For a little over a half-decade, one nightly hour of programming on BET was home to tip drills, "White Girls," and the knowledge of “what that thang smell like.” Fans of BET Uncut eagerly anticipated its return Tuesday, but instead were royally pranked — or Punk'd — by the network. And at least one former Uncut star is not laughing.
Before we get into Tuesday's drama, first a little history. BET Uncut was a late-night (2 a.m.), one-hour block of music videos that promised an overabundance of scantily clad skin that could never be broadcast on the network at any other hour, as well as videos from indie rappers on a budget that would give hood heroes national exposure. One such favorite from the program’s first year, Mighty Casey’s “White Girls,” remained in rotation until the show’s end in 2006.While the BET Uncut would average an astonishing 300,000 viewers a night, dominating a time slot previously reserved for informercials and actual pornography, the show’s controversial nature allegedly lead to numerous protests and demonstrations. The show was canceled in 2006. This coincided with the rise of YouTube, allowing the most treasured videos — like Crazy Al Cayne’s “T&A” and Joker the Bailbondsman and Bizzy Bone’s “Uh-Huh (Money In a Zip-Loc Bag)” — to be preserved, giving the show an almost mythical cult status.
BET Uncut fans are so loyal, that when Black Sports Online broke news of BET Uncut returning July 19, #BETUncut began trending worldwide. Despite the rejoicing, the next day BET issued a press release specifying that BET Uncut would not be returning. But then, on August 6 during the season finale of The Game, BET ran a promo confirming Uncut’s return on August 11 with the encouraging tagline “You asked and we listened!" The promo featured excited celebrity fans of the show reciting lyrics to Waxamillion’s “Ain’t Got No Panties On” and Mighty Casey’s “White Girls.”
When channel guides revealed The New BET Uncut would air at 11 p.m. and only run 30 minutes, some fans braced for a watered down update of the show. What BET aired was even worse.
Things started promising enough, as the countdown in the lower right hand corner of the screen ticked down the remaining seconds until the series’ launch at the conclusion of Tuesday’s Nellyville, leading fans online to speculate that the first video played would be “Tip Drill.” Once the timer got down to zero, longtime Uncut fans breathed a sigh of relief as we saw the exact same “This program is for mature audiences only” warning we were greeted with at the start of the show in 2006.
This was followed by, you guessed it, “Tip Drill,” and there was much rejoicing ... for about 10 seconds, when “Tip Drill” was interrupted by internet personalities King Bach and Destorm Power, the new hosts of Punk’d. That’s right, BET isn’t bringing back Uncut, a show canceled at the height of its popularity leaving fans wanting more for almost a decade. Instead, the network merely teased the reboot to promote its acquisition of an MTV show that was canceled twice, most recently in 2012. "Got 'Em!!! You didn't really think #BETUncut was coming back...Did you!?," tweeted BET.
On paper, this new Punk’d “punking" the BET audience may seem like a clever idea or a smart way to stir up attention. After all, it did get #Punkd trending and people talking about the celebrity prank show’s resurrection. Yet, instead of selling viewers on the new Punk’d, BET ran a “Best of” clip show from the show’s MTV incarnation, hosted by Bach and Power. This “refresher” came off awful, with the tape that the show was originally shot on in the early 2000s looking utterly unwatchable due to heavy editing and the murkiness of seeing the old pranks in high-definition.
Fans were not happy, flooding BET’s Twitter and Facebook page with their disappointment. Music journalist and Uncut historian Adam Bernard compared the hoodwinking to another infamous basic cable moment. “South Park learned to not fuck with their audience early on. Amazing BET didn’t get the memo,” he tells City Pages, referring to to when Comedy Central promoted the conclusion to the “Who is Cartman’s Father” cliffhanger in 1998, only to instead broadcast the full-length Terrance and Philip cartoon Not Without My Anus. As upset at South Park viewers were, creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were at least given the benefit of having their bait-and-switch occur on April Fool’s Day.
What the network also didn’t seem to factor in was the intellectual property of the BET Uncut legends themselves. We spoke to Mighty Casey, who tells us he was not contacted by BET to have his lyrics for “White Girls” used in the promotions for the Uncut/Punk’d premiere.
“I’m disappointed that BET is not bringing back Uncut, along with thousands of other people that awaited its return.,” Casey tells City Pages. “While BET Uncut got a bad rap for objectifying women, it was also one of the few places that independent artists such as myself could get nationwide exposure. I was excited about submitting my video “I Got That Weed” to Uncut as I’m sure many fans of the show have been curious about what I’ve been up to.”
Due to the unauthorized use of his music, Casey informs us he plans to take legal action against BET and parent company Viacom. BET did not respond to our requests for comment.
While a few voices online seem to be happy that Punk’d is returning, the real story in all this is that the “Risky Business” of Uncut isn’t. It looks like fans will have to wait a little longer for it to be “Time For Freakin’” once again.