End of the Road: Three Reasons Why BET Should Cancel “106 & Park”

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September 11, 2014 will mark fourteen years since BET debuted its most successful program to date. On the cusp of BET creator and former owner, Robert Johnson, selling the network to Viacom, the launch of “106 & Park” jumpstarted Black Entertainment Television’s new era for the millennium. In the years to come, the live studio telecast would soon surpass expectations, beating its MTV counterpart (and prototype) “TRL” in the ratings.

However, since its glory days, many factors have directly and indirectly faded the once massively popular show’s dominance and relevance. A flurry of cohost changes; on-air turbulence with guests; and, most recently, a public controversy involving a young cohost and the carnivorous BeyHive fans, attests to its gradual demise. A not-so-innocent joke begets an apology from the network’s president as well as rumors of the program taking a week-long hiatus. With this being the second incident of sorts to happen within a few months one ponders – why is this show still on the air? Here are three reasons why “106 & Park” should have closed its doors years ago.

  1. Music television is no longer music’s gatekeeper to the masses.

Once upon a time when MTV was king and Sam Goody prospered, televised music made sense. There were two places to hear and see the artists you loved: the radio and TV. Only a select generation remembers hours of waiting in front of their stereos to hear a disc jockey drop Usher’s “Yeah.” “106” would come on at 6 p.m. with the “New Joint” of the day. And everyone would experience this exclusive premiere together. Fast forward merely seven years later, that collective waiting moved from the couch in front of a TV screen, to Anywhere Wifi’s Available, USA. The digital age advanced how we consumed art. By the time six o’clock chimes around, that exclusive premiere is old news, as it debuted (or leaked) on someone’s mobile device around noon. By supper time it’s on to the next one. Exclusivity is rare nowadays and only benefits the highest bidders – the Beyonce’s and Jay-Z’s who can afford to hold the masses attention hostage at the stroke of a mouse click.

  1. Music television is antiqued in a reality television era

Because of the massively higher demand to produce visuals and sounds as quickly as possible, the conventional “countdown” shows and similar productions became fossils. Thus, the search for new programming emerged i.e. the rise of reality television and social media. The thirst for on-screen drama was at panic-inducing levels and networks had to answer. “TRL” and Carson Daly recognized their wrinkles early enough to swap the Times Square Studio into the ready-set-go sets for “Teen Mom” therapy sessions and “Catfish” season recaps. Even the VMAs realized its lack of staying power and mandated our attention with Beyonce. VH1, who oddly maintains its “Top 20 Countdown” every Saturday morning, patented its “Celebreality” mantra early on and has grown even stronger with the intensely-popular “Love and Hip-Hop” and “[insert adjective] Wives/Exes” franchises. Both have magnified these projects’ successes through social media. Hashtags have become the new ratings meter, and earning the #1 spot atop trending topics is gold. It is in this collaborative dynamic that BET and “106” dropped the ball; or better yet, never touched the Spalding.

“106” is the worm in one apple in a so-so bunch. Hypothetically, if money, labor and thought, wasn’t being fueled into the 14-year-old show (which is a long time for anything on TV in general), then more time could be spent on quality programming and rebranding. BET has taken gains with the resurrection of The CW’s “The Game” and Union’s “Being Mary Jane.” And one could attest its three awards shows (more specifically it’s airing of “Black Girls Rock”) garner critical as well as Twitter praise. But several shows popping up on other networks (“Bring It” on Lifetime, “Sisterhood of Hip Hop” at Oxygen) would have fit perfectly for the BET viewer. But they never find themselves on BET’s platform for the simple fact that “106” is still requiring labor and funds to air, further quelling any potential elsewhere.

  1. The demise of AJ & Free still rains on future 106’s parade.

The generation that experienced it firsthand felt the magic that was AJ & Free. Two untapped talents leading the way into 2000 and beyond meshed so well together. They were“106” and soon became the faces of BET. Who knew five years later amidst mixed messages and behind-the-scenes tension, the dynamic duo would be abruptly disbanded. Rumors pointed blame on Free’s budding diva attitude and wanting to take her talents elsewhere. Whatever spin sold to cover what truly transpired couldn’t hold a candle to what thousands of viewers witnessed one fateful day: AJ live-taping ‘106,” in tears, solo. She had allegedly been let go the day or hours before. It didn’t matter. The damage had been done. “106” as it had triumphantly existed was no more.

Since then a plethora of hosts and reiterations have spawned. BET’s own Julissa and Big Tigger were temporary fixes until a more permanent situation presented itself. Then we had Terrence Jenkins and Rocsi Diaz. No they weren’t their predecessors; but for a period they reestablished the show to some normalcy. These two quickly set sights on new horizons and moved on; leaving a vacancy that was never adequately filled. The scheme for four hosts fell flat. The search waned and finally settled on Mr. 106 & Park himself Bow Wow, who so humbly wants to be addressed by his government now. Shad Moss and an interchangeable assortment of light skin women are ‘hosts” now. But the joke is on us as AJ & Free’s legacy still eclipses attempts to keep the show relevant.

At least twelve hours would have eclipsed by the time this is read. An evening would have become night and Thursday will have commenced. Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. BET’s lineup had aired reruns of Kevin Hart’s reality spoof “House Husbands of Hollywood.” A scandal-less Columbus Short would follow in the dance flick “Stomp the Yard.” A two hour period reserved for some music countdown show, replaced by other programming. And no one was the wiser. It’s time to put “106 & Park” down while it has some dignity left.

Lorin Williams | News Cult