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Unfortunately, "Belle's" strikes the wrong notes

It's not a diss to call "Belle's" (10 p.m. TV One), an old-fashioned sitcom; it's just accurate. The half-hour show (you'll get two episodes tonight) feels like something from a simpler era. It's a quaint, gentle and mildly amusing outing.

By its description, you might (if you are old enough) think of "Frank's Place," the much-revered Tim Reid comedy. Like that show, "Belle's" is set in restaurant (that setting and the lack of a laugh track is where the "Frank's Place" comparison ends, sadly); it's a soul food place. William "Big Bill" Cooper (Keith David) is the owner. He's a fairly recent widower. It's a family operation: Jil (Elise Neal) is Bill's oldest daughter and runs the front of the house; Gladys (Ella Joyce) is his sister-in-law and head cook; Loreta (Tami Roman) is Bill's youngest and diva daughter; Pam (Nadja Alaya) is Jil's daughter and the show's narrator. Also in on the adventures is Maurice (Belle's exec producer/co-creator Miguel Nunez), a womanizing bartender.

Unfortunately "Belle's" looks like it's filmed on a set rather than in a restaurant, and that artificial feeling just adds to the sinking feeling you'll have when you realize, despite the capable cast, the show isn't as good as you were hoping. The first episode was kind of interesting in light of the debate around slavery sparked by "Django Unchained." A white man wants to rent the restaurant for a family reunion; as it turns out, his family is the one that enslaved Cooper's wife's family. The Belle's family is divided with some wanting to take the well-paying business and others arguing to turn it away in an act of ... well, something I don't know.

That's part of the problem; while the issue resonates, the debate doesn't really make sense. And as if recognizing that, the resolution is kind of sweet and milquetoast.

Ed. Weinberger, a TV legend behind "The Cosby Show" and "Taxi," is behind this show, which is not a bad pedigree. Maybe with that kind of experienced hand, "Belle's" gets sharper as it moves forward. Gentleness isn't bad in these snarky, cranky times; it may even be healthy. But there's got to sharp storytelling if there's not going to be sharp comedy. "Belle's" is lacking in both areas.

'Celebrity Crime Files' debuts with a look at the Rae Carruth case

Crime doesn't pay but it does fascinate. That could be the thought that drove the creators of "Celebrity Crime Files" (10 tonight, TV One), a well-crafted eight-episode docu-series that explores crimes featuring prominent people.

The first episode explores the Charlotte-based story of Rae Carruth, the former Carolina Panther who conspired to murder his pregnant girlfriend Cherica Adams.

Like other shows of this ilk, "Celebrity Crime Files" uses re-enactments, talking heads and some folks involved with the case to discuss the events. Two Charlotte Observer reporters give their perspectives; one of Carruth's defense lawyers weighs in, as do the prosecutors. So does Van Brett Watkins, the confessed gunman who testified against Carruth.

Networks schedule marathons of 'The Jeffersons' and 'Amen'

What better way to grieve the passing of Sherman Hemsley than to revel in some of his finest work? Here's how you can get your Hemsley fix this week.

First off, TV One airs "The Jeffersons" and "Amen" each weekday morning from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. But on Friday, TV One will replace their scheduled "Good Times" marathon with "The Jeffersons" from 8 p.m. to midnight. That marathon will feature the series premiere, "A Friend in Need," and other classic episodes for the George Jefferson character ("George's First Vacation," "Movin' on Down," "Louise Suspects," "George the Philanthropist," "Once a Friend," "The Ones You Love," and "The List").

Click below for more marathons.

"Unsung" launches a new season with "Everyday People"

The show some folks say is well-done by not well-named returns tonight.

"Unsung" (9 tonight, TV One), the series that highlights artists who haven't gotten the acclaim they deserve, returns with its first episode featuring the great multi-racial love fest that was Sly & the Family Stone.

It's a good episode, featuring interviews with the surprisingly coherent Sly Stone himself. He's been a recluse in the last years, by some accounts living an itinerant life. But here his memory of his past seems clear, and his love of creating music intact. You're left with a sense of what might have been.

The rest of the season looks promising: July 2, Angela Bofill, who has had a tough time in recent years; July 9, Con Funk Shun;  July 16, Kool Moe Dee (considered one of the best lyricists by many; July 23, The Marvelettes (the act that gave Motown it's first #1 hit); July 30,  Gerald Levert; Aug. 13, Arrested Development (a clear Sly Stone heir);  and Aug. 20, Lou Rawls.

