If I weren’t so completely captivated by the saga of a large, feisty’ TV personality named Mo’Nique I doubt I would have watched the first two episodes of her late night talk show on BET this week. It is a total train wreck, sort of the ghetto version of “Fernwood Tonight.” Looking at it, all I could think was, How did this happen? Oh my lord.
If it weren’t that this Mo’Nique is about to open in a movie called “Precious,” none of this would matter anyway. Before “Precious,” Mo’Nique was not someone I really knew about. At 42 she’s a comedienne who’s been confined mostly to black sitcoms like “The Parkers.” Her only real movie role was in Lee Daniels‘ “Shadowboxer.” Her character’s name was, ironically, Precious.
So Daniels thought of her to play Mary, the abusive mother of the title character in his extraordinary “Precious,” based on the novel by Sapphire. It’s a low-low budget movie. Mo’Nique probably didn’t think much would happen to it. But after the audiences at Sundance saw her in “Precious” all hell broke loose. Mo’Nique should be on her way to the Academy Awards. But it’s unclear whether she considers that important. She has a talk show to do, after all.
“The Mo’Nique Show” can only get better. Right now, it’s too unbelievable for words. Luckily, the mostly caucasian voting members of the Motion Picture Academy will not see it, and have no idea how to access it. This is in Mo’Nique’s favor. In any other season, the show wouldn’t matter, and would have the chance to grow. But with “Precious” about to pop, the talk show is Mo’Nique’s calling card. And it’s a loud one.
The only equivalent I can think of to this situation is Eddie Murphy, who was the odds-on favorite for Best Supporting Actor from “Dreamgirls” two years ago. Then his god-awful movie, “Norbert” came out, and Alan Arkin took home the statue. Eddie picked up and stormed out of the Oscar-cast. He didn’t get it.
Still, I include the above clip of Mo’Nique promoting the BET show because it sheds a different light on her. She’s completely likeable. And sensible. She’s over 40, she’s worked hard, and she’s not putting any eggs in one basket. She tells those interviewers that “when all this goes away.” she’ll be left with family. That’s what comes first.
But someone down there in Atlanta should tell Mo’Nique a couple of things. One: “Precious” is real, and Best Supporting Actress could change her life in good ways. It’s the Academy Award. It’s time to take it seriously. And second, if Oprah is your influence, then show it. Being the female Arsenio, out of Atlanta, is a strange choice. Take this first week to get it all out of your system. Do people really want “Soul Train” in talk show form? Maybe not. And consider that when Queen Latifah realized she could have a film career, her own talk show shut down fast.
It’s just a thought…