On a recent episode of Being Mary Jane featured Mary’s Jane now very successful younger brother P.J getting conned by his mentor’s young White daughter for his prized Rolex in an effort to gain his attention. If this had been any other show, this sort of storyline would have been par for the course but on the once progressive Being Mary Jane, it served as another example of a recycled plot that has permeated the show’s fourth season.
What happened to one of our favorite shows?
When we met Mary Jane Paul back in 2013, she was a successful Black woman that had it all together. At least that’s the way it seemed. Underneath her carefully crafted façade was a woman desperate for love while carrying the weight and responsibility of her entire family. While we understood Mary Jane, she was also an insufferable know-it-all who was sleeping with a married man. Despite the character flaws, however, fans fell in love with Being Mary Jane. The show mirrored so much of Black family life that we couldn’t help but enjoy this representation of us.
By Being Mary Jane’s third season, the show had found its groove. It was able to strike the delicate balance of being entertaining while highlighting important societal commentary. In just 10 episodes, Being Mary Jane explored Black suicide and depression, drug abuse, and police brutality in ways no other recent shows could match.
But in the year between the seasons three and four, so much has changed. The biggest and most impactful change was the exit of creator and showrunner, Mara Brock Akil, and her producing partner and husband Salim Akil. The Akils inked a deal with Warner Bros. Television (WBTV) and effectively ended their relationship with BET. Then, BMJ star Gabrielle Union sued BET for breach of contract before reaching a settlement a month before the show’s season four premiere.
With so many changes, fans were worried about the possible effects the exits of the Akils and the lawsuit would have on the season, but we remained hopeful. Season four premiered on January 10th with Mary Jane Paul trying something new and taking charge of her career in New York City. She was effectively pushed out of her job at SNC and followed her producing partner, Kara, to the big city. But almost immediately, fans weren’t feeling the change and that sentiment has continued in the episodes that followed.
Luckily, all is not lost. Being Mary Jane has slipped but it hasn’t completely jumped the proverbial shark.
Here are a few ways the series can get once again become the show we know and love:
Send Mary Jane back to Atlanta. Initially, it didn’t seem that the Atlanta setting impacted the show as much as it did. But after watching Mary Jane struggle to adapt to New York City without her family, it’s clear that an essential character is missing from the show and that’s Atlanta. There’s something about the story of a Black family living and loving in the south that can’t be told in New York City.
The other missing element is Mary Jane’s family. We’ve seen glimpses of them in a few episodes this time around but not like we have in previous seasons. At its core, Being Mary Jane is a story about family. It’s about how her life is impacted by the decisions she makes for her family.
Rediscover who Mary Jane Paul is. As viewers and fans, we become very attached to characters. We discuss them as if they are actual friends or family and we believe that we know them. We don’t of course but we can tell when our favorite characters aren’t the people we’ve come to know. Who is Mary Jane Paul this season? While she has always seemed a little desperate to make her relationships work, her romance with the British-born Lee seems particularly forced. Perhaps Mary Jane has matured a little or maybe she is settling. We have seen Mary Jane date a variety of men over the last few years and no matter what the situation she remains herself. However, lately she hasn’t been typical Mary Jane Paul.
In all fairness, the 4th season of is generally a make it or break it season for a television show. Being Mary Jane remains one of my favorite shows but lately it seems unfocused. The dynamics of the show have changed and watching the show doesn’t feel quite the same way it once did. Maybe it’s the loss of the Akils, the writers of the show or perhaps BET is dropping the ball on one its most popular series, but there are some changes that have to be made. I’m worried if the decline continues, we’ll lose this great show and that would the most tragic story of all.