The 2012 BET Awards red carpet

Singer Brandy performs during a tribute to the late Whitney Houston at the 2012 BET Awards in Los Angeles, July 1, 2012. / Photo: PHIL MCCARTEN/Reuters /Landov

By// Miki Turner

There’s no denying BET has improved its programming options in the past few years but there’s been one thing that has never disappointed and that’s the network’s annual awards show.

On a steamy Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, hundreds of celebrities braved the sizzling red carpet at the BET Awards ’12 at the Shrine Auditorium. And, even though the AC was on full blast inside, the heat coming off the stage rivaled the temperatures outside.

Some of the highlights included the opening banter between host Samuel L. Jackson and Spike Lee; the mini tributes to Donna Summer (Chante Moore), Vesta Williams, Nick Ashford (Valerie Simpson), Heavy D; Jay-Z clowning with Kanye West after they beat Beyonce for best video of the year; Humanitarian honoree Al Sharpton’s acceptance speech where he mentioned that he goes to bed hoping that “every bigot and unjust person” says “damn, he’s up again”; Nicki Minaj’s electrifying performance, along with those from Usher, Melanie Fiona and D’Angelo; the Lifetime Achievement segment for Maze featuring Frankie Beverly; and the most anticipated moment — the homage to the late Whitney Houston.

Mariah Carey, one of BET’s surprise presenters, opened the tribute with a tearful reflection of “her friend.” She was followed by Monica, who raised the roof with her rendition of I Love the Lord. Brandy picked it up with I’m Your Baby Tonight and I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Houston’s brother Gary performed just before his mother Cissy Houston hit the stage to perform Bridge Over Troubled Water. There was hardly a dry eye in the house after that one. Whitney’s Waiting to Exhale co-stars Angela Bassett, Lela Rachon and Loretta Devine reflected on their time with her while shooting the film and Chaka Khan closed out the set with I’m Every Woman.

As lovely as the Houston tribute was, it might have had a more emotional impact on the audience if her mother or Monica had performed their numbers at the end.

And, as is the case with all live shows there were a few snafus and awkward moments.

Chris Brown received only lukewarm receptions when he accepted his award for best R&B male and when he performed later in the 3 hour, 30 minute live broadcast. Also, one of the kids from Mindless Behavior who joked that co-presenter Mike Epps sang bad like Lauryn Hill on her comeback. That comment received mild boos from the audience. And, the worst was when DJ/announcer MC Lyte asked the audience to welcome Don’t Sleep host T.J. Holmes and he never appeared much to Jackson’s surprise.

Overall, the show was tight but long. There are only 15 awards and the 20-minute tribute to Frankie Beverly went on way too long.