How CMT Transformed Nashville Into Its Most Successful (And Progressive) Show

In 2015, Rolling Stone said ABC’s Nashville “reflects real-life struggles in the entertainment industry.”  This was in reference to the country soap’s gay characters, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) and Kevin Bix (Kyle Dean Massey).

At the time, Bix was a new addition to the Nashville family, and as an openly gay singer, struggled to have a successful career. Lexington was hiding his sexual identity from his fans, while flourishing professionally.

Flash forward to 2017. Nashville moved to CMT for its fifth season earlier this year. Now, Lexington is out and proud, realizing he could still embrace his role as a country music star as an LGBT individual after being forced out of the closet in season three by a rival musician.

Since joining the CMT roster, Nashville has become the network’s highest-rated and most-watched series ever. Even after losing a beloved main character (Rayna James) in a tragic car crash, the show has remained wildly successful.

At least part of this success can be attributed to CMT’s inventive and progressive storyline and character development. Take Lexington’s evolution, for example. Entertainment blog Cinemablend commended CMT on “sprucing up” his character, giving him more than just romantic story arcs and LGBT-drama to fill his screen time.

Even the network’s portrayal of his sexuality has adopted more realistic angles. Even though Music City is full of heartbreak and drama, being a gay country singer doesn’t have to be riddled with conflict. In a recent episode that aired during Pride Month, Lexington got the opportunity to be a brand spokesperson for Budweiser.

Watch the fictional spot:

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BET, VH1 Win NAMIC Awards for Telling Diverse, Authentic Stories

Whose stories are being told on television? Now, more than ever, they’re our viewers’—their lives, experiences, and individual triumphs and hardships.

The National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC) Vision Awards honor original TV programming that reflects the diversity of its audience.

NAMIC announced this year’s winners on Monday, April 24. Thirteen shows from three Viacom networks, including BET, VH1, and Nickelodeon, were nominated for awards. Out of these nominations, three programs—including BET’s Being Mary Jane, Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement and VH1’s Hip Hop Honors: All Hail the Queens won their respective categories.

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Viacom Explores August Wilson’s Pittsburgh with Broadway Cast of Jitney

In January 2017, the late August Wilson’s play Jitney made its Broadway debut. A period piece set in the late 1970s, the play is about gypsy cab drivers in an African-American Pittsburgh neighborhood. Despite the city’s economic slump, these drivers are thriving and making an honest living—all because regular cabs at the time did not want to service black neighborhoods.

Like Fences—Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning play that evolved into Paramount’s Oscar-winning smashJitney provides an authentic portrayal of the African-American experience in a particular time and place. The characters are flawed, embroiled in racial tensions and poverty, yet their humanity shines through.

Jitney is part of Wilson’s Century Cycle, a collection of 10 plays set in historically African-American neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and Chicago throughout each decade of the 20th century.

To celebrate Black History Month, The BEAT (Viacom’s employee resource group focused on the African-American experience) hosted a panel discussion at Viacom’s Times Square headquarters with five Jitney cast members.

View the slideshow:

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The 2016 BET Awards Reminded the World to Stay Woke

On June 26, the stage of the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles flooded with water as Beyoncé belted out the vocals to Freedom. Kendrick Lamar joined the singer mid-way through the performance, emerging from a cloud of red fog. The duo stomped and splashed as fiery smoke billowed into the rafters.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26: Recording artists Beyonce (L) and Kendrick Lamar perform onstage during the 2016 BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on June 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/BET/Getty Images for BET)

Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar perform at the BET Awards. Photo courtesy of Getty.

Beyoncé and Lamar’s battle cry against oppression foreshadowed an electrifying night of activism and empowerment at the 2016 BET Awards.

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After More Police Shooting Deaths and Violence, Viacom asks What Now?

On Tuesday, July 5, onlookers recorded Alton Sterling’s death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and uploaded the video to the internet.

One day later, Philandro Castille was shot during a routine traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota; his girlfriend livestreamed the gruesome aftermath before police confiscated her iPhone.

A day after that, a sniper’s bullets killed five police officers and injured seven others during a protest of the recent events in Dallas.

On Friday, July 8, MTV News and BET News held an open forum for artists, activists, and fans to address the traumatic events of the past week. What Now? aired on 10 Viacom networks and streamed live on YouTube and Facebook. Viewers contributed via the #WhatNow hashtag and call-ins to MTV and BET.

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2016/07/10: Several hundred activists gathered for a rally in Times Square to protest alleged police brutality in the deaths of several African-American men, after which they staged a march through Midtown Manhattan, culminating in another rally in Union Square Park. (Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Several hundred activists gathered for a rally in Times Square to protest recent acts of violence against the black community. Photo courtesy of Getty.

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BET’s Black Girls Rock: A Celebration of Leadership, Sisterhood, and Self Love

When celebrity deejay, producer and philanthropist Beverly Bond founded Black Girls Rock, she wanted to promote a message she thought was missing in society: Black girls can rule the world.

“I started Black Girls Rock because I love us and I believe in us,” Bond said at the sixth annual celebration, which BET aired on Tuesday, April 5. “I want us to walk righteous in our spirit. Own your magic, walk in your purpose, rock in your truth.”

Black Girls Rock is more than an awards show. It’s a way of life. That’s why the show honored women who prove there are many different ways to rock. From stars like Amandla Stenberg to the founders of Black Lives Matter, these winners embrace sisterhood and use their platform to invoke worldwide, positive change.

Actress and producer Tracee Ellis Ross returned to host the show for the sixth time. In a bold red cat-suit and braided wig, Ross performed a tribute to the musicians who inspire her—including her mother, Diana Ross.

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