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On The Tube

Fun with artificial insemination

10/8/2014

Jane“Jane the Virgin” (Monday, 8 p.m., CW) has fun with telenovela conventions. Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is an ordinary young woman swept up in extraordinary events when she’s accidentally inseminated during a routine exam. The sperm belongs to a playboy hotel owner (Justin Baldoni) who’s trapped in a loveless marriage — and who shared a kiss with Jane when they were kids. Jane’s rotten boyfriend (Brett Dier) wants her to get an abortion, while the playboy wants her to hand the baby over to him and his coldhearted wife. I have no space to relate the dozens of other plot points.

“Jane the Virgin” finds the right tone for this material. It mocks Latin American soap operas, but affectionately. There’s a lot of subtitled Spanish dialogue, Latin party music and refreshingly frank talk about abortion — a rarity on broadcast TV. The actors create colorful caricatures without overdoing it.

Though “Jane the Virgin” is a satire, in many ways it affects you like a real telenovela. You hate the villains and love the humble heroine. You get caught up in the grand emotions. And, of course, you can’t wait to see what happens in the next exciting episode.

“The Flash”

Tuesday, 7 p.m. (CW)

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While the movies huff and puff to bring comic book characters to life (“Man of Steel,” “Iron Man 3”), this fall’s TV schedule makes it seem like the easiest thing in the world. First came “Gotham,” a compelling version of the Batman story, and now “The Flash,” in which a supercharged bolt of lightning turns hapless young Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) into the fastest man on Earth.

“The Flash,” has a good time with Barry’s transformation, rendering his speed with smoke and sparks. But this character is more than just a cool special effect. Charmingly played by Gustin, he’s a human first and a superhuman second. Barry has tragedy in his past and uncertainty in his relationship with longtime friend/possible love interest Iris (Candice Patton). We feel his exhilaration when his new powers enable him to run toward trouble rather than away from it. We also relate to his insecurity about using those powers wisely — aka maturing into an adult.

TV critic’s farewell

This marks the last week for my column. After obsessively writing about television for almost 20 years, I figured it was time to get off the couch and see what’s happening in the real world — which, I’m told, is not the same as “The Real World.” Who knew?

When I started the column, I had no idea of the TV transformation about to take place: a new golden age that would bring us “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The Colbert Report,” “The Office,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “30 Rock,” “Friday Night Lights,” “The West Wing” and “Freaks and Geeks,” among others. It’s been a thrill to comment on such marvels as they came and went, and I’ve appreciated readers’ kind words over the years. I’ve also appreciated hearing from those who disagreed with me, because what’s more fun than arguing about television?

Find me on Facebook and Twitter (@deanrobbins) so we can keep the conversation going as I transition into an amateur TV watcher. Or, alternately, find me in the aforementioned real world. I’ll be the guy with the pale skin, bleary eyes and dazed smile. CV

Editor’s note: We wish Dean all the best. Moving forward, look for Bill Frost in this space next week.

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