It’s March Madness time for TV fans. Of course I don’t mean basketball; I mean the nail-biting agony of waiting for networks to renew your favorite shows. This is the fourth year in a row of that special hell for Jane the Virgin viewers, and the third for a dangerously small but fiercely dedicated Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans.
And not that my personal opinion has any effect on these decisions, but if I lose either of these shows I will literally lose my shit.
A decade ago, the CW was where you went for guilty pleasures – your O.C.s and your Everwoods – and Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are treated as that, in large part. But something happened in the past decade which was that CW – in addition to programming shows that were enjoyable, addictive, and unlike anything on other networks – made some really freaking good TV.
A depressingly low number of people watch Jane and Crazy Ex from week to week, but this is no longer the TV era where Nielsen ratings rule. The shows thrive on Netflix (I recommend them to someone every few days) and dominate conversation among online critics. The network should want to stay in those conversations.
We’re not greedy; in the peak TV world – perhaps since Breaking Bad ended so perfectly after its fifth season — quality takes priority over quantity. We’d much rather get five brilliant seasons than 10 that drag on, especially when we’ve got a building queue of several hundred other shows. Crazy-Ex creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna have always said they wanted four seasons, and news that Jane might end after a potential fifth apparently shocked fans – but why prolong it if there’s no story left to tell?
They’ve done wonders for inclusion
CW shows are hella bisexual now, but no one did it like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend with Darryl’s slow realization in Season 1 and his heartwarming journey as a middle-aged man experiencing a new sense of identity. Crazy Ex has an Asian male lead, a mixed race actor whose character reflects her true identity, and a critical, layered role for a woman over 30.
Jane the Virgin is the story of a richly imagined Latinx family in Miami, and there is literally not a single straight white male character (anymore). The character Alba Villanueva has become particularly significant during the Trump era; she’s an undocumented immigrant who speaks entirely in Spanish and honors her Venezuelan roots.
The social commentary is :fire emoji:
Jane the Virgin‘s narrator and his hashtags are constantly, cleverly pushing for women’s rights and other social justice. Xiomara’s abortion was barely a blip in the telenovela drama and not something for which the show expected to receive any gold stars. The same goes for an extremely well-crafted relationship that blossomed this season out of mutual attraction and consent (we gave ’em that gold star anyway).
If you’ve never seen an episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend but you read the internet, chances are that you’ve seen take after take about this season’s revolutionary approach to discussing and portraying mental illness. Characters on both shows, regardless of how their districts may vote, respond in a positive, even exemplary manner to sexuality and diversity.
We need these stories
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend isn’t the sunny rom-com it’s marketing, and the show runners are well aware of that. They compare Rebecca Bunch more to Walter White than Bridget Jones.
Over three seasons we’ve watched a messy, reckless protagonist (anti-hero?) navigate interpersonal relationships in every convoluted way possible. No matter what you’re going through, there’s a Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song for it, and an uncomfortable but ultimately enlightening subplot.
Meanwhile, no show has encapsulated grief and growth like Jane the Virgin. Jane’s loss is so sudden, so awful, so unique. Any other show would have reduced it to a plot twist, a point that would eventually end up so far in the distance that the characters seem to forget it. But this loss remains part of the show – don’t think This Is Us, but think of the way, years after losing a loved one, the smallest reminder can trigger a storm of memories and feelings.
They may be branded as fun, frothy TV drama, but the truth is that Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are immensely important shows that make their audiences feel seen and understood. So much television tells universal stories, but to present broad themes with this kind of intense specificity takes a whole lot of skill and even more heart.
Both shows have already done more for their audiences than we probably realize. Just one more season, and we’ll make our peace. For now, all we can do is hope.