by Elizabeth Stoddard
Last fall, the CW introduced the surprisingly addictive comedy series Jane the Virgin. It was easy to fall in love as early as the pilot, when 23-year-old abstinent student Jane Gloriana Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez, who won a Golden Globe for the role) is accidentally artificially inseminated by a distraught doctor. If you think this plotline sounds like something out of a soap opera, you’re not far off. The show was inspired by a 2002 Venezuelan telenovela called Juana la virgen.
Showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman retained the bizarre plot elements of the telenovela, while adding lively (often silly) narration by Emmy-nominated Anthony Mendez, a production style and color palette reminiscent of Pushing Daisies or Amelie, explanatory and humorous graphics, and best of all, heartwarming drama that never takes itself too seriously.
Rodriguez as Jane is the (beating) heart of the show, as she grows into being an unexpected mother. She lives in the matriarchal home of her Spanish-speaking grandmother Alba (Ivonne Coll) along with her mother Xiomara (Andrea Navedo). After she finds out she’s pregnant, she learns the true identity of her own father: telenovela powerhouse Rogelio de la Vega, a lovable narcissist played by real-life telenovela star Jaime Camil.
During this first season, Jane is torn between familiar love with her cop boyfriend Michael (Brett Dier) and the possibility of new, passionate love with the baby’s father/her former crush, hotel owner Rafael (Justin Baldoni), all while preparing for the birth of her baby. Rafael’s ex-wife, Petra (Yael Groblas), tries her best to foil his plans. Groblas and the writers instill so much depth into the character of Petra that even while she’s doing something despicable, you understand her motivation. You even sympathize with her!
There’s also the season-long mystery of crime-lord Sin Rostro and how their dealings affect the main characters. Jane the Virgin really defies categorization. Amidst the plot twists and cliffhanger endings, Jane the Virgin touches on issues such as immigration, faith, privilege and “non-traditional” families. If the writing was less witty or the actors less talented, the show could have been a confusing mess. Instead, the endearing series presents a smart, funny heroine supported by family and friends as her plans for her adulthood continue to change. Rodriguez and the supporting cast continuously deliver stellar performances. Viewers may be divided about whether they’re on #TeamRafael or #TeamMichael, but any true fan of the show is on #TeamJane.
There are a few extras in the Jane the Virgin Season 1 DVD package: a featurette about the creation of the show and a meet-the-cast featurette. There’s a gag reel, and deleted scenes are offered for a number of episodes.
I would have loved for commentary on at least a couple of the episodes, but unfortunately that is not offered on this package.
Jane the Virgin Season 1 is available on DVD starting September 29, 2015.