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.
The family that in less capable hands than “Girlfriends” and “The Game” creator Mara Brock Akil, could be portrayed as broad stereotypes turns out to be a little more complex than first thought. Brooks is an early standout as Mary Jane’s seemingly trifling but hopefully complicated brother. Hardwick is once again called upon to be the bad guy, a place where he’s both comfortable and effective.
Now, the downside.
Writer/producer Akil and her husband director Salim Akil must have decided to throw everything into the kitchen sink to see what would stick with viewers, particularly given the six-month break we’ve already covered. Almost every single issue that Black women face from media slurs to colorism, to infidelity, to teenage pregnancy, to illness, to gay relationships (an interracial gay couple, no less!) to baby hunger to career issues is dealt with in the movie. And there is a particularly silly storyline that any woman as educated as Mary Jane would likely laugh at instead of go along with. Oh and did I mention the scene that any diehard “Sex and the City” fan will recognize that is practically lifted from a popular episode of the show?
Too much of a good thing is not always a bad thing, though. In this first effort, the Akils have at least proven that they can stretch beyond, ahem, putting anyone in a maid’s uniform or a blonde weave. And unlike the disappointing downfall of credible storytelling on “The Game,” “Being Mary Jane” “may yet resonate with viewers who can get past the usual Black woman tropes. There is a tremendous opportunity to show a well-rounded Black woman whose career success doesn’t mean she’s not a mess in other areas. (Just like that other TV show starring a Black woman.) As annoying as those same themes are, they’re popular for a reason. Once the Akils pull in viewers, let’s hope that the storylines expand and grow into a show and a character that evolves along the way.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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