Jane the Virgin: The Complete First Season DVD Review: A Show that Delights in the Ludicrous

Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) is a 24-year-old Latina who works hard, studies hard, and takes her religion very seriously. She is the virgin of the title because of her Catholicism and the fact that her grandmother (Ivonne Coll) scared the bejesus out of her as a young girl by using a flower to illustrate the delicate value of her budding sexuality.

During a routine OB/GYN visit, Jane is accidentally inseminated by Dr. Luisa Alver (Yara Martinez) with Rafael Solano’s (Justin Baldoni) seed, which was supposed to impregnate his wife Petra (Yael Grobglas.) Rafael also happens to own the hotel where Jane is employed, which now not only makes him the father of her child, but also her boss.

Jane is engaged to Brett Dier (Michael Cordero, Jr.), who is having a hard time accepting his finance’s old virginity and her newfound pregnancy. Her mother, Xo Villanueva (Andrea Navedo), had Jane at 16 and knows how difficult a young pregnancy can be, which is why she has helped persuade Jane to remain a virgin for so long. Jane’s father, Rogelio (Jaime Camil), was only recently made aware of Jane’s existence, is a famous telenovela star and much beloved by Jane who does not know he is her father.

Confused? You should be and all that’s from just the first couple of episodes. By five or six episodes, things get so complicated I dare not try to explain them in such limited space.

Jane the Virgin was created by Jennie Snyder Urman, who loosely adapted it from a Venezuelan telenovela. It takes all the tropes of the telenovela and turns them on their head for satiric effect. Or at least that’s what they say – having never seen a telenovela, nor paid any attention to American soap operas, I’ll take their word for it.

What I can say is that while Jane the Virgin moves at a break-neck speed, churning out plot points like most comedies turn out jokes, it’s also very intelligent, clever, charming, and full of heart. The show takes on its complications like a breeze, never getting bogged down in its own plot point but slips along, jauntily moving us forward by its own cheerful will power.

Gina Rodriguez is wonderful as Jane. She conveys a constant whirlwind of emotions with the subtlety and ease of an actor with twice her age and experience. She carries the weight of the show with grace. The rest of the cast handles their increasingly ridiculous roles with a wink and a smile without ever crashing into parody.

The true star of the show is never actually seen, only heard. Anthony Mendez plays the Latin Lover Narrator who guides us through the density of the show’s plot with a wry omniscience that always lets us know that no matter how serious the things get in the story, we should all still be having a grand old time.

Jane the Virgin is a show that delights in the ludicrous. It’s fully aware of how absurd it can be as it takes its telenovela heritage and cranks it up to 11. For the most part, it’s fun to ride along with them. For my part, I think this is the sort of show suited for the traditional week-to-week viewing across a season. Trying to binge watch the entire season on DVD has left me cross-eyed and dizzy. I still haven’t made it through the entire season. There is so much constantly going on and the jet-pack speed is so relentless that the show never lets you catch a breath. Doling it out in smaller doses will surely let you grasp the myriad of plot points and allow for a more satisfying viewing experience.

Extras include a couple of features on the making of the show and the cast. Plus a gag reel and a few unaired scenes.

Whatever pace you choose to watch it, Jane the Virgin is a very clever and entertaining bit of television.

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Mat Brewster

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