Despite a few problematic aspects with the premise, “Jane the Virgin” contains a secret ingredient that is in short supply, perhaps especially on many of the CW’s recent soaps: Charm. Much of that comes from Gina Rodriguez in a star-making turn as the title character, who through a series of unexpected mix-ups — one a real doozy — finds her life beginning to resemble the telenovelas she watches with her doting grandmother, who has cajoled her to remain chaste. There’s a lot going on in the pilot, almost all of it fun and frothy, bringing genuine effervescence to CW’s soap bubbles.
Rodriguez’s Jane has been raised by her mom (Andrea Navedo), who was very young when she bore her out of wedlock, and the aforementioned grandma (Ivonne Coll). It’s a story told in a cheeky voiceover (“Jane’s life was now the stuff of telenovelas”), as adapted from a Venezuelan series.
Jane has a boyfriend (Brett Dier), but at the ripe old age of 23, she’s thus far managed to keep him sexually at bay. So she has some ’splainin’ to do when a pap smear performed by a love-struck, distracted ob-gyn is mixed up with an artificial insemination, leaving her in a family way that grandma, at least, first wants to embrace as a sign from God.
To make matters sudsier, the sample comes from a dreamy hotel owner, Rafael (Justin Baldoni), who Jane knew and had a crush on. Oh yes, and because of a bout with cancer, he’s no longer able to father a child, which explains why Rafael and his shrewish wife (Yael Grobglas) were relying on the procedure.
As written by Jennie Snyder Urman and directed by Brad Silberling, “Jane” keeps steadily churning out such twists, right up until the end. And if there’s some peril in moving at that kind of speed story-wise, the casting and general amiability of tone suggests viewers might be fairly tolerant of the inevitable missteps.
Understandably, Jane’s boyfriend is not enthused about beginning their life together with his intended carrying someone else’s baby. And while the show largely skirts the thornier aspects of that — or the case to be made for abortion under the circumstances — its nods toward the exaggerated nature of soaps in general and telenovelas in particular create a context that makes such political considerations feel less serious.
CW has scheduled the series behind the vampire drama “The Originals” (the undead and superheroes are very hard to escape in these precincts), and with “The Flash,” the netlet has gone an impressive two for two in terms of developing new dramas that look poised to stick around for a while.
That might not qualify as a miracle, but especially in the context of Rodriguez’s arrival, it is the kind of birth worth celebrating.