"What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is a mildly peculiar position for me. Upon first glance there is no way that I would’ve ever dreamed that I would say anything like this… okay, sit down…, ready, Black Entertainment Television (BET)—or as I like to refer to it—the Hospice of Hope; just may be the home of the best show on television. I know “best” is a very relative term. Admittedly my euphoria could be tainted by the extremely low exceptional standard the network has proudly propelled to for the last 30 years. Ironically, we cannot even blame this horrendous history of neighborhood programming on “White Flight”— especially when you consider…, since Viacom’s Take Over (in 2001) I could make a case that the network’s programming has demonstrated a marginal improvement. I would have to receive some sort of immunity for that public testimony, though.
Anyway, enough of BET’s counterproductive history of cultural commerce, today I honestly believe that Being Mary Jane, starring the dimpled dyme, Gabrielle Union, is the absolute best show on TV. I am not even talking about the fact that the show wins the Tuesday night rating’s wars in the advertiser’s dream demo Adults 18-49. Impressive as it may be, what I find extremely alluring is the witty dialogue; the show’s approach to social issues and the extraordinary dope music. Of course, to no one’s shock or awe, I will start there.
On any given Tuesday you may hear the underground soul music sounds of the Swedish hipsters Little Dragon or you may involuntarily nod your dome to the Brooklyn-bred Stacy Barthe, one night you may even experience the earthy vibes of Emeli Sandé. Whatever the night’s playlist selection, the music tends to be an unescapably, enthralling treat.
Though I must admit (at times) the lyrical overtures seems overtly obvious; even somewhat anticipated—especially to the ear of a self-proclaimed supreme musicologists like myself. My delusions of grandeur aside, the fact that many of the artists that are sprinkled throughout the hour-long are mostly obscure to the average ear and the way the music nestled within the drama is really noteworthy. Last night’s Erykah Badu-theme show almost made me R. Kelly the screen.
On the surface the story line seems fairly typical…, a successful black female fighting a daily battle for the illusive “corner office” in her glass ceiling stroll through the corporate chaos. If you have been paying close attention, ever since the 1921 Black Holocaust bombing, America has been a constant reminder to the black life limitations of climbing this engulfed ladder. Today the reminders seem less and less subtle and it isn’t limited to the hours of 9-to-five.
Once Mary Jane’s corporate limitations are decidedly difficult to cope with alone, she finds an even tougher battle searching for the black male equivalent to add balance in her equally turbulent personal life. There is a constant theme that MJ’s highly visible position as a popular nighttime news anchor becomes a referendum on financially supporting her immediate family and the ‘hood champion aspirational carrot. What uppity black clan has not had that conversation?
My preconceived notion of this “blah, blah, blah” storyline turned out to be beyond refreshing. The current feel and the wonderful execution of characters is actually worth setting the DVR. The cast is nothing of short of magnificent. The Union-led team polishes the screen as a fresh, relevant and authentic day in a black life—unlike say…, ABC’s Black-ish, which has many noteworthy storylines, but comes off as a minor league Modern Family.
I am fairly confident BET has tried their darnedest to fumble this wonderful triangular blend of social, moral and corporate conundrums, but even their counterproductive Wharton Wannabes are having a hard time turning this into a Jailhouse Girl’s Rock!
Being Mary Jane has been inked for another season—it’s third—which will give the dynamic duo of Mara Brock Akil and (hubby) Salim Akil more than enough time to continue to entertain, educate and enlightened the landscape of America on the Mary Jane in all of us.