WE-TV has gotten a lot of ratings mileage from the sisterly tensions among the Braxtons, which is partly shot in Atlanta. “Braxton Family Values,” concluding its second season,is the network’s most successful original series to date.
WE is hoping for more viewer love with its sister duo of Mary Mary – Erica Atkins-Campbell and Tina Atkins-Campbell. Starting March 29, viewers will watch the travails of the pair as they juggle multiple kids, pregnancies, a pushy manager and a career.
Mary Mary brings a different angle to reality shows of this ilk because they are an urban contemporary gospel group who sing about and for Jesus. This means they aren’t going to show too much skin, or curse, or threaten bodily harm.
This doesn’t mean there aren’t tensions. Expect arguments over career direction, weight and sundry other issues over ten episodes. But it’s more of a sweet, feel-good show than “Braxton Family Values.”
They have crossover appeal, breaking ground in 2000 with “Shackles (Praise You)” and 2008’s “God In Me,” which got heavy play not just on Praise 102.5 but secular stations Majic 107.5, V-103 and Hot 107.9. This reality show is meant to hit not just their core fans but casual fans, too.
Atlanta, as the first episode notes, is Mary Mary’s biggest market. Praise 102.5 gets some love and we see them perform at the Macy’s Tree Lighting this past November at Lenox Square Mall. Mary Mary, who live in Los Angeles, even came into town last week to do a special screening for media and fans at the Museum Bar near Turner Field.
I did a separate phone interview with them yesterday from a remote location, but I apparently closed the screen of my laptop without saving the file. Normally, this isn’t a big deal because when I pop it open, it’s still sitting there. But when I hooked the computer directly to the work line at the office, it automatically shut down my computer and installed an updated Microsoft Office. This caused the file to disappear into the ether. So in a bit of a fluke, my notes are gone, gone, gone. All I have left are my memories of what happened. Sorry, Tina and Erica!
We talked a bit about Mitchell Solarek, their high-strung manager, who helped them get this reality show. They had been offered to do reality shows in the past, too, but only now decided to do it. It helps that they are executive producers, so they have creative control over how they are portrayed on screen.
Mitch spends the first two episodes fretting about getting to a gig on time, about a dress showing up on time, about the ladies dressing too provocatively for a Christian audience, about not liking their sister Goo Goo, who is their stylist. They like his intensity and ability to focus them.
But they acknowledge they can drive him nuts, too.
Tina comes across as the more vocal of the two sisters. But Erica is just as determined to achieve success. Her work ethic and vocal skills are readily apparent on screen She planned a Mary Mary tour last year that was scheduled to run well into her eighth month of pregnancy. She said in previous pregnancies, she was able to work virtually up to the point the baby comes out. But this time, there are medical complications which cause issues with the tour in the second episode.
They are both proud too that they are able to show themselves as loving sisters who bicker but get over their differences. They also want to show the world two happy marriages to two successful black men.
While Erica suffers a tough pregnancy on camera, Tina ends up pregnant by the end of the ten episodes and is now five months along with her fourth child.
Both are using this show as a platform to promote their latest single “Go Get It” and a greatest hits album due out in May, timed to coincide with the season finale.
During the media screening last week, Tina said this show is not just targeting their Christian fans. “We’re Christians. We’re stars of the show. It’s not a Christian show. It’s just showing our life. You may hear us say a prayer or hear references to Jesus. On dates with our husbands, we are not Mary Mary. We are Tina and Erica.”
Indeed, the first two episodes I screened focus more on the family-work dynamic and very little about their religion.
“Mary Mary,” regular time slot is 9 p.m. Thursdays, WE-TV, opening March 29 at 10 p.m. after the “Braxton Family Values” reunion show.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk