One advantage of a streaming service is you can be as raunchy as you want to be, with no FCC oversight or “community” standards many cable networks keep.
When BET's streaming service BET+ debuts Thursday, one of its first original offerings will be Will Packer's audaciously raunchy comedy called "Bigger," which is both a literal and a metaphorical reference.
“This was the type of show that we couldn’t really do on a linear platform,” said Packer, the Atlanta producer behind films such as “Ride Along” and “Girls Trip” and OWN’s “Ambition” and “Ready to Love.” “We wanted a broad edgy comedy show that spoke to people in their late 20s, early 30s in the same way ‘Insecure’ does.”
The first three episodes of “Bigger” will be available for BET+ streaming subscribers for $9.99 a month starting September 19 and new ones will arrive each subsequent week. This comedy stars five fresh-faced actors playing college friends now in their 30s struggling with life and love in Atlanta. (I sampled the first three episodes and it’s a hoot.)
Tanisha Long plays Layne, a quirky 30-something woman who recently quit her corporate job to seek her bliss as the owner of a vintage clothing shop in Little Five Points, which is actually shown in several scenes. Her dull but faithful doctor boyfriend Warren (Greg Washington) just proposed to her but she demurred.
While they are "on a break," she meets a likable, well-endowed man Reggie (Terrence T. Terrell) and she decides to go for it. As Reggie opens his drawers, flowers and birds fly out in animated form as if she's seeing the Holy Grail.
Layne becomes truly engaged in a carnal sense - as opposed to poor Warren, who bores her in bed. And “when he tries too hard, he gets super weird,” she says.
Still, her rational side decides to say yes to marrying Warren. During a scene in episode two, Warren and Layne are looking at engagement rings at a fancy jewelry shop when Reggie sends a pick of his personal treasure. And yes, the camera captures it in all its entirety.
“This is a streaming service,” Packer said. “We could go there. I don’t mind saying we push the envelope. That’s what the plus is in BET+.”
But during the first three episodes, there is no female nudity although the women do have sex. “We’ve seen it already,” he said. (Think “Game of Thrones.”) “Female nudity has been done to death. And the audience for this show will be mostly women. It’s been my prime audience for a long time.”
Layne frequently breaks the fourth wall, talking directly into the camera, which adds to the humor. (Think Zach Morris on “Saved by the Bell,” Frank Underwood in “House of Cards” or Ferris Bueller).
When she tells Reggie about her engagement with Warren, he doesn't care - at all. He kisses her, and she tells the camera: "You saw me. I tried to tell him."
Speaking directly to the viewer is “another weapon in our comedy arsenal,” Packer said. “It adds levels. She can comment and say things that the character is thinking. I hadn’t seen a show aimed at this audience try this with these types of characters. We’ll see how the viewers respond.”
Layne’s four other friends have vastly different career paths but similar dissatisfaction with their lives. They are all searching for something, well, “Bigger.” And though Layne is the entry point into the story with her
- Tracey (Rasheeda Crockett) is a desperate, minor league reality star trying to make money as a social media "influencer." She has a million Instagram followers but not enough engagement to merit endorsements, an expert told her.
Her minimal fame plays out episode three when she can't waltz into a hoppin' party as a VIP and has to wait outside with everyone else. To make matters worse, she runs into Porsha Williams of "Housewives" fame who pretends to know her but actually has no clue who she is. Lil Scrappy of "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta" does ask Tracey to take a picture with him and two others but she suffers the indignity of being cropped out of a photo that shows up on a gossip site.
"Atlanta is so much about outward appearance," Packer said. "Who's got clout. Who's important. Who's got the juice and the followers. That scene illustrated that." As for getting Williams and Scrappy to do cameos, Packer himself has the clout and the juice to get them to show up.
“Being in Atlanta as long as I have, I know them all,” he said, of the reality show stars. “I made calls. They answered. It’s fun to have that type of realism. As the show continues, I want to continue to do that, throwing in familiar faces.”
- Vince (Tristen Winger) is an old-school deejay, an old soul who can't move up the DJ ranks because he refuses to work his social media or bend to 2019 trends. When he asked his strip-club boss why he couldn't get a better time slot, the man compared him to his evening DJs: "They have a presence. You are just present."
- Deon (Chase Anthony) is moving up the ranks as a token black dude at a mostly white financial firm. The comparisons to "Insecure" are clearest here.
“At what cost do you allow yourself to assimilate vs. being true to yourself?” said Packer, who knew that feeling himself as he made a name for himself in Hollywood.
At one point, Deon confronts his white boss to complain that a white colleague used the N-word but before he could say anything, said boss invites him to a hockey game. Deon shuts his trap and is seen yelping enthusiastically at hockey game.
Although Atlanta does not have a pro hockey team anymore, Packer felt like this was about as “lily white” a sport as they could come up with to amp up the comedy.
- Veronica (Angell Conwell).is doing well as a residential realtor but gets jealous when her former underling leapfrogs her and starts closing big commercial projects. In a pique of jealousy, she outbids her rival on a run-down commercial property at an auction only to find out how truly run down it really is.
“She should be happy where she’s at but she’s not,” said Packer.
“Bigger,” available at 3:01 a.m. EST on Thursday, September 19 on BET+, a new streaming service.
About the Author
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years.