Jane the Virgin, still in its first season, is already one of my favorite shows.
Airing in 40 minute episodes, the show follows the alternately funny and sweet misadventures of Jane Villanueva, a happily-engaged 23-year-old education grad student living with her mother and grandmother in Miami. When Jane is accidentally artificially inseminated thanks to a mix-up at the gyno, her perfectly-planned life is turned upside down, and hilarious drama ensues.
The premise of the show may sound ridiculous, but that’s kind of the point. Jane the Virgin is very clever in its self-awareness, and the over-the-top drama is the defining humorous element. The audience is pulled along by a snarky omniscient narrator with the ability to step through the glass to momentarily freeze your DVR playback and provide helpful background on a a character’s background or intentions, giving the impression that you are really beginning the series in Season 2, right when the action gets good, at the recommendation of a friend who fills you in on what you need to know. The drama is tempered and contrasted by Gina Rodriguez’s brilliant portrayal of Jane as a thoroughly rational, modern woman thrown into a melodramatic world populated by murderers, Czech mobsters, and of course, telenovela stars.
The show is loosely based on the 2002 Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen. Telenovelas are occasionally compared to U.S. soap operas like Days of Our Lives, but crucial differences distinguish the genres, including the limited-run, serialized nature of the telenovela, which tells a single story through to the end. Jane the Virgin, which is best described as a comedic drama, pays homage to its telenovela roots, not only in the incredibly unlikely (I hope) situation in which Jane finds herself, but also through the pervasive Villanueva family love of telenovelas.
Rodriguez said best what the opportunity to play Jane has meant to her and what she hopes the show can be for other young girls, so I’ll just leave a link to her wonderful interview here and highly recommend that you check it out. For me, one of the most refreshing aspects of Jane the Virgin is how funny and clever the show manages to be without needing to rely on male characters. Jane’s family consists of her mother and maternal grandmother, and while much of their conversation revolves around men (Jane’s fiancé, her father, etc), the action in the series is driven entirely by women, from the doctor who inseminates Jane, to the primary villain, to Jane herself. In Jane the Virgin, the women cause problems, solve problems, make decisions, and take action. Indeed the men, who also range from the villainous to the comical to the wonderful, seem to be only along for the ride (and, of course, to provide the sperm).
Jane the Virgin airs on the CW at 9pm EST, on mid-season hiatus until Jan 19. Available on Hulu.