TV Column: Lisa de Moraes on Michael Vick's BET Reality Series

One of Vick's dogs in
One of Vick's dogs in "Dog Town II" on National Geographic. (By Candace Boissy -- National Geographic Channel)
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By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, October 9, 2009

Six months after a rep for Michael Vick denied that the former NFL star was shopping around a reality series about Vick's effort to salvage his image after doing time for participating in lethal dogfights, BET has picked up a reality series about just that.

The producers and BET, however, insist it's a "docu-series" rather than a "reality series."

The eight-part series "chronicles the trials, tribulations and triumphs of NFL star Michael Vick," the Viacom-owned cable network says in a news release it plans to put out Friday, a copy of which was obtained by The TV Column.

Vick's "trials" and "tribulations" include admitting in 2007 to involvement in a dogfighting operation at a house he owned in Surry County, Va., and also endorsing the killing of poorly performing dogs by hanging or other means.

The former Atlanta Falcons quarterback, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was sentenced in December 2007 to 23 months in jail after admitting to hanging two dogs and to agreeing to the killing of other dogs as part of the dogfighting ring. He wound up spending 18 months in jail and two more in home confinement.

Contacted by The TV Column, BET and James DuBose, one of the series's executive producers, declined to comment on how much money Vick was being paid to participate. Vick is not only the subject of the series, he is listed in BET's news release as one of the executive producers under what is described as his production company, "MV7 Productions."

BET is targeting the series to debut in 2010. The network's president of original programming, Loretha Jones, says in the news release that the crime committed by Vick is "endemic of what is happening to young Black men today" and that BET hopes the series "will give viewers a glimpse of how he is rebuilding his life and moving forward as a human being and not just another sports figure."

The series, according to BET, will chronicle Vick's "difficult childhood," the "athletic gifts" that led him to become the highest-paid player in the league, and how "misguided decisions cost him his lucrative contract, his freedom and much more."

But, of course, not as much as it cost the animals Vick executed.

Twenty-two dogs who survived Vick's abuse, and who were deemed by animal experts most difficult to be placed in homes, got their own reality-TV program long before Vick got his deal with BET.

National Geographic Channel telecast the two-hour special "Dogtown: Saving the Michael Vick Dogs" on Sept. 5, 2008. It chronicled those 22 dogs taken to Dogtown in Kanab, Utah, run by the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which is one of the largest no-kill animal facilities in the country. The episode reached 4 million viewers in two airings that night -- one of the network's biggest ratings successes in its history.

A Vick reality series had been rumored for months.

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