I feel like I need to make a disclaimer before this review so you’ll properly appreciate how weird it is that I like Jane the Virgin: I have an astonishingly low tolerance for anything soapy, cheesy, campy, schmaltzy, and so on and so forth. While watching The Soup, I become so physically uncomfortable during the soap opera clips I need to fast forward or leave the room. I couldn’t stomach either Full House or Saved by the Bell past third grade. Elementary school was not kind to me.
So having said that, there is absolutely no reason that I should enjoy a prime time, telenovela- inspired dramedy centered on a pregnant virgin. Except that Jane the Virgin is goddamn amazing.
And except that Jane the Virgin takes the form of a soap opera, but not the function. Now, yes, the show has a large cast of mostly Latino characters dealing with secrets and lovers and secret lovers so that sounds a lot like a telenovela. And the titular character is, through a series of unfortunate, implausible events, a pregnant virgin. But that’s really where the similarities end. The complicated, intertwined plot seems like it comes straight from All My Children, but it’s so well-planned and meticulously detailed it avoids all of the soap opera pitfalls. The show also doesn’t let itself get bogged down by either the drama or the plot twists. It’s fun and funny (for real, it’s funny) while still being emotionally genuine.
None of which would matter that much if the cast weren’t incredible. But, seriously, all of them are amazing. It might be easier to be amazing when you’re working with a fully developed character with reasonable motivations and back stories, but that’s not going to make me any less impressed with the cast that’s been put together. My favorite this week is the bumbling, clueless, yet still suave telenovela star. I want to watch him check into hotels forever. And I can’t not talk about how great Gina Rodriguez is as Jane. This could easily be a terrible character, but Rodriguez is delightful.
I have to admit that there’s some weirdness with Jane and her grandmother who was the primary motivation for Jane wanting to remain a virgin until marriage. I would love for that to be addressed within the show (something along the lines of, “Hey, Abuela, turns out that having premarital sex won’t actually mangle my insides or crush my soul. Please put away that wilted flower”). But I understand why that wouldn’t be realistic within the show.
And the pregnant virgin thing is really just the jumping off point for Jane to change her life. It’s not a story about being pregnant. It’s a story about a young woman using an extraordinary event to find out who she is and want will make her happy. It’s not a telenovela; it’s a less supernatural, less WASP-y version of Wonderfalls.
So watch Jane the Virgin. And don’t let your friends judged you for it.