Jane The Virgin: The Complete First Season is available now on DVD and streaming on Netflix Oct. 12.
Anthony Mendez has the best job in Hollywood, and he performs it incredibly well. He is the narrator for “Jane the Virgin,” and his job consists of saying lines like “Petra told herself there was no reason to be nervous. After all, she was just having dinner with her murdered ex-lover’s identical twin brother,” a line so winkingly absurd that the audience has no choice but to smile. As good as Golden Globe-winner Gina Rodriguez is in the title role, Mendez is the best thing about this tremendously likable series.
The first season of the CW show “Jane the Virgin” released on DVD Sept. 29 and becomes available for Netflix streaming Oct. 12. Upon its release last fall, the show became the biggest critical hit to premiere on the network, which tends to downplay critical ambition in favor of well-oiled superhero comics and supernatural melodramas. Even the lightest of the CW shows like “The Flash” still take themselves seriously. “Jane the Virgin,” a candy-colored comedy inspired by the telenovelas of Latin America, never does. It revels in the absurdity of identical twins, accidental inseminations, secret plastic surgery rings and other plot twists that are standard fare for telenovelas and their essentially dead North American equivalent, the daytime soap opera.
The most obvious comparison to “Jane the Virgin” is obviously “Ugly Betty,” since both were acclaimed American versions of telenovelas, but the first season of the Gina Rodriguez series may even surpass the quite successful first season of the America Ferrera one. “Jane the Virgin” certainly does more with less; while all of the actors in the CW series are capable, “Ugly Betty” was overloaded with major names like Vanessa Williams, Rebecca Romijn and Judith Light in supporting roles to draw in audiences. Prior to “Jane the Virgin” making Rodriguez a star, the most recognizable face in the cast to American audiences was the actress who replaced Suzanne Somers on “Three’s Company” over 30 years ago, hardly comparable to either Mystique or the most famous Miss America.
Where “Jane the Virgin” seems better prepared to succeed than “Ugly Betty,” which seemed to falter after its successful freshman season, is that it seems better pitched to the comedy elements of telenovelas than to the more conventional fish-out-of-water story. It relies on Rodriguez’s natural appeal to keep the story grounded, then allows the plot to spin deliriously out of control.
This is a show that will use any technique to get a laugh, from its perfect narration and title cards to even minor special effects like a halo over the romantic interest’s head. There is no sense that the plot will ever be too outlandish, because the tone of the show suggests that no storyline would ever be too insane. It might be easy to call “Jane the Virgin” a dramedy like so many hour-long shows that go for laughs, but that would be inaccurate. This may not be a traditional sitcom, but it is the purest hour-long comedy since “Ally McBeal” nearly 20 years ago.
That “Jane the Virgin” is a pure comedy makes it far more accessible than its telenovela roots or its spot on the CW network would suggest. This is a show not just for people who enjoy the melodrama of Latin soap operas or the teenagers and adult gay men who keep the CW network afloat. It is specific in its locale and temperament, but the sense of humor is universal. Whatever happens in subsequent seasons of the show – perhaps the increasing plot complications might eventually unravel after a couple of seasons – the first season of “Jane the Virgin” will always be a perfectly constructed and very funny debut season.
Jane The Virgin: The Complete First Season DVD contains unaired scenes, a gag reel and two featurettes: “Jane the Virgin: Immaculate Creation” and “Getting to Know the Cast of Jane the Virgin.”
Jane The Virgin: The Complete First Season
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Now available on DVD
DVDs are rated on a scale of 5 stars (must-own), 4 stars (exceptional), 3 stars (solid), 2 stars (average) and 1 star (unworthy).