October 21, 2014

SHOWBUZZDAILY Pilot + 1 Review: “Jane the Virgin”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at SHOWBUZZDAILY, we look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on JANE THE VIRGIN:  Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is what the title says she is, much to the relief of her grandmother Alba (Ivonne Coli), yet still pregnant, thanks to the mistake of a doctor who accidentally inseminated her.  This naturally complicates her relationship with fiance Michael (Brett Dier), especially because the sperm belongs to Rafael (Justin Baldoni), not just the married owner of the Miami hotel where Jane works while putting herself through college, but the subject of Jane’s own teen crush.  (Plus, the doctor who made the mistake is Rafael’s recovering alcoholic gay sister, who was trying to get over a breakup.)  Rafael also comes equipped with a scheming, adulterous wife, Petra (Yael Grobglas), who had wanted to get pregnant herself to keep her marriage together.  Jane has decided–at least for now–that she’ll bear the child and then give it up to Rafael and Petra.  In case all that isn’t enough, Jane doesn’t know who her own father is, but we learned at the end of the pilot that she was the result of an assignation between her mother Xiomara (Andrea Navedo) and telenovela star Rogelio (Jaime Camil), who’s about to re-enter their lives.

Episode 2: Jane the Virgin, like Ugly Betty, is developed from a telenovela, and to a large extent Jane is running the Betty playbook, with more emphasis on the soap than the comedy.  (Jane‘s US creator, Jennie Snyder Urman, is a CW soap veteran, recently on Emily Owens, MD and the rebooted 90210.)  Jane, as a character, is a much less exaggerated underdog than Betty was, which makes the show’s aspirational messages more earnest.

The second episode, written by Urman and directed by Ute Briesewitz, was in fact a small festival of earnestness.  Jane, asked by Michael to leave her job after he found out that Rafael and Jane had once kissed, got a pep talk from her mom and decided that no, she wanted one thing to be stable in her life, and apparently working with the unintended married father of her unborn child for whom she has unexpressed feelings counts as stability.  Michael, for his part, apologized for even asking, and he was instrumental in forcing Petra to break up her relationship with Rafael’s best friend, although he probably didn’t intend for the friend to end the evening impaled.  Rafael’s moment of selflessness came when he agreed that Jane should indeed sue his sister for malpractice, not telling her that his shares in the hotel were a guarantee on any debts his sister incurred.  Xiomara refused to let Rogelio disrupt Jane’s life any more than it already had been (and a flashback revealed that when she embarrassed teen Jane by grabbing the microphone and singing at Jane’s quinceanera, it was actually for Jane’s own good), and Jane got Xiomara a gig singing at Rafael’s hotel.  Even Petra, the closest thing to a villain on the show so far, managed an honest tear, according to the show’s narrator, when she asked Rafael to give their marriage another try.

Despite the comic overlay of the show’s florid narration, and a few comic moments, as when everyone involved with Jane tried to squeeze into the ultrasound room with her, it was all rather more self-serious than the pilot had suggested Jane the Virgin meant to be.  The shift in tone might make Jane a bit more compatible with the rest of CW’s line-up (Hart of Dixie aside), but it also might make audiences take the plotlines at face value, which wouldn’t work to the advantage of what is, after all, a very silly show.  The strongest asset Jane has continues to be its star, the likable and emotionally convincing Rodriguez.  Other cast members seem to be understandably having a problem with pinpointing just how self-parodic their performances should be.

Jane the Virgin is moderately enjoyable, but it’s still the odd show out on CW’s otherwise otherworldly (or in the case of Reign, other-century) schedule.  It had a fair start in the ratings last week, holding most of its lead-in from The Originals, and will need to maintain that level, more or less, if it’s to spin its tale through Jane’s virgin birth and beyond.  That won’t quite require a miracle, but it will need some favorable luck.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  If Nothing Else Is On…

PILOT + 1:  Could End Up As Ugly Betty Without the Pizzazz


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."