BET is clearly a channel on the rise. For years, a depository for the booty video du jour and reruns–any-rerun of a black sit-com. There remains a steady stream of “a black guy drives a car like this and a white guy drives a car like this,” comics who’s mission in life seems to be to prove that nobody can pick out as ugly and garish a suit as a negro. The booty videos remain, without a wisp of protest from these quarters. But we must no longer fear the prodigious rump of Jackee rising above the horizon of cancellation, like the back of a terrible Leviathan ominously penetrating the surface of the sea.

The best of what BET has to offer now is a cycle of reality and hidden camera shows, with the ingenious “Hell Date” in the vanguard. It’s a show built of deception, public humiliation, improv and a midget dressed as the devil. A nauseating hack like Jerry Bruckheimer could build these elements into an entertaining show. BET has built it into the funniest show on television since “Family Guy” hit the shits.

Hell Date, incidentally is a show in which one person believes they are going on a regular dating show, like “Ship Mates” or something. Instead they are put on a date with an actor or comedian who plays someone with a serious flaw, for example being a trannie, a drunk (actually the date with the drunk chick looked like a lot of fun), a criminal breaking parole, an escaped lunatic or a twenty-five year old virgin.

Two things take “Hell Date” from a great idea to a work of genius that shall echo through the centuries. One is their willingness to “go there.” “There” being having the hell date pick up his aggressive, severely retarded brother in the middle of the date. Or having the stiff, virgin Hell Dater cum in his pants during a dance lesson. The second factor is that this is a black show. It would not be as funny with any other race or group of people than black Americans. If you need to know why, simply recall Chapelle’s “When Keepin‘ It Real Goes Wrong.” Going into too much detail will only ruin classic episodes. But I’ll share the fact that one date ends with a victim of the prank brandishing her dinner knife at the actors around her and proclaiming, “I will CUT you!”

The best thing of all about “Hell Date” is the emergance of Hell Dater Farelle. The cast of actors is, on the whole, an amazing group displaying increadible adeptitude at spontanious humor. But Farelle runs away with the show and is easily the funniest woman on earth. No hyperbole here. Who are the other candidates? Sara “I said something racist so it’s automatically funny” Silverman? Rita Rudner? The fact is that Farelle is the only woman I know of who is just hilarious without qualification. Her prepared acting and her improvised shit alike is brilliant, and all stems from the fact that she seems to have no anchor. She throws herself into being a pre-op, a lunatic or any kind of kook the scenario calls for with wreckless abandon.

So attention whitey. The days of instantly flipping past BET and/or using them only for late night booty videos when there is not a Girls Gone Wild infomercial on and you need to rub out a quick one are passed. Stop watching Seinfeld reruns and the carcasses of Fox’s animated shows and give “Hell Date” a chance to rock you. You will thank me.