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David Walton Hell-Bent To Get Viewers To Watch ‘Bent'/Black Sitcoms, Where Are They?

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If NBC's romantic comedy "Bent" gets tossed onto the dust pile of short-lived series after next week's two episodes air — as TV pundits across the land predict — it certainly won't be for lack of effort on the cast's part to save the show.

Charming hottie David Walton tells us his schedule this week has included an intensive radio tour, as well as TV and print interviews. "Whatever is out there, I'll do. I've been whoring myself out as much as possible," he says. "I love it. I love talking about the show. The NBC publicity team has been helpful. I don't really know how publicity works, but I'm sure the more people hear about it the better the chance people will watch, so I've been telling strangers. I opened a bank account yesterday, and I told the teller I would withhold my opening of the account if she didn't watch."

The series, with Walton as a surfer-dude contractor working for Amanda Peet's no-nonsense corporate lawyer/single mom character, has its flaws. But it also has appeal in the actors' chemistry, the fun repartee and Jeffrey Tambor as Walton's father, a frustrated actor. It certainly appears to have more going for it than other shows that were given more of a chance than its stingy run. Six episodes are being burned off in three weeks and aired opposite "American Idol" and "Modern Family." Really, it looks like the network is committing sericide.

But Walton is being as upbeat as possible, in his actory way, as he stresses the collection of good reviews amassed by "Bent." He adds, "The first episode was good, but by the third and fourth, we hit our stride and were dying to do more. We'll end our run in early April, and then for a month and a half we'll wait for our fate."

TV TRENDS: "The day of the African-American comedy on the major networks has pretty much gone away," observes "Mike and Molly's" Holly Robinson Peete when we chatted recently. To judge by the current crop of pilots in preproduction, that situation is not likely to change anytime soon. That's not to say that there isn't an interesting assortment of African-American comedies on the way.

There are — and nearly all of them are for African-American cable networks.

We have, for instance, "Belles" from legendary sitcom producer Ed Weinberger ("Taxi," "The Cosby Show," etc.). It centers on a widower/restaurant owner and his two grownup daughters — a down-to-earth single mom and a 20-something diva wannabe. Casting is under way. That's for TV One, which airs reruns of Weinberger's vintage "Amen," as well as reruns of lots of other vintage black sitcoms. TV One also has an original sitcom on the way based on the life of radio personality and single dad of five Rickey Smiley, starring Smiley. (Ha! We told him his life sounded like a show.) And the Net has a fun-sounding new comedy called "Church Folk," about a family that heads a mega-church in Los Angeles before having to return to their humble Southern roots.

Meanwhile, BET has its forthcoming shows, including a second-generation Wayans project. Marlon and Damon are executive producing that show, which is scheduled for a May 21 production start in Atlanta.

Elsewhere, well, Cedric the Entertainer's "Hot in Cleveland" spinoff series — "Have Faith" — is due to debut in June on TV Land. And there are comedies with racially mixed casts that will shoot pilots soon. One of them is Ryan Murphy's "New Normal" for NBC, about a gay couple and their surrogate, which recently signed NeNe Leakes of "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" for a supporting role.

Historically, network dramas have done a better job than comedies when it comes to racially diverse casts. However, even when we include dramatic fare, as Eric Deggans pointed out on NPR, nearly all the leads of the 27 new shows this season are white — though we have seen the rise of "the black BFF." Food for thought.

WEEDS, THE NEXT GENERATION: Writer-director John Stockwell is getting ready to start production on "Kid Cannabis" this coming May in Vancouver and Toronto. The feature is based on a Rolling Stone article about an impoverished young high-school dropout in Idaho who discovers he can make big money by having his 18-year-old friends bring marijuana into the U.S. over the Canadian border. Of course, the more successful he and his carriers become the higher the stakes — and the more harrowing the risks.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2012 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM



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