The UK isn’t exactly bursting with shows featuring a black female lead, so it’s more than refreshing to see the hit BET show Being Mary Jane has done well enough in the US to warrant being shown on our shores.
What’s It About? Following on from the huge success of the BET movie of the same name, the show follows Mary Jane Paul (Gabrielle Union), a successful local TV news anchor who seems to have everything she needs in life – apart from a stable relationship. As she searches for Mr. Right, Mary Jane does her best to maintain her all-round powerhouse image. Easier said than done…
Verdict: This new series comes from the minds responsible for hit shows like The Game and Girlfriends, successful African-American shows which have helped to make BET more that just a music channel.
Written and directed by husband-and-wife team Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil, the show is clear in its intent right from the start; we are following the life of today’s modern woman. She tries to juggle love, family and work, we watch Mary Jane struggling through life’s dramas just as we would.
Naturally, comparisons to Scandal’s Olivia Pope featured heavily in American reviews of the show. But while Pope operates in a world so far removed from our own truth, Mary Jane is a much more relatable character as she battles situations that are a concern to many women in the world right now.
The series picks up from where the film left off, which is a rather presumptuous tactic as many viewers may not have seen the pilot/original movie when it first aired. Luckily by the end of episode two, the viewer is given enough information to figure out what it going on.
In the first few episodes, we see Mary Jane struggle at work after a colleague’s shocking departure, all the while trying to keep her family together through their various dramas. A rather awkward encounter between the two men in her life doesn’t help the situation as well as her friend’s attempt to take her own life.
Gabrielle Union is at her best in this feisty role and has the perfect ability to help the viewer empathise even when Mary Jane continues to fall under the spell of her married lover. Mary Jane is a real women and this is shown in simple moments in which she wears a shower cap or tries to squeeze in quick workouts while brushing her teeth. Life isn’t all glitz and glam like so many other shows can be guilty of making out.
The incredible sexy scenes are equally matched by the more emotionally raw moments, making this the perfect escapist show after a hard day at work. This show is a positive step in BET’s attempt to bring more engaging dramas to the network and the audience is already thanking them for it as the show begins its second season in the States.
Final words: In the era of shows like Girls, this show speaks to an audience that has felt overlooked in the world of TV. While it doesn’t break new ground, good performances and realistic storylines mean it’ll be here to stay.
Being Mary Jane airs on Mondays at 10pm on BET.