Coming to BET: Michael Vick’s Contrition
Six months after a rep for Michael Vick denied that the former NFL star was shopping around a reality series about Vick’s effort to salvage his image after doing time for participating in lethal dogfights, BET has picked up a reality series about just that.
The producers and BET, however, insist it’s a “docu-series” rather than a “reality series.”
The eight-part series “chronicles the trials, tribulations and triumphs of NFL star Michael Vick,” the Viacom-owned cable network says in a news release it plans to put out Friday, a copy of which was obtained by The TV Column.
Vick’s “trials” and “tribulations” include admitting in 2007 to involvement in a dogfighting operation at a house he owned in Surry County, Va., and also endorsing the killing of poorly performing dogs by hanging or other means.
The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was sentenced in December 2007 to 23 months in jail after admitting to hanging two dogs and to agreeing to the killing of other dogs as part of the dogfighting ring. He wound up spending 18 months in jail and two more in home confinement.
Contacted by The TV Column, BET and James DuBose, one of the series’s executive producers, declined to comment on how much money Vick was being paid to participate. Vick is not only the subject of the series, he is listed in BET’s news release as one of the executive producers under what is described as his production company, “MV7 Productions.”
BET is targeting the series to debut in 2010. The network’s president of original programming, Loretha Jones, says in the news release that the crime committed by Vick is “endemic of what is happening to young Black men today” and that BET hopes the series “will give viewers a glimpse of how he is rebuilding his life and moving forward as a human being and not just another sports figure.”
The series, according to BET, will chronicle Vick’s “difficult childhood,” the “athletic gifts” that led him to become the highest-paid player in the league, and how “misguided decisions cost him his lucrative contract, his freedom and much more.”
But, of course, not as much as it cost the animals Vick executed.
Twenty-two dogs who survived Vick’s abuse, and who were deemed by animal experts most difficult to be placed in homes, got their own reality-TV program long before Vick got his deal with BET.
National Geographic Channel telecast the two-hour special “Dogtown: Saving the Michael Vick Dogs” on Sept. 5, 2008. It chronicled those 22 dogs taken to Dogtown in Kanab, Utah, run by the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which is one of the largest no-kill animal facilities in the country. The episode reached 4 million viewers in two airings that night — one of the network’s biggest ratings successes in its history.
A Vick reality series had been rumored for months.
The Hollywood Reporter wrote in April that Vick had spoken to TV producers and others about a “post-prison reality show,” which it also called a “docu-series.” And Vick’s attorneys told a judge at an April bankruptcy hearing that a “television documentary deal” was in the works, according to various published reports.
But agent Joel Segal, who represented Vick at that time, told NFL.com emphatically, “Any speculation of Mike doing a reality show is false. He has no interest in that. Absolutely false.”
So NFL.com smacked down that trade report with a blog post saying “Vick won’t be a reality TV star” and, for good measure, added that “the only reality show imprisoned quarterback Michael Vick is interested in is straightening out his life and returning to the NFL.”
By Thursday — one day after the story about BET’s new Vick reality series broke in the Los Angeles Times — the NFL had not updated its no-story-here story.
It had, however, written a piece about Food Network’s upcoming one-hour TV special, “Tailgate Warriors,” chronicling veteran tailgaters who squared off in a foodie fight before the Buffalo Bills hosted the Chicago Bears in that preseason game at Ralph Wilson Stadium back in August.
Segal did not immediately return calls for comment.
In its report, the Los Angeles Times said the Humane Society is “on board” with the BET series. (Vick has been working with the Humane Society of the United States on its anti-dogfighting campaign since his reps approached the society back in May.)
On Thursday, series executive producer DuBose told us the Humane Society of the United States was not “involved” with the series “but they are aware” of the series.
But Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, told us Thursday the first he’d ever heard of the BET series was when he read the article in the Los Angeles Times.
Asked to comment on the BET series, Pacelle said, “I just don’t know anything about it except what I read in the L.A. Times, and I wouldn’t trust their account of what it is, based on their information about us.”
Nat Geo is planning an update on the status of the 22 Vick dogs taken to Dogtown. Meanwhile, DuBose told the TV Column that while neither the NFL nor Vick’s football team have vetting rights to the series, “we are very aware of Mike’s situation and we would never do anything to embarrass or hurt Mike and his brand, or the Eagles or the NFL.”
ABC Sitcoms Make the Cut
ABC had picked up three of its new Wednesday comedy series, which may sound innocuous enough but serious students of TV know is nothing short of historic.
ABC is not known for its comedies; ABC is, after all, the network of “According to Jim.”
The lucky three are: Patricia Heaton’s “The Middle,” Ed O’Neill-and-ensemble’s “Modern Family” and Courteney Cox’s “Cougar Town.”
There is a fourth comedy in that Wednesday lineup: Kelsey Grammer’s “Hank.” Its absence from this list is ominous.
Meanwhile, NBC has canceled cop drama “Southland” before it has even started its second season. NBC scrapped the show’s alreadypostponed October debut after discovering the gritty 10 o’clock series — which debuted last spring and featured bleeped-out expletives and a boy getting gunned down before the first commercial break of the first episode — was too dark for 9 o’clock. Of course 10 has been given to Jay Leno. So “Southland’s” outta luck.
Lisa de Moraes discusses what’s on the small screen at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com/style.
One of Vick’s dogs in “Dog Town II” on National Geographic.