I haven’t forgotten about this very special project, but I had a certain viewing/posting order in mind that would’ve put some thematic coupling to these entries. That plan was derailed when two of the pilots on the master list were not available for viewing On Demand, my primary source of after-airing catch-up. I’m in the process of making special arrangements to see those two without resorting to pirating or (ugh) buying them on iTunes. That leaves me with two pilots I’ve watched in the past month that share absolutely nothing in common except that I haven’t covered them yet. Maybe this works if we all agree to pretend Jane the Virgin and Mike Tyson are mismatched buddy-cops who have to get along for the sake of their jobs, and that there are high stakes and…I don’t even know how to finish this sentence in any remotely entertaining manner. The two series are like comparing apples and Edsels. I give.
Jane the Virgin:
Here’s what I gleaned from the pilot, major spoilers and all:
Jane Gloriana Villanueva was a young girl when the virtue of sexual purity was taught to her by her loving Grandma Alba, whose singer daughter Xiomara in turn must not have received this same speech in her own childhood because she had Jane out of wedlock with Rogelio de la Vega, the famous star of the popular telenovela The Passion of Santos, though Xiomara would keep her paternity secret for decades because Rogelio bailed out at conception. To this day Grandma Alba has such guilt because she recommended Xiomara seek an abortion. Who knows how that turned out in the darkest universe, but that didn’t happen here.
Fast-forward to adulthood, and Jane and her longtime police detective boyfriend Michael are saving themselves for marriage (or at least Jane certainly is), but things go wrong when she goes in for a pap smear and her gynecologist, Dr. Alver, is too messed up to read her patients’ charts correctly because she’s distraught over catching her wife-in-some-states with another woman the night before. Instead of giving Jane a pap smear, Dr. Alver artificially inseminates her. At this point my wife, who had her back to the TV and wasn’t even watching, waved a red flag on the play and assured me that any woman who’s ever had a pap smear knows it take more three seconds and never ends with the patient saying, “Was that it? I didn’t feel a thing!”
So now the somewhat dim Jane is pregnant through no fault of her own. Jane and her boyfriend are distraught and his proposal is ruined. Even the Latin-lover narrator agrees, “And the fact was, this sucked.” Grandma Alba thinks it’s a miracle and doesn’t even think of suggesting abortion. Overcomplicating the already complicated situation: the procedural donation came from Dr. Alver’s own brother Rafael, a hotel owner that Jane met before in her occupation as a hotel party mermaid, and they once chatted over grilled cheese sandwiches. Rafael’s donation represented his final living specimen because after donating, a subsequent round of life-saving cancer treatments left him sterile. This might or might not have saved his failing marriage to his shrewish wife Petra, who’s cheating on him with his hotel manager Roman, who’s also the unwitting target of a police stakeout led by Jane’s detective boyfriend Michael, to whom Jane later proposes in return while offering to give the baby to Rafael and Petra, though she should maybe ask first before counting on them being okay with surrogacy, and then there’s the part where famous daddy Rogelio wants back in the picture after all, with or without his garish purple TV suit. Barely connected pieces in all of this include Michael’s seemingly evil brother, and Petra’s mom, played by Priscilla Barnes, a.k.a. Terri from Three’s Company, who was the only participant I recognized from anywhere else.
Tangled web is very tangled. This non-saintly, ribald CW series about a rather saintly woman (and Gina Rodriguez as Jane herself is the best thing about this) would become a standard TV pregnancy dramedy if it weren’t like a daytime-soap version of The Wire where everything’s connected and all the pieces matter, and missing an episode would make your hurt, but there’re occasional scenes in subtitled Spanish instead of reams of impenetrable police lingo.
[MCC 2014 Pilot Binge stats: Minutes passed before I decided it wasn’t for me: the full 60. To be honest, Jane and her immediate family were charming enough that I’m slightly curious to know what happened next, because morally upright characters are rare in shows like this, but my TV schedule is so beyond overloaded right now that I’ve already had to make some cuts.]
Mike Tyson Mysteries:
The only basic-cable series on the entire list is also the first Adult Swim series I’ve tried in years, and I see nothing has changed. Former boxer Mike Tyson, who completed his prison sentence without escaping or bribing officials and has been a legally free member of society for several years, headlines his own primitively animated Mr. T adventure series with better voice talents and predictably cruder dialogue. Tyson’s slightly smarter crime-fighting team includes Academy Award Winner Jim Rash as the fussy ghost of the Marquess of Queensbury, former SNLer Norm MacDonald as a man turned into a droll pigeon named Pigeon, and Rachel Ramras as Tyson’s adopted Asian daughter Yung Hee, who just wants to spend time with Dad or whatever. They fight crime, they solve Cormac McCarthy’s writing issues, they snark at each other, Mike sings wacky cringe-worthy songs, Rash and MacDonald are like a bickering couple, and everyone uses AMC-level language, which means all but two S-words are bleeped, and I would love to have watched the writers’ room discussion in which they all debated which two S-words were the most crucial to the pilot and deserved to remain untouched above all other S-words.
If you already like the Adult Swim line of naughty-time products, here some more is. If you hated Harvey Birdman, Sealab 2021, The Brak Show, or dozens of past fly-by-night zero-budget Adult Swim projects that have flown miles outside my radar over the past decade, there’s not much here to warrant an exception unless you’re the world’s biggest fan of Community‘s Dean Pelton.
[MCC 2014 Pilot Binge stats: Minutes passed before I wanted the show to go away: 4. For more information on the MCC 2014 Pilot Binge project, please visit the initial entry for the rationale, the official checklist of pilots, and links to completed entries as we go. Thanks for reading!]