Kerry Washington notwithstanding, African American images on television tend to suffer from too much trifling and not enough authenticity—which is ironic considering the overwhelming number of reality shows featuring African Americans currently being thrown in our face. So we were thrilled to witness the dead-on writing and performances in Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil’s “Being Mary Jane,” starring the delightful and hilarious Gabrielle Union.
Union’s portrayal of the hard-driving and successful Mary Jane Paul, whose personal life is deliciously complicated, felt like a mirror propped up in front of the modern black woman. The Akils (Mara as writer and Salim as director) hardly missed a note. And it was so gratifying to see Union sink her pearly whites into a role that fully takes advantage of her considerable comedic skills.
After watching the show on Tuesday night, we were even more thrilled with this bit of very welcome news: “Being Mary Jane” was a ratings smash!
The show scored an impressive 2.0 rating with adults 18-49, bringing in an impressive 4 million viewers. To give more perspective, consider this: Among that most desirable demographic of 18 to 49, only NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” with a rating of 2.3, attracted more viewers than “Being Mary Jane.” The BET original was the highest rated show on all of cable television Tuesday night.
This is the kind of news that gets our hearts racing here at MyBrownBaby because it can have such far-reaching implications. It means that perhaps more studios besides BET will decide to take a chance on bringing real, authentic, believable black characters to the small screen. Perhaps we might be rescued from drowning in the sludge of the reality television horror shows and their scary depictions of black women.
Our hats off to BET for bringing us “Mary Jane,” which is the network’s first scripted drama series. But we do have some bad news: after the debut of the pilot this week, the series doesn’t actually come on until 2014.
Oh well. We can’t for Mary Jane’s triumphant return. In case you missed it (or you need another fix), here’s the Mary Jane trailer. Enjoy.
Nick Chiles is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and a New York Times bestselling author of 12 books, including the upcoming "The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path To American Leadership," which he co-authored with Al Sharpton.