It’s Vickie Winans Time

 It's Vickie Winans Time for urban faithHere’s this week’s rundown of pop-culture stories. Lots to talk about, so let’s get started.

BET Gives Us “A Time” to Let Loose

Even though comedians like Katt Williams, Chris Rock, and Cedric the Entertainer keep us laughing on their popular HBO or Comedy Central stand-up specials, we’re hungry for some clean comedy we can watch with the whole family. Thankfully Vickie Winans, who has long been a successful gospel music artist with No. 1 hits like “As Long As I Got King Jesus” and “The Rainbow,” is bringing family-friendly comedy to BET with her new show, A Time to Laugh. Set to debut in January 2010, the show has already begun filming a scheduled 30 episodes. BET, which has found recent success with gospel-influenced programming such as the hit show Sunday Best, describes A Time to Laugh as gospel stand-up with dynamic dancers, musical artists, and fast-paced Bible story improv from a fresh urban contemporary perspective.

It certainly will be good to see more of Vickie Winans. After an extended absence from the music scene following the death of her mother, Mattie Bowman, and a difficult exit from the Verity Records roster, earlier this month Winans released How I Got Over, her first album in three years (see video for the first single below). We’re not sure yet whether A Time to Laugh is exactly what we had in mind when we said we wanted “Christian comedy,” but we’re still looking forward to seeing what Sister Winans has to offer on BET.

‘Act Like a Lady’ on the Big Screen?

When Steve Harvey released his dating book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, it seemed like the world couldn’t stop talking about it. Tyra Banks invited him on her daytime talk show to share his relationship revelations, and Oprah brought him on her show twice, including an appearance before an all-female audience where he counseled various women on the ways of love. UrbanFaith even offered its more skeptical assessment. With insight into the male psyche like “Men are driven by who they are, what they do, and how much they make” and hints on what men want (Harvey claims it is “support, love and ‘The Cookie'”) the comedian-turned-pop-relationship-expert found instant success with his book. Now BV Newswire reports that filmmaker Will Packer (This Christmas and Obsessed) is adapting the book into a full-length film. It’s too early to even begin discussing the plot, but we hope they’ll turn it into a documentary. Steve Harvey is so hysterically funny, and with the number of women at their wits end as to what men want, it would be great to see him set loose, training a group of women to think like men.

‘Idol’ After Paula

Now that Paula Abdul is officially stepping down as a judge on American Idol, we’re kind of looking forward to what’s in store for the new season of the show. Without Paula’s positive and, let’s be honest, generally unintelligible commentary, how will the show survive? We doubt she’ll be easily replaced by just another “nice female” voice, as fans might be suspect of a judge who’s already been pigeon-holed into the canned role of good cop. On the other hand, a stronger, more critical voice may feel too harsh against the biting words of Simon Cowell and the “yo’ dawg” musical analysis of Randy Jackson.

Until Fox can find a permanent replacement for Abdul, they’re temporarily filling her chair with a slew of celebrity guests like Katy Perry, Victoria Beckham, and even a rumored appearance by new Real Atlanta housewife and singer Kandi Burruss.

One thing we know for sure is that the American Idol formula for success has been compromised. If the dispute was really over money, Fox may regret failing to move some of Ryan Seacrest’s $45 million over to Abdul, if only to keep the show interesting.

Life After ‘Purpose’

It may be no surprise to you that Pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life has sold over 25 million copies, making it by Publishers Weekly‘s count the best-selling hardback book in American History. Since its debut in 2002, it has been a must-read for a global audience of believers and non-believers alike when trying to make sense of their lives and come to terms with their faith.

Now Warren is ready to piggyback on nearly a decade of success with plans to release a new book, just in time for the 30th Anniversary of his Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. In a recent video to his church members, he explained, “I’m in book writing mode right now. I’ve gone back into hibernation to write the follow up to Purpose Driven Life now, eight years later. It’s going to be called The Hope of the World, and my plan is to release that on Easter Sunday.”

The new book is set to focus on the church and its role in contemporary culture, elevating the purpose-driven “what do I do with my life?” philosophy to a broader “how do I engage with the culture around me?” level. Warren, who also launched the Purpose Driven Connection magazine with the Readers Digest Association in early 2009, has increasingly been practicing what he preaches in terms of engaging culture. Last winter, he had a highly publicized conflict and eventual reconciliation with musician Melissa Etheridge. The two made headlines when Etheridge, known for being outspoken about gay rights, criticized the President Barack Obama for including Warren in his Inauguration plans, despite his criticism of California’s Proposition 8. The singer later apologized for her negative reaction to Warren’s role in the ceremony, saying her assumptions about the megachurch pastor’s character and prejudices toward Christians were reinforcing the exact type of behavior the homosexual community is trying to undo.

That’s it for this installment of Pop & Circumstance. Until next time, please leave your comments below and let us know what pop-culture stories you’re most fascinated by this week.