Last Tuesday I caught two episodes of the new orignial BET series Reed Between The Lines. It looks pretty promising from what I've seen so far.
First, I like the emphasis on black love and the fact that Alex and Carla Reed (portrayed by Malcolm Jamal-Warner and Tracee Ellis Ross), are a married couple with a blended family. Sadly, there really aren't too many images of African-American family life on television and I definitely applaud BET for giving us something other than mindless rap videos and sitcoms from 2002.
This show does have some remnants of The Cosbys in it, even beyond the fact that Malcolm Jamal-Warner is linked to both. The fact that Alex and Carla Reed represent a well educated black middle class couple (both hold jobs that would require a Master's degree) is powerful indeed. He is a stay at home NYU professor and she a therapist who somehow manage to make time for each other while juggling three kids and everything else that comes between. Too often we rarely see successful black married couples on television, but this show at least attempts to portray something sorely lacking in today's television landscape.
In the show's second episode that premiered last week, it threw me for a bit of a loop, and I'm sure it did many viewers as well. The episode entitled, "Let's Talk About Daddy's Little Girl," started with Carla and Alex's daughter Alexis, being dropped home by a white camp counselor who said she didn't get along well with the other kids. He even went so far to use the term 'scary' to describe their daughter. Naturally, I thought, "this dude just messed up bigtime." As one would expect, Alex and Carla looked visibly upset and the familiar story pattern would be the white counselor showing some insensitivity toward their daughter based solely on her race. Only in this case, it was Alex and Carla who proved to be wrong with their own daughter. As they and the viewers would find out, Alexis' bad behavior toward the other kids was not so much a result of her being unfairly picked out, as it was her being spoiled by her family and expecting people to wait on her hand and foot. In essence, the episode teaches that just because something may appear insensitive or mildly racist at first, that isn't always the case and we have to be sure to look at all angles of a situation before jumping to conclusions.
Reed Between The Lines looks promising and I look forward to seeing how the shows and series progresses. The fact that Malcolm Jamal-Warner and Tracee Ross are both wearing their producer hats on this project shows that they have a vested interest in the types of characters, themes and story-lines that play out through the season. I'm definitely looking forward to this show.