Jane The Virgin
Cast: Gina Rodriguez, Andrea Navedo, Yael Grobglas, Justin Baldoni
Developed by: Jennie Snyder Urman
Sometimes a bane can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The social distancing because of Coronavirus obviously has left yours truly with ample time to discover some rather interesting shows on OTT platforms. The first of my discoveries was a telenovela titled Jane The Virgin on Netflix. The title evoked my curiosity no end and before I knew it, I was hooked to this dramedy series right through its five seasons.
The show is about Jane Gloriana Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) a young woman living in Miami who has been instructed by her grandmother Abuela (Ivonne Colle) to believe that she must preserve her virginity till she's married. Jane wants to be a writer and things are going well for her till she gets knocked up, not by her boyfriend Michael (who she intends marrying soon) but by accidental insemination! Further complicating matters is the fact that she has been inseminated with the semen sample of Rafael, a former crush and present boss!
Right in the very first episode, the premise and key characters are established with clever economy. The writing allows you, the viewer, to know before Jane does that things are never going to work out the way she has planned them. And that immediately is the next bit of irony because Jane is quite the planner. And a romantic, to boot.
Sure, the story sounds straight out of a Mills & Boons novel but before you dismiss it let me warn you, this Dramedy is layered with enticing romance, family love, intrigue and enough twists and turns to serve you a very satisfying telenovela experience.
Jennie Snyder Urman the creator of the show deserves a thumbs- up for successfully making a show about a Latino family, which ticks against the boxes for employing all the standard tropes of a telenovela but fashioned so cleverly that it never feels labored. While ‘Jane The Virgin’ is irreverent about the genre, always maintaining a hint of comedy even through the most emotional episodes, it is never dismissive of its source material. The directors (yes, there are several of them), writers and the actors work the romance so well that by the end of it, you can’t help but take sides to answer the inevitable question-should Jane be with Rafael or Michael? When the show first came out, the two male protagonists Rafael (Justin Baldoni) and Michael (Brett Dier) in fact, went on to become so popular that fans formed different teams, rooting for their favourite man who Jane should choose to marry!
But the most moving of all the relationships is that of the three-generation of Villaneuva women, each with their own story. There is also the relationship between Jane and her foe-turned-friend, Petra (Yael Grobglas). The love they share is the real stuff. The men in their lives will come and go but these women stand by each other like a rock. Gina Rodriguez, who plays Jane The Virgin, nails it as the Latina waitress, writer, mother, wife, friend, daughter and granddaughter, all rolled into one. In fact, she has even directed a few episodes. Truth be told, there is no one in the primary cast who does not make an impression. Whether it is Rogelio (Jaime Camil) Jane’s father and over the top telenovela star and his fetish for lavender or Xiomara, his lover and Jane’s mother, Petra, Aubela or Rafael and Michael all of them fit into their parts neatly like pieces of a puzzle no matter how cheesy that particular episode may be.
The show based on a Venezuelan telenovela was first aired in 2014 and has since gone on to win several nominations in multiple categories at the Emmys, the Golden Globes and the People’s Choice Award. Unlike most dramas, this one maintains a lightness, an indelible sense of comedy, and the ability to laugh at one’s own self. The voiceover, in this instance a brilliantly employed narrative device (Anthony Mendez who won nominations for Outstanding Narrator at the Emmy’s) achieves a layer of humour and perspective that’s rare and delightful. Or for that matter the Rogelio De La Vega track as the star of Passions of Santos, a long-running telenovela too is an innovative comedic track.
In true telenovela style, the show has tons of social issues through its many seasons—the Latin immigration issue (Abuela finally getting American citizenship), women’s health –Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) gets cancer—to name some. But the two things that make it extremely watchable are the romantic track involving Jane, Rafael, and Michael, and the second being the lives of Villaneuva women. Happiness, devastating heartbreaks or personal triumphs, the trio, supported by some crackling writing, hits all the right notes.
Long-running Indian soaps could take a dozen cues on how to keep the audience hooked to an emotional family saga (especially those headlined by women) with dollops of clever, self-deprecating humour that can help reinvent the formula.
After five seasons when you hit the last episode, the story wraps up so beautifully with such a fitting end to a romance that is meant to be that it doesn’t really matter who wins Jane’s hand in marriage. The emotional roller-coaster ride that is 'Jane The Virgin', makes it a win-win for all, especially the audience.