All hail the Virgin!: the pilot episode of the CW’s Jane the Virgin

As a kid I was fed a steady diet of the telenovelas: Spanish-language soap operas that hailed from all corners of the Spanish-speaking world and spanned the wide expanse of the Latin American and Iberian Peninsula dialectical worlds . It is with that sense of nostalgia that I stumbled unto  Jane the Virgin, an unlikely venture of the CW network into an area other than teen-spirit fueled drama outfits . In its first episode Jane The Virgin takes the essence of what makes the telenovela latinoamericana successful, transplants it into a mainstream US market setting, recasts itself with believable US situations and characters which are samples of Latino situations for first, second and third generation immigrants. It follows the story of aspiring teacher Jane Gloriana Villanueva who lives with her mother and her grandmother and who gets pregant under implausible circumstances.  The use of an omniscient narrator who expertly and with a soothing voice peels away the layers of the complicated stories in which the characters are embroiled is a delicate addition to usher and guide the telenovela newbie into the tangle of over-the-top plots, subplots, intrigue, mysteries, coincidences and emotions characteristic of Latin American telenovelas. the addition of the narrator turns the tangle into a charming piece of jewelry; resplendent with attention-getting shine and staying power

If the first episode is any indication, the telenovela connoisseur should, however, not despair. The recognizable tones of authenticity are assured in the prominent use of Spanish alongside English as a primary vehicle of communication; a welcome change from its role as a secondary, stereotypical,fiddle player bereft of depth and background. It also realistically portrays a common reality for first generation immigrants who, though they may have learned to understand and even speak English out of necessity or as a matter of course in daily life in the wider world into which they migrated, prefer to speak Spanish when it comes to more personal affairs; or, very apropos for the telenovela genre, matters of passion and high-flying emotions or even deep reflections.

As icing on the richly layered torta, we are regaled with the musical offering of Colombian artist Juanes’ “Una Flor” ( A Flower) taken from his 2014 effort “Loco de Amor” (Crazy in Love)  The inclusion is a staple of the telenovela: a famous artist’s musical interpretation of a key feature in the series. It works phenomenally in this case and is suffused with Argentine music producer Gustavo Santaolalla’s midas touch.

Let’s give the series a chance and congratulate the CW on a bold move.  Qué sea una flor de fino perfume. May it be a flower of fine perfume.