You decide whether they are truly Unsung or not.

Home cooking gets its due on "My Momma Throws Down"

Mix "Iron Chef" with "Family Feud" and you've got "My Momma Throws Down" (8 tonight, TV One), a cooking competition show that pits everyday moms against one another. It makes for a tasty little show.

Hosted by comic/actor Ralph Harris, the show features two moms, nominated by a family member, competing in red or blue aprons and making a surprise dish, albeit one that might be found at any kitchen table. (In the first episode, it's squash casserole.) Judges taste the meal to anoint the top momma; on the first panel is noted food historian Jessica B. Harris and the sister trio from the fabulous 2000-2004 TV show "Soul Food"-- Vanessa Williams, Malinda Williams and Nicole Ari Parker.

You might get hooked on "Love Addiction"

Relationship TV shows typically focus on finding love (or "love" as in "The Bachelor") or fixing folk so they can learn how to be in relationships (like "Tough Love").

But what's equally important is to know when to get out of a relationship. That's the focus of "Love Addiction" (8 tonight, TV One), a new eight-episode docu-series that stages interventions to help men and women leave a bad situation.

Naturally, the folks in the relationships can't see that their love is toxic, so the intervention is triggered by a loved one. But before that, the series gives an upclose and detailed look at the couple, with the specifics filled in by the couple themselves. For the surprise intervention, a therapist or relationship expert is brought in to guide the person to an enlightened decision.

"Find Our Missing" does what mainstream media doesn't

It's a shame that "Find Our Missing" (10 tonight, TV One) exists because it points to a well-known disparity in my profession.

That disparity is in the coverage of missing persons; overwhelmingly white women get more attention on national broadcasts (think Natalee Holloway); the phenomenon is so prevalent it been proclaimed "missing white woman syndrome."

Despite the acknowledgement of this divide, not much has changed. "Finding Our Missing" steps into the breach with a 10-episode one-hour series that features African-Americans who have disappeared, and the circumstances surrounding their disappearance.

Strength of survivors showcased on "Will to Live"

On "Unsung," the lives of famous but unheralded people get examination. Now TV One, is premiering a series that takes a look at regular folk who've survived extraordinary circumstances.

Through reenactments and interviews, "Will to Live," (8 tonight, TV One), in a half-hour, tells the stories of people who, perhaps through sheer will, beat the odds and live through a terrible event.

The first two episodes make for interesting viewing, not just because the stories are of spectacularly horrific crimes, but because they also reveal lapses in law enforcement, when it comes to issues of class and gender.

"Top Model" Toccara brings her curves to "The Ultimate Merger"

Much has changed since we last saw TV One's take-off on "The Bachelorette."

First of all, "Donald J. Trump Presents" has been removed from the title making it just "The Ultimate Merger" (TV One, 9 tonight). Whether that's because the Donald tarnished his brand with African-Americans because of his questionable attacks on President Obama's birthplace or because having  "Donald J. Trump Presents" in the title is ridiculous, we'll never know. There's mention that the hotel is Trump-owned, but this time there's no offensive warning to the men not to damage any property. Yep, that actually happened.

Despite the fact that she didn't find love, Omarosa isn't back (she found it off camera with actor Michael Clarke Duncan); instead another one-namer, model Toccara sorts through 14 men to find Mr. Right.

"Unsung" features Raleigh resident Big Daddy Kane

TV One's series "Unsung" continues its stellar season tonight at 10 with a look at the career of seminal rapper Big Daddy Kane.

You might remember the man some called Dark Gable and Count Macula for his late '80s hits like "Ain't No Half Steppin," "Smooth Operator" and "I Get the Job Done," and for his awesome flat-top haircut, but the episodes proves there's a lot more to Kane, in terms of his musical legacy and influence. And he's got new music coming; Kane's hooked up with Los Angeles-based funk band Connie Price & the Keystones to form what he calls 'hip-hop soul unit.'

"We're mixing the last two songs," he says. "I'd say expect a single by fall."

Just as importantly, the Brooklyn native now calls Raleigh home. "I always dug Raleigh," he says. "I used to come down in '89 and hang out at the Residence Inn, near the Denny's on Wake Forest [Road]."

That's right, you could run into Kane at the Food Lion!

Happiness recently caught up with the still sexy-voiced and low-key Blackanova and talked to him about his "Unsung" experience.

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