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'Jane the Virgin' review: It's complicated

Gina Rodriguez stars as Jane in the new

Gina Rodriguez stars as Jane in the new series, "Jane The Virgin," premiering Monday, Oct. 13. Credit: AP / Tyler Golden

THE SHOW "Jane the Virgin"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Monday night at 9 on CW/11

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) is studying to become a teacher, while working at a menial gig at a hot Miami hotel. Her life goal: Not to turn out like her mother, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), who got pregnant with her at 16. So Jane refuses to have sex until she is married. That plan does not proceed as expected: She gets pregnant. It's all a mistake. An over-wrought doctor gives her an artificial insemination by accident. The insemination was meant for the wife of Rafael (Justin Baldoni) who's the hotel manager at that aforementioned establishment where Jane works. Now, it really gets complicated . . .

MY SAY The single most compelling reason to watch "Jane" -- or depending on your taste in telenovelas, quite possibly the only one -- is Jane. Gina Rodriguez is one of those incandescent types who can fill the screen with warmth and relatability. She's simply terrific in the pilot.

That pilot, meanwhile, is a somewhat harder sell. Probably more homage than a direct reflection of one of the world's most popular forms of television, "Jane" is a telenovela adapted for American tastes -- specifically the tastes of the CW audience which (I think I can safely assume) isn't up to speed on the idiosyncrasies a standard-issue telenovela. Those many quirks include, in no particular order: romance, soap, sex, comedy, shocking twists, wild surprises, danger, unrequited desire, requited desire . . . and finally, all sealed with a tender kiss as the sun sets in the background.

"Jane" is also a veritable jambalaya of genres, tropes, and narrative odds and ends. It all starts of with a sense of whimsy, moves into the suds territory, then segues deep into a serious -- remarkably serious for The CW -- subtext about life, and why every human soul is precious. It then wraps with that romantic part.

That the whole pilot doesn't collapse into a pile of rubble is due to Rodriguez -- or maybe because "Jane" is so confoundedly odd you want to see what happens next. (That is what telenovelas do so well, after all.)

BOTTOM LINE Genial and eccentric newcomer has potential, and a lead worth watching.



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