Take Me To The Pilots ’14: The CW’s ‘Jane the Virgin’

[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all “These are reviews.” If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]

Show: “Jane the Virgin” (The CW)
The Pitch: “Remember 'Ugly Betty'? That may not have been a hit for long, but it was surely a hit. Why hasn't anybody tried that again?”
Quick Response: Sure, it's reductive to compare “Jane the Virgin” to “Ugly Betty,” but TV only occasionally offers semi-comedic adaptations of telenovelas fronted by young, relatively unknown Latina actresses. And “Jane the Virgin” is, honestly, quite a bit like “Ugly Betty,” only it's funnier and less disingenuous in that it lacks the spectacle of trying to make us pretend that America Ferrera is awkward and unattractive through ponchos and fake braces. “Ugly Betty” earned Ferrera an Emmy and it would have set her up for long-term stardom were it not for Hollywood being what it is. If “Jane the Virgin” doesn't do the same for star Gina Rodriguez, it's mostly because Emmy voters don't know who or what a “CW” is. Emotionally expressive, easily funny and amply charming, Rodriguez is going to be a revelation for any viewers who missed the Sundance drama “Filly Brown” (i.e. 99.8 percent of CW viewers), which probably would have set her up for long-term stardom were it not for Hollywood being what it is. “Jane the Virgin” is a star vehicle and Rodriguez is a star. And because Rodriguez is a star and because we're supposed to be tolerant of the natural extremities of the telenovela trappings, I'm inclined to overlook a lot of narrative twists and turns in “Jane the Virgin” that are… problematic. The mechanics of how Jane becomes pregnant while remaining titularly virginal — That's a proper use of “titular,” rather than “eponymous,” right? — are kinda unfortunate and raise a lot of questions that “Jane” would just as soon not deal with (like how the word “abortion” is never uttered, though “pills” are mentioned) and the engine of the plot sets up a number of characters in ways that are also unfortunately unlikable. Ignoring those questions and those issues of character, Jennie Snyder Urman's script is very tight and unfolds with an amusing (if unlikely) rhythm of farcical cause-and-effect. Brad Silberling executes the necessary tonal balance well and, like “Ugly Betty” pilot director Richard Shepard, Silberling is able to honor the tropes of the telenovela with tongue firmly in cheek. Fans of the genre won't be offended and it should welcome new eyes as well, even if “Jane the Virgin” couldn't be less compatible with most of The CW's currently lineup and particularly with Monday partner “The Originals.” [“Hart of Dixie” and “Jane the Virgin” would have made a serviceable pairing. Ditto with the cancelled “Carrie Diaries.”] “Jane the Virgin” also isn't preachy, but still reasonably honors people of faith, while finding humor in the contradictions of the premise. Oh and lest this dwell only on Rodriguez — you might notice that I've called her a star once or twice — much of the supporting cast — I'd mention Ivonne Coll, Yael Grobglas and Andrea Navedo for starters — is solid as well.
Desire To Watch Again: I was fine with the “Ugly Betty” pilot and a Ferrera supporter, but the tone of subsequent episodes pushed further and further into soapy camp. That obviously made some people happy, but it wasn't what I was interested in and I checked out. This will be the same. I'll give it a few episodes and see how the tone evolves, but I can imagine just deciding this isn't my cup of tea and cheering for Gina Rodriguez and company from the outside. I'm already more positive after watching the pilot than I expected to be based on The CW's trailers, so that's a start.

Take Me To The Pilots '14: FOX's 'Gotham'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: NBC's 'Constantine'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: CBS' 'Scorpion'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: ABC's 'Black-ish'
Take Me To The Pilots '14: The CW's 'The Flash'
All of my 2013 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries