It’s that time of year again! With most of your fall television programming coming to an end, all eyes now turn to awards season, and for TV, that means all eyes are on the Primetime Emmy Awards. This year the campaign for shows for consideration has already kicked off, and we at The Reel Word already have our eye on some strong competition. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest dark horses that we are excited about is Jane the Virgin. Although this show has been picking up a lot of critic love, there is definitely some much-needed audience love missing for this refreshing and heart-warming comedy.
For those of you who are still missing out on this hidden gem, Jane the Virgin is the story of 23 year-old Jane Villanueva, a hard-working, religious Latina woman who is studying to be a teacher and dreaming of being a writer. All her life, thanks to the influence of loving Abuela, Jane has vowed to save her virginity until marriage. It’s a vow she has managed to keep; until, one day when she goes to see her gynaecologist for a routine pap smear, she is accidentally artificially inseminated with the sperm of a boy she once had a crush on. Sound crazy? Well, in its defence, it is loosely based on the popular and long running Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen. But don’t let that put you off! Jane the Virgin is one of this year’s freshest, funniest and heart-warming comedies.
So why aren’t you watching it? Probably because of the show’s pretty unorthodox and even peculiar premise and name. Also, despite the show being created by seasoned producers Jennie Snyder Urman (Emily Owens M.D, 90210, Men in Trees and Reign) and Ben Silverman (The Office, Ugly Betty, The Tudors and The Biggest Loser), the show airs on the CW network, meaning it just does not get the viewership it deserves. Not airing on a ‘big’ commercial network puts Jane at a disadvantage in terms of viewership, and despite critic praise, there is just not enough people tuning in! So, if you haven’t already, here are five reasons you should check out Jane the Virgin:
- It has Gina Rodriguez
If this name is familiar to you, it may be because you recognize it from the 2014 Golden Globes where Rodriguez picked up her first Globe win and nomination for her performance as the titular Jane, and what a performance it is. Whilst there are lots of things to love about this show (which we will get into below), Gina Rodriguez is by far the biggest and the best. Equal parts kind, smart, independent and dependable; Rodriguez’s Jane is a character that is simply full of heart and completely believable. Being the main character in a show that is as fast-paced, topsy-turvy and straight-out crazy as Jane the Virgin is no easy feat, but Rodriguez handles it perfectly. She makes Jane a relatable, honest and truly three-dimensional character whose unwavering perseverance to do the right thing endears her firmly in viewer’s hearts. No matter what the relationship, family or work drama, we are always solidly #TeamJane, and that is a huge testament to the spunk and talent of Gina Rodriguez.
- It’s Award-Winning
Look, we are realistic; a show isn’t necessarily good just because it wins awards. In fact, many great television shows and films that we love have often been snubbed when it comes to awards (Newsroom and Selma, we see you!). But, the fact that Jane the Virgin has won awards does must mean something right? Jane the Virgin’s nods are wide-ranging and come from varied revered associations. Firstly, as we mentioned above, Gina Rodriguez has won a Golden Globe for Best Actress – Television Series Musical or Comedy for her portrayal of Jane Villanueva, but the Golden Globes praise doesn’t stop there. The show itself was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. As well as that, the show took the People’s Choice Award for Favourite New TV Comedy and the America Film Institute’s Award for AFI Television Program of the Year. Not enough awards? No problem, it has also won a Peabody Award – a significant sign to critics and audiences alike that this is a show that matters, telling an important story that needs to be heard.
- It’s Diverse
As you would hope in a story about a Latino family, the majority of the cast are themselves Latino – a decidedly different and refreshing look for a TV comedy, especially on the CW Network. More than that though, the writing and characterisation in Jane the Virgin does a fantastic job at accurately depicting the dynamics and relationships of a bilingual family. Take, for example, Jane’s beloved Abuela, Alba, who speaks entirely in Spanish (with English subtitles under her dialogue) whilst her family responds in English; or, the three ladies’ love and devoted watching of Spanish language soap operas. The decision to include plenty of Spanish in a network television program for American audiences could be considered a bold one, but, ultimately, it lends the show an air of authenticity and realism. This is especially evident in the story of Alba, an undocumented citizen. With a deft mix of nuance and grace, Jane The Virgin explores issues of minority and migrant difficulties with a sense of honesty and truth that doesn’t leave you feeling schooled. In fact, whilst the family’s heritage, cultural and upbringing is ever-present in the story line, Jane The Virgin does a masterful job of blending its cultural backdrop with juicy storylines, fully realising its potential to – as Gina Rodriguez puts it – “represent a culture that wants to see themselves as heroes”. It is this emphasis on being the same yet different that makes Jane the Virgin so special.
- It has a Narrator
Nicknamed the ‘Latin Lover Narrator’, Anthony Mendez’s off-screen guide for the character’s thoughts is as self-recognising as he is self-flattering. An omniscient narrator is no new party trick; in fact it was used to glorious effect in Arrested Development (a show Jane the Virgin is frequently compared to), but never has it had such a pivotal and hilarious effect as it does here. Showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman’s decision to include a narrator has two important and hilarious effects: it helps the show not take itself too seriously and it helps broaden the story’s appeal to a wider audience. The Narrator just doesn’t give you an inside into the characters, he is a character. He pokes fun at the more ridiculous and farfetched ideas that you can’t believe. He says all the things you want to say and is accompanied with onscreen text, the occasional well used emoji, and hashtags that induce audience engagement. Thanks to the Narrator, we are always having a cheeky wink and laugh with the show rather than simply laughing at it, and when things get too crazy or too ridiculous, it is the Latin Lover Narrator (along with the insanely talented and nuanced cast) who helps bring the show back to its grounded and real roots.
- It has a Great Story
Sure, in the few sentences outlined above, the plot of Jane the Virgin sounds ridiculous. But, the truth is the story is so well grounded and relatable that at times it is hard to believe that it is based on a telenovela. Yes, it has its soapy and sudsy elements, but that is honestly part of the appeal. Stripping it down to its bare essentials, Jane the Virgin is ultimately a sweet story about the beautiful, hardworking and effervescent Jane Villanueva, a girl who just wants to be respected and taken seriously. She is a heroine who is fiercely loyal, categorically dependable, uncompromising in her beliefs and guided by an indelible sense of kindness and grace. Jane is a character that is worth rooting for and, perhaps more importantly, just like the star who plays her, a role model for young women – Latina or otherwise. Refreshingly different from anything else currently on television, Jane the Virgin takes a very novel and some may say silly idea and injects it with its own rich cultural notions, riveting storylines and a giant helping of heart to bring to life a story about love, life, relationships and family. On top of that, it’s downright hilarious, opening up a not-often explored genre to a brand new audience.
Convinced yet?! If not, watch the trailers below and then do yourself a favour by checking out what is undoubtedly one of the year’s funniest, most original and endearing comedies. Season 2, here we come!
Extended Season 1 trailer:
Season 2 – “Pull Forward”: