I’ve never been a fan of soap operas, but when I heard that the CW was going to air a show, Jane the Virgin, loosely adapted from the Venezuelan telenovela, Juana la Virgen, I took a chance and watched it. I’m glad I did because the show is incredibly smart, funny, and charming. The nods to telenovela tricks, like that of an evil twin, just make the show more fun.
Gina Rodriguez stars as Jane Gloriana Villanueva, a Venezuelan-American who is a young writer, aspiring to author the greatest romance novel ever. While finishing college, she works as a waitress in a local Miami resort, the Marbella Hotel, and also teaches at a local Catholic girls’ school.
Jane’s teenage crush, Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni), owns the Marbella but doesn’t remember Jane or their brief moment of togetherness ten years prior. Rafael is in an unhappy marriage with Petra Solano, a Czech immigrant who has left a shady crime family to steal Rafael’s money. Yael Grobglas plays the always-scheming, perfectly-coifed Petra, who makes you absolutely hate her until she slips up and shows vulnerability or makes the kinder choice, and you think, “Maybe she’s not that bad.”
Jane lives at home with her mother, Xiomara Gloriana Villanueva (Xo), a gregarious and gorgeous woman who teaches dance to children but still dreams of making it as a professional singer. Xo got pregnant with Jane when she was sixteen and never told Jane’s father, who is now a telenovela superstar. Andrea Navedo plays Xo and is an interesting contrast to Ivonne Coll, who plays her mother, Alba Gloriana Villanueva, a deeply religious woman who has encouraged Jane to never have sex before marriage. Alba understands English, but refuses to speak it and is in the country as an undocumented immigrant. Jane, Xo, and Alba are not always on the same page, but they always love and respect each other.
Jane the Virgin relies heavily on flashbacks for all of the many storylines that thread through the show, both past and present, and Jane also acts out many of the characters she writes. All of this happens while we get to hear the hilarious narration of the Latin Lover (voiced by Anthony Mendez), who offers third-person insight on what’s happening, along with some hilarious commentary.
Jaime Camil plays the self-involved, always-striving-to-be-famous-on-American-TV actor, Rogelio de la Vega, father of Jane. Rogelio falls madly in love with his new-found daughter, while never, ever letting anyone forget he’s “friends” with Oprah. Additionally, Mr. Telenovela finds himself in a bromance with Jane’s boyfriend, Michael Cordero. Michael is a police officer dealing not only with all kinds of murder, fraud, and underworld activities, but also with Jane’s refusal to have sex with him before marriage.
Jane finds it hard not to be with Michael, as well, but is determined to keep her promise to Alba. Therefore, Jane is more than a little shocked to find herself pregnant, even though she’s never had sex. How could this possibly happen?
During Jane’s annual gynecological checkup, it turns out that her usual doctor is on vacation. Jane is so exhausted from both her schoolwork and teaching, that she’s half asleep during her exam. She doesn’t notice that the substitute doctor has accidentally mistaken her for another patient, Petra, who is seeing the doctor to get inseminated with Rafael’s sperm, which he froze before undergoing prostate cancer surgery.
While this plot might sound ridiculous, let me say that the writers of Jane the Virgin have taken all of the over-the-top drama of telenovelas and have created a show that offers down-to-earth themes of love, caring, family, and everyday struggles in a way that celebrates Latinx culture, while showing their obstacles as being no different than those confronted by other ethnic groups of Americans. The Atlantic magazine offers many reasons why this show is outstanding in their article, “Jane the Virgin Proves that Diversity is More than Skin Deep.”
This show also provides levels of complexity in its female characters that other shows might try to avoid. Jane, Xo, and Alba are different kinds of women with different viewpoints who deal with issues of marriage, divorce, cheating, abortion, careers, dreams, and citizenship in different ways, while still supporting each other. As Jamie Camil (Rogelio) told Mic.com all the characters on this show come from a “sincere and honest place.”
Jane the Virgin has won viewers’ hearts and critical acclaim. In 2015, Gina Rodriguez won a Golden Globe for Best Actress – Television Series, Musical, or Comedy, with the show also being nominated for Best Television Show. The American Film Institute awarded Jane the Virgin the TV Program of the Year in 2014 and 2015, and the show has also won a Peabody.
If you’re still not convinced that you need to get caught up on Jane the Virgin and start enjoying it as much as its fans, check out these two articles that detail why this show is such a success. Then, tune in to the CW each Friday evening at 9 pm EST and get lost in the fun, fabulous, always wacky, and endearing world of Jane the Virgin, now just Jane the Virgin, with “the Virgin” being replaced by the subject of the current episode, like Jane the Happy Mom or Jane the Guilty Catholic.
Jane the Virgin used to air on Monday evenings. I fear its move to Friday means the show is in danger of being canceled. So, check it out before it goes away. The show is well worth your time.