Two years ago, “Jane the Virgin” premiered on a small niche network to an audience that didn’t quite know what to make of it. The show’s out-of-the-box premise coupled with its Latina lead character made it a remarkable change of pace for a network best known for dramas with nearly all-white casts, like “90210“ and “One Tree Hill.” Its first season hadn’t finished airing before it was showered with critical praise and even a Golden Globe for the performance of its lead actress, Gina Rodriguez.
Rodriguez plays Jane Villanueva, a hard-working college student who has promised to remain a virgin until she is married. Jane is engaged to her long-term boyfriend Michael and ready to graduate with a teaching certification when she is accidentally artificially inseminated during a check-up at the gynecologist. What ensues is a poignant, often hysterical exploration of family dynamics, as Jane grapples with her decision to keep the pregnancy, as well as her growing feelings for Rafael, the baby’s father. Rodriguez’s Jane is by turns adorably un-self-conscious and movingly strongwilled. Within the same episode, we see her dancing with her toddler as she is accepted into graduate school and steadfastly telling a love interest that she cannot be with him because she needs to put her son first. The way she handles motherhood is never left unscrutinized; Jane is a fully realized human being, and the show is careful to showcase her faults alongside her triumphs.
The series is based on the similarly premised Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen, and is itself a sort of parody of the telenovela format, complete with an omniscient narrator who frequently remarks on the clichés of his narrative (including but not limited to: long-lost identical twins, secret half-siblings, love triangles and more). “Jane“ is never shy about its telenovela roots, but it is careful to remain in touch with its target audience. Text messages between characters appear onscreen in real time, often in place of dialogue, and mentions of ongoing pop culture events are frequent.
“Jane“ may not yet be able to compete with major network dramas like “How to Get Away with Murder“ or “Empire” in terms of ratings, but it has twice the charm and wit of anything else in its timeslot.
Season 3 of “Jane the Virgin“ premieres on Oct. 17 on the CW. Seasons 1 and 2 are available for streaming on Netflix.