Is BET the new home for relationship dramas? Between The Game and Let’s Stay Together, the network is steadily building a slate of scripted series in that realm. Now comes its latest offering, Being Mary Jane, a sturdy new series starring Gabrielle Union, that — in somewhat of a departure from the other shows — is less about being in a relationship than it is about being without one.
Put together by the producers behind The Game and Jumping the Broom, Being Mary Jane revolves around Union as a successful TV anchor who is weighed down by her not-so-fulfilling personal life. Along with the end of her latest romance — which fizzles after she discovers that the man she’s been hooking up with is actually married — Mary finds herself constantly burdened with family responsibilities, including an ailing mother, a perpetually broke brother, and a niece who keeps popping out babies. Through it all, Jane just wants some companionship. The twist? She realizes it may not be a man she needs, but instead a baby.
The plot may sound like a cliche rom-com, but rest assured this is not the small-screen version of The Back Up Plan…at least not entirely. Peppered with catchy Rihanna songs and timely pop-culture references (Mary has a standing date to watch Revenge with her BFF), the pilot is surprisingly funny, fresh, and affecting. Much of the credit goes to Union, who manages to capture her character’s single gal despondency without making her appear weak or needy, even as the story — no spoilers — takes a bit of a far-fetched turn toward the end of the series launching movie.
Jane will return to BET as a series sometime in 2014. It’s a long wait — but assuming the show continues to live up to its pilot — I’m willing to stick around to find out just how Being Mary Jane pans out. B