These days, seeing a virgin portrayed on television is about as rare as seeing Leo DiCaprio win an Oscar — frankly, it doesn’t happen. Shows are supposed to be entertaining, and where’s the drama without the sex? From Samantha’s outrageous pursuits in “Sex and the City” to Blair and Serena’s lusty endeavors in “Gossip Girl,” viewers are seduced by the scandalous glamour of it all.
Jane the Virgin
Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m.
There comes a point, though, where even the scandals become tedious: another flawlessly beautiful girl sleeps with Mr. Brooding-and-Damaged from the swanky, dimly-lit bar. So what? It seems that the tired sphere of dramatic television is in desperate need of a shake-up, which is where “Jane the Virgin” steps in.
In the CW’s new show, newcomer actress Gina Rodriguez plays Jane Villanueva, a 23-year-old girl whose character stands in stark contrast to all of the Samanthas and Serenas on TV. Instead of lying around a penthouse apartment, Jane is studying to be a teacher and working at a hotel, living with her Spanish-speaking grandmother (Ivonne Coll, “Switched at Birth”) and her young, single mother (Andrea Navedo, “White Collar”). Rather than attending elaborate brunches, the three women spend their time indulging in telenovelas and grilled cheese. In a pool of impossibly tall and statuesque female characters, Jane is the busty and bashful odd fish out, who also happens to be a virgin.
Though the show lays the grounds for a dramatic Cinderella story turn-around, it doesn’t happen — at least not in the way the viewer expects. The pilot opens with a flashback to a discussion between 10-year-old Jane and her grandmother about chastity; by crumpling a flower, the grandmother demonstrates that once a girl loses her virginity, it can never be restored. Jane takes her grandmother’s message to heart, despite her own mother’s persistent eye-rolling, and keeps the crumpled flower framed above her bed like a purity ring. The flower’s omnipresence is particularly felt by her boyfriend of two years (Brett Dier), who is understanding about her decision, yet frustrated with not being able to consummate their relationship.
Naturally, chaos ensues when Jane discovers that she’s pregnant. When the doctor arrives with the news, Jane and her mother promptly erupt into hysterical laughter; “I’m a virgin,” Jane says. They repeat the test; it’s positive again. Jane is confounded, her mother believes that Jane’s a prophet, and her grandmother assumes that she broke her purity pact. To make matters worse, Jane’s boyfriend has decided to propose, and she now has to confess that she’s expecting a child.
Who’s the daddy? None other than Jane’s boss, Rafael (Justin Baldoni), the young and rich “trapped husband” of a scheming wife, and coincidentally the man whom Jane had a summer fling with as a teenager. So is it a Cinderella story? Not quite — it turns out that Rafael has cancer, and the only way for his wife to become pregnant is by artificial insemination, but because of a patient mix-up by the distracted OB-GYN, Jane is inseminated instead of Rafael’s wife.
Suddenly, Jane’s life is like a telenovela. After years of discipline to build a future different from her mother’s, she’s now carrying a child out of wedlock, one that doesn’t even belong to her fiancé, but may be Rafael’s only chance to have a kid. A sort of everything-happens-for-a-reason theme is played out: even though the baby is an accident, Jane herself was an “accident,” and she can’t imagine not giving the baby the same chance she had.
“Jane” is complicated, soapy and at times completely over the top, but it works. Who knew virgins could be so fun?