Actor Malcolm Jamal-Warner confirmed to me that BET is not going to bring back the second season of "Reed Between the Lines" despite the fact the network taped an entire second season in Atlanta in the fall of 2012.
Most networks don't sit on a series for 15 months with no announcements of its future. My occasional checks with BET PR folks had been met with "no updates."
But the former "Cosby Show" star told me earlier this month in an email:
There's really not much to say about Reed Between The Lines. BET decided not the air the second season, even though it was shot. As a result, there's really nothing to say about the show.
In a follow-up interview to coincide with his appearance as a special investigator for two episodes of TNT's "Major Crimes" Dec. 30 and January 6, Warner said, "none of us were happy to hear [the cancellation.] They had their reasons, a lot of which I don't understand.... I thought it was a great execution of dealing with a guy who thought he had a perfect family and marriage only to find out there were issues along the way."
A BET spokeswoman did not respond to inquiries about the status of the show or why the network dropped it.
BET two years ago thought they had a winning couple with Malcolm-Jamal Warner ('The Cosby Show," "Malcolm and Eddie") and Tracee Ellis Ross ("Girlfriends") on a new more family-oriented sitcom called "Reed Between the Lines." They played a happily married couple, she a psychologist and he a professor. They had a son and a daughter who were twins and a younger daughter.
Despite two huge sitcom names, BET viewers didn't pay much attention. The show only averaged about 1 million viewers, a far cry from other comedies on the network such as "The Game" and "Let's Stay Together." After season one aired, in 2012, Ross decided to leave the show, creating a gaping hole in the core premise of a happily married couple.
"Reed Between the Lines" looked destined to die minus Ross and a solid fan base. But BET surprisingly decided to give the show another try by shooting an entire second season in the fall of 2012 at EUE Screen Gems, a studio which is currently the home to "Hunger Games."
In September, 2012, BET invited me over to the set to talk to new executive producer Felicia D. Henderson, whose writing and executive producing credits include "Moesha," "Sister," Sister" and "Fringe." She came in to try to make the series work minus Ross, which she admitted at the time was a major challenge but a challenge she embraced. She was very enthusiastic, very focused, very determined to make this work. (She said she was recommended by Mara Brock Akil, a key producer of BET's two big tent-pole shows "The Game" and "Being Mary Jane')
Henderson said her younger brother had suddenly become a single parent of four at age 35. "That was very much in my head," she said, in which she envisioned Ross' character moving to California for a new job, leaving Malcolm's character Alex to take care of the two kids and creating a long-distance marriage. Hendereson wanted to portray Alex as a good role model as a single dad and caregiver. She also changed the dynamics by creating three generations of men who are "interesting, intelligent, positive but flawed men." She brought in Alex's father, played by veteran actor Charles Robinson, to help raise the kids. Plus, Alex would have help from his two childhood friends including a character played by Chris Rock's brother Tony.
She also wanted the look to be more a multi-camera set up as opposed to a traditional three-camera sitcom. She built a bistro for the friends to hang out. They also had Alex leave the house and start teaching on location, rather than be an on-line professor.
On set, Warner said he admitted without Ross, "I was one of the biggest doubters" about bringing the show back. "When Felicia came around with her ideas and I kicked it around, I found it interesting." He liked the idea to combat the stereotype of the deadbeat dad. He also felt Henderson beefed up the support team on the show, which had originally fallen on the shoulders of Warner and Ross.
"There are more main characters," he said at the time. "There's a lot more interplay, more of a rhythm. I'm really excited and proud of the work."
Unfortunately, clearly, BET didn't agree when the network executives saw the final product and viewers will not see the revamped "Reed Between the Lines" on TV.
But you'll be able to see Warner in a dramatic role on "Major Crimes."
"I don't get to play these kind of roles too often," he said earlier this month. "I do so much sitcom work but I love single camera work. I love doing more drama. I had started in theater doing more dramatic roles. 'Cosby' was my first comedic role and I jumped at the chance."
"Major Crimes" featuring Malcolm-Jamal Warner, 9 p.m. Mondays, Dec. 30 and January 6, TNT