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Featured TV on DVD Review: Jane By Design: Volume 1

June 9th, 2012

Jane By Design: Volume 1 - Buy from Amazon

Jane by Design is one of the newest shows on ABC Family, a cable network that over the years has broadcast many shows that I've enjoyed, like Kyle XY and 10 Things I Hate About You. But they also are the home to The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which I really don't like. Which end of the spectrum will this show end up on? Will it interest its target audience? Will it stretch beyond? Or will it be soap opera pap?

The Show

We are introduced to Jane Quimby (Erica Dasher). She's a social outcast at her high school and spends her time with her one friend, Billy Nutter (Nick Roux). She's looked down upon by Lulu Pope (Meagan Tandy), who is not only the most popular girl in school, but her family is important in the town. She's got eyes for Nick Fadden (Matthew Atkinson) the most popular guy in school, but as Jane tells Billy, he hasn't made eye contact with her since seventh grade. Her home life isn't great either. Her brother, Ben Quimby (David Clayton Rogers) had to drop out of college after their father died, while their mother is M.I.A. he's been struggling to pay the bills; he's been struggling just to get a job. So Jane talks her guidance counselor, Rita Shaw (Smith Cho), into letting her take an internship at a fashion design house as part of a school credit.

Due to a case of mistaken identity (Birdie (Brooke Lyons) the lady in human resources thought she was Jane Pipsky) Jane isn't hired as an intern. Instead, she's hired by Gray Chandler Murray to be her personal assistant, at a salary of $34,000 and an expense account. Gray is the head designer at Donovan Decker, one of the leading fashion houses in the world and working in fashion has always been a dream for Jane. Plus, she and her brother could really use the money, so she pretends she was there for the assistant job and not for the internship. Birdie shows Jane around her new work and introduces her to India Jourdain, Gray's second in command. Well, she introduces Jane to India from afar. You don't want to get to close to India. She also shows her Jeremy Jones (Rowly Dennis), the newest person hired by Gray, who is a big man in designs, and a ladies man around the office. And finally there's Carter (Ser'Darius Blain) another one of the designers who is often the first one to help Jane. She quickly learns her job isn't just answering phones and dealing with schedules, but also she's acting as Gray's spy. Gray is worried that India is trying to steal her job, while it seems someone from a rival fashion house, Beau, is.

In addition to her troubles keeping up at school and working for a very demanding boss, there's are some relationship issues. Very early in the show, Jane has to stay at Gray's house to wait for an important shipment and while waiting she decides to try on Gray's clothing. She then has to "borrow" Gray's car to get to school in time for a midterm and Nick sees her in a fancy car wearing designer clothing, suddenly he's interested. However, at work, Jeremy, the ladies' man, starts hitting on her. That potential relationship is even more complicated than just her age and the fact that she's living a lie, as Jeremy and India were (possibly are) an item.

Jane's not the only one with a complicated relationship. The India / Jeremy relationship is rough. Everything with India is rough, because she can go from nice to cruel very fast. Billy is dating Lulu, but in secret. Not only would their dating openly be social suicide for Lulu, but Billy's older brother is a juvenile delinquent and has been arrested several times, and Lulu's father has been the judge in a couple of those cases, so her father would absolutely not approve. Ben gets a job at Jane's school and starts hitting on Rita. The two went to that high school together, but Ben was the alpha male and was less than kind to Rita. He's trying to make up for that now. Then there's the relationship between Gray and her rival, Beau, which is complicated.

So how is Jane By Design? Well, first the downside. It is rather heavy on the Soap Opera elements. Romances become Love Triangles, which then evolve into a Love Hexagon. It gets a little complicated. In fact, it can get a little silly at times. However, unlike some Teenage Soap Operas, like The Secret Life of the American Teenager, I can handle the more soap opera aspect of the show, because the characters are generally a lot more compelling and far less irritating. For instance, even the "villains" in the show come across as real people with real motives, as opposed to cartoon characters. And the things they do make sense within the context of the show and their motivations. Stealing a design is obviously frowned upon in the fashion industry, but doesn't rise to the level that makes it outrageous. Additionally, for the most part the acting is a whole lot better here. To be fair to the cast of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, it also has much better writing and I don't fault the case for having trouble delivering the dialogue in a convincing manner. Not only are the storylines more compelling, but the dialogue feels a lot more natural as well.

Jane is obviously the anchor to the whole show and her struggles to fit into the two worlds of fashion and high school, while trying to keep them apart do provide more than enough dramatic weight to watch the show. However, I am a little concerned that this plot will be stretched a little thin before too long. How many close calls can there be before it becomes repetitive? But for now, it is one of the better dramas aimed at this demographic.

The Extras

Sadly, there are no extras on this two-disc set.

The Verdict

Jane By Design might not be the most original show out there. A socially awkward woman thrust into the world of fashion will ring a few bells. However, it is well done and for those in the target audience, it is worth checking out. The lack of extras hurts its overall value, but Volume 1 is still worth picking up for fans.

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