New Edition exploded out of anonymity from the Orchard Park Projects in Roxbury, Massachusetts in the early 1980s, selling millions of albums as the stamped the template for the boy band super-groups of the ‘90s and beyond. At one time, they were bigger than Beat It, when their 1983 debut track Candy Girl beat out one of Michael Jackson’s signature hits for the top spot on the Billboard chart. In the meteoric and fraught years that followed, they would break up and reunite while spawning the solo careers of Bobby Brown, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill, along with the quadruple platinum collaboration of Bell Biv DeVoe.
When this foundational tale debuted over three nights last week on BET as The New Edition Story, it instantly became the network’s most-watched premiere since The Game dropped in 2012. The show went on to average more than 4 million viewers per episode across BET and sister network Centric while dominating the social media conversation for three consecutive nights.
The tale resonated in part due to its raw, unfiltered nature, delivering the uncensored drama of the exhilarating climb to success, the infighting that led to break-ups and reunions, the wild back-stage mingling amid groupies and substances, and the financial collapses that defied their spotlight. This scene depicting the group members’ mothers’ rage at receiving a check for $1.87 after a sprawling and highly successful tour is typical:
“Normally biopics are padded with dramatic falsehoods for entertainment,” wrote Billboard’s Niki McGloster, “but as the executive producers of the film, New Edition kept the story true to how they lived it.”
The show complemented this brazen honesty with the sort of period details that delight nostalgia-hungry audiences who grew up with some iteration or another of New Edition. The biopic earned high praise for the “perfectly recreated” music videos, attention to detail, and flawless casting – the New Edition actors worked for endless hours alongside the original group members to learn their choreography and mannerisms.
Thrillist’s Brian Moylan captured the sentiment of many reviewers: “Whether it’s the four kids doing Jackson 5 covers at talent shows around the Boston area, the group at the height of their fame singing Candy Girl at Roseland Ballroom, or band members Bobby Brown (Woody McClain) doing My Prerogative and Bel Biv DeVoe doing Poison during their ill-fated Home Again reunion tour in 1997, the production gets all of the details right. Right down to the goofy outfits they wore on the Candy Girl album cover to the silly southern plantation house that took up most of the stage of the Home Again tour, history is artfully and faithfully re-created.”
Indeed, the similarities between the costumes, choreography, and even the quality of the singing (the actors voiced all of the tracks), in this recreated music video for You’re Not My Kind of Girl and the 1988 original are impressive:
New Edition has a long history with BET and fellow Viacom network MTV. The group performed at the 1990 MTV VMAs and BET’s Silver Anniversary Special in 2005. In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009, the group performed a medley of Jackson 5 hits as part of a show-long tribute to the legend.
In 2012, the Soul Train Awards – now owned by BET – presented New Edition with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Soul Train put together this retrospective to mark the honor:
This has been an exciting time of renewed attention for the group, which last week received a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame, adjacent to fellow boy bands Boyz II Men, Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block.
No need to worry if you missed it – The New Edition Story will appear on BET again on Monday, Jan. 30 and Monday, Feb. 20.
Indeed we are. Happy viewing.