gabrielle union*Great hair, perfect smile, show-stopping complexion, incredible figure … Gabrielle Union’s beauty is almost unparalleled, and the characters she portrays don’t seem like they’re that far off from the real thing either. They’re always smart, always seem to have all the right answers, they always have the great jobs and end up with the handsome leading man.

Couple the common attributes of her characters with the real life fact that she’s in a relationship with an NBA megastar and, while I’m at it, pour on the fact that she has been one of the top 10 prettiest women in Hollywood for at least 10 years. Wow, she’s easy to love for obvious reasons, but easy to hate on as well.

All her respective characters do is win, win, win no matter what. And what of the rest of us mere mortals left to bask in their glow? That’s fodder for hateration and holleration in the dancery. Hated by men who can’t have her, and women that can’t be her.

I’ve always liked Gabrielle Union the actress, but the perfection in purpose of her characters had become a sliver of mundane in my opinion. But opinions, by their very nature, are subject to fluctuate with new information. This year’s opening night film of the 16th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival was “Being Mary Jane”, which actually isn’t a film, per se, but rather the first episode of what, in my opinion, could shape up to be the very best piece of work produced in the history of BET … with the potential to be the best television show starring an African American lead actress that I’ve seen in 20 years. And, yes, I am aware that it is a grand proclamation.

Written by Mara Brock Akil, and directed by her husband Salim Akil, “Being Mary Jane,” starring Gabrielle Union, tells the harrowing tale of television journalist Mary Jane Paul as she tries to balance her career, familial responsibilities and relationships in the modern age.  With an all star cast that features Richard Roundtree, Margaret Avery, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Richard Brooks, Aaron Spears and a host of others, Gabrielle Union is given the fertile soil in which to her talents can truly shine.

There are several dynamics at play that are pulled from the everyday reality of the modern black family.

She is the by proxy leader of her family due to her sense of responsibility, aging parents, and her older brother’s incompetence; she is also the sole source of income for his entire family. It is a palpable source of tension.

Those factors in themselves would make for great storytelling but add the fact that Mary Jane’s relationship status jumps from complicated to single and back again faster than your Facebook buddies and you bare witness to a very contemporary character.

Gabrielle Union as news woman Mary Jane Paul

People will immediately compare “Being Mary Jane” to “Sex In The City” and I can see how one could say that.

But, despite the fact that I hated “Sex in the City,” I love “Being Mary Jane.” It surprised me for two reasons: I don’t normally watch television and I don’t exactly fit the demographic of its viewing audience. Also, I haven’t watched more than 4 or 5 chronological episodes of any non-sports related television series in at least 5 years, but I would watch this show. Gabrielle Union is the epitome of the proverbial “grown ass woman” in this offering. More so here than in any role she’s ever been in.

As the episode ended, the characters remained in my mind’s eye and I wondered what would become of them. The entire viewing experience was a feeling somewhere beyond suspension of disbelief. “Being Mary Jane” features high quality work in all aspects of talent and production.

If everything goes right “Being Mary Jane” should air on BET sometime in February, 2013. I’m hooked after one episode and I’m really curious to see how the show does.