.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with executive producers Mark Duplass and Sydney Fleischmann

●                    Event Details: Thursday, September 12 at 8:00pm

CLOSING NIGHT EVENT

Transparent (Amazon Prime Video) –  Series Musicale Finale

Executive Producers: Jill Soloway, Faith Soloway, Andrea Sperling, Joe Lewis

The Transparent “Musicale Finale” takes the beloved Emmy® and Golden Globe® award-winning series to new heights as a dazzling movie fantasia inspired by classic musicals that shaped our culture. When the Pfeffermans face a life-changing loss, they begin a journey hilarious and melancholy, brazen and bold. As they take on this new transition and confront their grief—with all of their extended family members by their side—they come together to celebrate connection, joy, and transformation.

●                    After the Screening: a conversation with executive producers Jill Soloway and Faith Soloway, and additional cast

●                    Event Details: Sunday, September 15 at 6:00pm

25th Anniversary Celebration of Friends: A Conversation with the Series Executive Producers: David Crane, Marta Kauffman and Kevin Bright

On September 22, 1994, Friends debuted to more than 20 million viewers, and a close-knit group of 20-somethings nestled inside a New York City coffee shop entered the television airwaves. Produced by Warner Bros. Television for 10 acclaimed seasons, Friends upended the cultural landscape and created an indelible impact on American society through its iconic characters. But what resonated then — and continues today with a whole new generation of viewers — is the infectious chemistry and connection between Ross, Rachel, Joey, Monica, Chandler and Phoebe, and their honest depiction of friendship. To celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary, Tribeca TV is presenting Friends for the very first time in 4K digital restoration with two curated episodes — The One with the Embryos and The One Where Everybody Finds Out — hand-selected by the show’s creators and executive producers. This will kick off what will be a nationwide celebration of the series, with a theatrical release of producer-curated episodes throughout the United States. Following the Tribeca screenings, Friends executive producers, David Crane, Marta Kauffman, and Kevin Bright will come together to reflect on the series’ immeasurable legacy and pay tribute to the Friends who will always be there for us.

●                    Event Details: Friday, September 13 at 6:00pm

Tribeca Talks: A Conversation with Hasan Minhaj

Acclaimed comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor and television host Hasan Minhaj will be in conversation to discuss his burgeoning career as one of the most incisive and poignant voices in television. Hasan rose to prominence in 2014 when he joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as a correspondent, where he was Stewart’s last hire, and continued on in that role after Trevor Noah took over as host the following year. Minhaj was the featured speaker at the 2017 White House Correspondents Dinner where his whip-smart commentary and political savvy garnered widespread attention. Minhaj went on to earn rave reviews and a 2018 Peabody Award for his one-hour Netflix comedy special Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King. Currently, Minhaj is the host and creator of the weekly Peabody Award-winning comedy show Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, which explores the modern cultural and political landscape with depth and sincerity through his unique comedic voice. In 2019, Minhaj was listed among TIME’s 100 most influential people in the world. Tribeca is proud to host the accomplished, sharp-witted Hasan Minhaj as he illuminates his creative process and journey from stand-up comedy to television and beyond.

●                    Event Details: Sunday, September 15 at 4:00pm

Tribeca Talks: A Conversation with James Spader

Versatile and acclaimed actor James Spader will be in conversation to discuss his accomplished and illustrious decades-spanning career as one of the most intoxicating and unique performers in both television and film. Spader burst onto the big screen with roles in such memorable 80’s films as Pretty and Pink and Less Than Zero. He went on to receive immense acclaim for his starring roles in the indie breakouts Sex, Lies and Videotape, for which he won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival, and Steven Shainberg’s Secretary. Additional film roles include Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and the titular villain in Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Alongside his film work, Spader has made an indelible mark in television, winning three Emmy Awards for his seminal role as shameless attorney Alan Shore on The Practice and Boston Legal, making him the only actor to win consecutive Emmys playing the same character in two different series. Spader also co-starred on the beloved NBC comedy The Office, and his astonishing, Golden Globe-nominated portrayal of criminal mastermind Raymond “Red” Reddington on the hit NBC show The Blacklist has brought him to the forefront of accomplished actors doing exciting and distinctive work in television. Tribeca is thrilled to host the remarkable James Spader for a unique opportunity to delve deep into the career of one of the industry’s most fearless storytellers.

●                    Event Details: Thursday, September 12 at 6:00pm

Tickets to the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival are now on sale. Tickets can be purchased online at tribecafilm.com/tvfestival. For additional information on ticket sales, email boxoffice@tribecafilm.com

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