I had hoped to enter a habit of waiting for the full season of a show to be out if I wasn’t already following it from the beginning before writing about it. However, since I posted about Pretty Little Liars, I’ve decided to make a series of posts on ABC Family. Next up: Jane by Design.
Originally called Design by Jane, the ABC Family series follows young high schooler Jane Quimby (Erica Dasher) as she struggles to separate her two lives, one as an aspiring career girl at fashion powerhouse Donovan Decker and the other as a social outcast at a high school. Suspending all disbelief that someone as fashionable and Nice™ as Jane would not be popular (seriously though), Jane’s only friend appears to be Billy Nutter (Nick Roux), who along with his questionable surname has a questionable decision making streak – to match his punk rock dregs, of course. Jane lives with her older brother Ben (David Clayton Rogers), who gave up his pursuit of baseball in order to raise her after their mother abandoned them. The show is set in a fictional and much cleaner New York City, as well as a close suburb (Westchester perhaps?) that boasts of larger-than life mansions mere blocks away from terribly rundown houses. [Note: I would argue that here is Jane‘s biggest downfall – the production value of the show outside of the halls of Donovan Decker look so low-budget it is painful. New York City is clearly a lot on some San Francisco studio, and the CGI of various outdoor scenes is cringe-worthy at best. The clothes could also use a step up, save for later pieces in more recent episodes.]
In the pilot, Jane applies for a high school internship, but is mistaken for the full-time applicant but manages to land the position. She goes so far as to create false identification in order to keep the position, which she considers her shot at entering the fashion industry. She enlists best-friend Billy, and later Ben, to help her run from one role to the other. Although it manages to diminish the creepy-factor of Jane being approximately sixteen and being hit on by her 20-something co-workers, Jane is perhaps naive – but certainly not immature. She understands the risk of what would happen to her were she discovered, and can hold her own when challenged by fashion rival India.
The show is full of lighthearted high school banter and dilemmas, leaving the traditional ABC Family “real-world problems” (Secret Life, anyone?) largely in the scope of the fashion industry half of Jane’s life. Jane’s job at Donovan Decker as assistant to the (in)famous Gray Chandler Murray leaves her with plenty of responsibility that constantly place her career in jeopardy. Interesting to note is the inclusion of real-life fashion icons within the show’s universe; that is, the show has featured guest stars in the form of Nina Garcia, Betsey Johnson, Christian Siriano (Project Runway), Patricia Fields, and various other familiar faces (perhaps this is where their budget is going…?).
I must include here, however, that I HATE THE MOTHER. The character, played by Teri Hatcher of Desperate Housewives, proves herself to be absolutely selfish, dense as all hell and narrowminded (see: The Online Date, The Backup Dress). While Hatcher is a fabulous actress her character’s smug candor just BOTHERS ME SO MUCH. Even among some of Jane’s shady fashion coworkers, her mother seems to be there simply to ruin her life in any way possible “by accident”.
Aside from that, I love its lightheartedness and the PG watch-ability. Sometimes I wish I could watch something with younger cousins that doesn’t involve teenage pregnancy, in addition seeing someone work and struggle to make their dreams come true. At the end of the day, I believe that my twelve-year-old self would have looked up to Jane as a role model just as much as Buffy – and that’s all that should matter when looking at shows targeted towards young teens.
Overall, Jane by Design is definitely not to be looked down upon as TV Guide has in the past – taking into account its demographic, writing, cast and production design it works well for what it is and I can’t wait to see more.
Easter Egg: The second half of the season introduced a rival seeking Ben’s affections by the name of Amanda Clark – I guess the writers are fans of Revenge!