Hi Everyone, my name is Sherri, and for the past 34 years I have been addicted to New Edition.
It started off harmlessly enough, one afternoon in 1983, I was at the beauty salon when a new song played on the radio:
The adult women around me were saying “it was a previously unreleased or B-side from the Jackson 5.” My 14-year-old mind, said “no, this doesn’t sound like Michael and my older sister has all the Jackson 5 albums, she’s never played this song… EVER.”
Now? I’m curious: Who is this?
In 1983, there was no internet, no cellphones, no Shazam. My parents had not added cable television to the household budget and at that time Black Entertainment Television (BET) was just a 2-hour block of programming on Nickelodeon not an independent network. I had to stalk the one R&B radio station my suburban home received until it played again. After hours of waiting, the deejay finally put me out of my misery and said it was this new group called New Edition. I was instantly hooked on these 5 teenage boys from Boston. My allowance went on purchasing all the albums, magazines, posters and buttons. I worked odd jobs around the neighborhood to pay for my concert ticket to the All for Love Tour when it came to Merriweather Post Pavilion in 1985. I say all this to say I was a fan at the beginning and I’m still one 34 years later.
So, you can imagine the combination of elation and abject terror I felt when it was announced that there would be a film adaptation of their story. The New Edition Story, premiered Jan. 24th on BET, a 3-part mini-series chronicling the creation of the group and the trials and tribulations they endured during the almost 30 years the series covered.
In recent years, music fans have been subjected to television bio-pics of beloved artists that were train wrecks. I really wondered if BET could deliver a quality project that respected New Edition and their fans.
The answer is a resounding YES!!!
How did BET get it so right, when other networks get bio-pics so wrong? I have a few answers:
- First and foremost, BET had the unwavering support and participation of all 6 members of New Edition. This mini-series allowed us to live the story from the perspective of Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Johnny Gill, Ronnie DeVoe and Bobby Brown.
- The writers interviewed each member separately thus allowing each member to be completely open with their stories. During a radio interview with The Breakfast Club, Bell, Bivins and Devoe stated the first script reading was uncomfortable as it opened some old wounds but also gave them more understanding of what was happening to them and around them. Side Note: Bobby, Ricky, Ronnie, Mike, Ralph and Johnny you all were brutally honest with your stories, your thoughts and feelings about events as they occurred. This allowed us to see you in your glory and at your most desperate. Thank you, you respected your fans with each cut.
- BET put the money and time behind this project that it required. The production dollars were spent exactly as it should have been, from securing the music rights to recreating the wardrobe from the concerts to rerecording pieces of the music videos with the actors. This mini-series was 10-year, multi-million dollar investment and the payoff was worth every nanosecond.
- BET gave the story the time it needed to be told. A 2-hour motion picture would have been nothing more than a concert reel that would never crack the surface. The mini-series had time to develop each plot point. You saw these boys grow to men, personality warts and all. Side note: The transition scene when they went from boys to men in episode one was EVERYTHING.
- THE CASTING, THE CASTING, THE CASTING, yes it needed to be said three times. From the doppelgangers who played them as teenage boys to the young men who portrayed them as adults. All eleven actors were handpicked by the members of the group. All of them could sing or rap, they learned all the songs and the choreography. The actors shadowed their subjects embodying their mannerisms and taking on their speech patterns. There were times I forgot I was watching actors, this was New Edition to me.
Thank you to all the actors, your hard work is appreciated.
|Young Actor||Adult Actor|
|Ralph Tresvant||Jahi Di’Allo Winston||Algee Smith|
|Bobby Brown||Tyler Marcel Williams||Woody McClain|
|Michael Bivins||Dante Hoagland||Bryshere Y. Gray|
|Ricky Bell||Caleb McLaughlin||Elijah Kelley|
|Ronnie DeVoe||Myles Truitt||Keith Powers|
|Johnny Gill||Luke James|
- Finally, and most important, BET is a music network. This mini-series is a music network telling the story of musicians. I would expect the same care and execution if MTV produced a project about Metallica or if CMT produced a project about Garth Brooks. This is their highway. When other networks attempt to detour onto this highway; they crash and burn every time.
Since the original airing, a thirty-something friend said to me “this had to be so cool for you to watch because you lived it.” Yes, the quality of this production had me feeling like that 14-year-old girl in the beauty salon and falling in love with New Edition all over again. The New Edition Story is a Master’s Class in how to do a bio-pic/mini-series that other networks need to study it before they attempt to produce another one.
Thank you BET & New Edition, from the bottom of my heart.
The New Edition Story is available for viewing on BET.com, if you have access to the cable service.