Com­ing to BET: Michael Vick’s Con­tri­tion

The Washington Post - - Movies - Lisa de Mo­raes

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.

BY CANDACE BOISSY — NA­TIONAL GE­O­GRAPHIC CHAN­NEL

One of Vick’s dogs in “Dog Town II” on Na­tional Ge­o­graphic.

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