Amid swirling talks of unfair placement and program bias, NBC aired “Jamie Foxx: Unpredictable” on Wednesday, Jan. 25.
Aptly named after Foxx’s debut album, “Unpredictable,” which was released in 2005 by J Records, the one hour NBC music special was a compilation of album songs, personal accounts of his rise to stardom and sketches about his relationship with his late grandmother, Estelle Talley.
At the core of the controversy surrounding the special was the cast of all black entertainers like Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg and Common that performed on stage with the Oscar-winner.
According to an email that began circulating days before the musical special was set to air, “NBC is not doing any marketing & publicity on Jamie’s music special on NBC because he stood his ground and wouldn’t have any white guests as they requested.”
Blacks everywhere were encouraged to support Foxx and his decision to perform with only black artists. Lauren Edwards, a junior political science major at Howard University received the same email from a friend. “I wasn’t surprised that NBC would do that — all three of those networks: NBC, CBS, and ABC are very conservative and have a history of not showing black shows, only "safe" programming,” she said about the email’s suggestion of NBC’s bias.
Although he did not receive an email about the special, Kigoma Peters, a senior Computer Science major at Florida International University happened to have stumbled across it during his evening viewing. “It was very inspiring to see my black people singing together [knowing] it was not a hip-hop concert,” said Peters. “It was very entertaining.”
The email went on to accuse the network of putting Foxx’s music special in the same tine slot as Fox Network’s American Idol, which is noted as being the number one television show nationwide. “They are purposely putting [Jamie Foxx’s] show up against the second week of American Idol in hopes that it will fail,” the email said.
“I think the network did that on purpose- how could you not know that American Idol is the biggest ratings grabber on that time slot,” said Edwards. “It would be smart to put a program on that same time slot that’s either NOT a special or not a popular show.”
Peters, however, surmised that maybe it may have been an oversight on part of the network. “They probably didn’t expect [American Idol] to affect the [show’s] ratings.”
Jamie Foxx received an Academy Award in 2005 for his portrayal of the musical great Ray Charles in the movie “Ray.” He also recently received a Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.