Let’s start with the positive.
BET’s newest scripted show “Being Mary Jane,” which debuts July 2 at 10:30 p.m. as a 2-hour movie, has a huge upside. The show stars Gabrielle Union as Mary Jane Paul, the host of her own Atlanta-based TV show. Mary Jane has a solid career, a fabulous house and a Porsche Panamera. But she also has a seriously ill mother, a grown brother with no money and no job and a pregnant niece who thinks porn is a viable career choice. Mary Jane is also single, a source of considerable anguish. The show begins with the depressing disclaimer that 47% of Black women have never married and that although Mary Jane doesn’t represent all single women, she’s just one going through her own changes.
On the face of it, “Being Mary Jane” has the makings of a great show. For some entirely bizarre reason, BET has decided to debut the movie in July, then in all probability endlessly repeat it until its eight-episode run in January 2014. That seems a loooooong stretch of time to introduce a new show and find a loyal viewership to support it six months later, but this is BET.
So once again, we’ll need to focus on the positive.
Union is solid as Mary Jane and her coworker/producer Kara Lynch is well-played by veteran Latina actress Lisa Vidal, whose sister Christina was Taina of Disney fame. The cast is rounded out by the always great Richard Roundtree and Margaret Avery (“The Color Purple”) as Mary Jane’s parents and Raven Goodwin (“Just Jordan”) and Richard Brooks (“Law and Order”) as her brother and sister. The casting is one of the high points of “Being Mary Jane.” Man candy is on display with Omari Hardwick and new hottie Stephen Bishop (“Moneyball”) as Mary Jane’s ex-boyfriend. An honest look at a grown woman’s life, “Being Mary Jane” presents a flawed Black woman who doesn’t have to stoop to reality show rachetness to be appealing. Mary Jane is a real woman with real issues despite her material success.