Pilot Script Review of Jane the Novela
We know how much The CW loves spin-offs and launching franchises, but we've also witnessed how tricky the art of the spin-off can be. Some spin-offs make sense, like when The Vampire Diaries gave birth to The Originals, while others feel forced and would be better off just staying ideas on a piece of paper. When CW President Mark Pedowtiz announced they were looking to spin off Jane The Virgin, fans and industry insiders viewed the news with a bit of skepticism. It's not hard to understand why the network would want such a thing: Jane is a beloved show that earned the network critical accolades, industry awards and proof that they're not entirely dependent on DC Comics propertie. But can a spin-off successfully recapture the magic of the original series?
Hailing from the creative forces behind the original series -- Jane creator Jennie Snyder Urman, star Gina Rodriguez, executive producer Ben Silverman and director Brad Silberling -- Jane The Novela is envisioned as a soapy, telenovela-inspired anthology series in the tradition of the mothership, where each season is based on a different fictional novel “written” and narrated by Jane Villanueva. It's an interesting idea to be sure, but given that ratings-wise Jane The Virgin was never really a big hit for The CW, it likely faces an uphill batle from the start.
WRITTEN BY: Valentina Garza
DRAFT DATE: Writers Draft 1/12/19
PAGE COUNT: 60 pages
SCRIPT SYNOPSIS: In the first installment of JANE THE NOVELA entitled "The Woman Who Rose From The Dead", JANE VILLANUEVA narrates the fictional story of ESTELA MOTENEGRO (26), an art curator for the San Francisco MOMA who's a driven, imaginative twentysomething Latina woman. Estela’s story begins at a young age when she is adopted by her parents and her heart stops for the first time – revealing her serious heart condition. It jumps to the present, where Estela is planning a world class art event at a winery partially owned by FELIX (30s), the man who stopped Estela’s heart for the second time when he kissed her, and his manipulative and glamorous mother RENATA (50s), who will stop at nothing to secure her son’s legacy, even if it means standing in the way of his happiness.. Meanwhile, Estela already has a man in her life, LUEN, who's not as rich and sexy but is still the sweet, adorable, dependent man she loves. When Estela finds out her boss, AUGUST (40s), is taking credit for her event and delaying her promotion, she spirals, experimenting with her romantic relationships and becoming an art and wine thief, no less. At the event itself, Estela and Felix discover a dead man’s body in the fermentation tank, leading Felix to reveal that he accidentally murdered a different man in a drunk driving accident. The episode ends on a suspenseful note, revealing that Estela has a twin, ISLA, who has been keeping Estela captive and posing as her since August told her she was not receiving a promotion...
COMMENTS: Jane The Novela is, for me, a lesser version of Jane The Virgin. Simply put, it's not as good or as fun as it should be. There one thing that really works is the voice-over. If you're familiar with Gina Rodriguez's voice and tone, it's easy to imagine her narrating the story. She regularly refers to the events of the original series, which fans will appreciate, and as you might expect, the writers have her part down perfectly.
Since Jane is supposed to be writing the story, it makes sense that Estela is a bit of an alter ego, an alternate version of herself. But the result is problematic: Estela never quite feels like a full-fledged character of her own. She's just Jane 2.0, with the same character traits. She's spent years playing it safe, coloring within the lines, but now her life has taken an unxpected turn... for her. For us, it's witnessing what Jane already went through. The details are different but the idea is the same. Perhaps the actress cast for the part, Jacqueline Grace Lopez, will bring something new to the character, but I'm not confident it can be enough.
This déjà vu feeling is in full force once the love triangle is in place. Luen is Michael, and Felix is Rafael (and Rafael's hotel is a winery here). The narrator herself even makes the comparison, giggling a little. To me, it's lazier than it is funny. The only "original" character that stands out is the one played by Marcia Cross. She's the really bad mother, whose lines are deliciously nasty. She's totally one-dimensional but in the context of a telenovela parody, it's exactly what's called for. Renata is unapologetic and a lot of fun. Regarding the evil twin shenanigan plot twist, I have to admit I didn't see it coming, but really? That's the best they could come up with? They already did it with Petra on Jane The Virgin, and Roman Zazo before that.
FINAL RECOMMENDATION: There is very little in Jane The Novela that hasn't already been done in one way or another on Jane The Virgin. While Jane fans may appreciate its winks to the original series, that and Marcia Cross playing the nasty mother are the only things this pliot script has going for it. Instead of this misguided attempt at franchise-building, The CW would be far better off ordering their one original dramedy pilot this season, Glamorous (read my review here).
OVERALL PROJECT SCORE:
[ ] CONSIDER
[ ] RECOMMEND