Frantic Jane: A not-dead husband and a seven-minute monolog

By Mike Hughes

Strange things can
happen in the telenovela world.

Evil twins appear,
dead husbands re-appear ... and the star has a seven-minute,
high-octane monolog.

“It was a
phenomenal challenge,” said Gina Rodriguez.

Viewers will see
that Wednesday, when “Jane the Virgin” starts its fifth and final

As the fourth ended,
Jane (Rodriguez) suddenly met Michael (Brett Dier), the husband she'd
been mourning for years. There's an explanation – there always is –
followed by a flurry of emotions.

Rodriguez said she'd
known about this since writer/producer Jennie Urman gave her a script
with Michael dying. It was “really difficult, only because we both
love Brett Dier so much .... That was really, really devastating to
me .... hen she was like, 'But he's coming back.'”

The catch was that
Rodriguez had to keep it a secret for 18 months. Then came this
season-opener script. “I saw this seven-page monolog. I was like,
'All right, Jennie! Let's do this!'”

She “came to the
table read and had it memorized,” Urman said. “That's pretty

This isn't just
Hamlet staring at a spotlight. The seven-minute stretch includes joy
and rage, pants on and off, mouth full and empty, with silent
reactions from mother and grandmother.

It's an all-purpose
acting exercise, with Rodriguez (who also directed the episode) doing
it non-stop.

“We did five takes
... but we could have put any one of the takes on TV,” Urman said.

The show follows the
Latin American tradition of telenovelas, with sweeping, soap-opera
stories. The difference is that telenovelas are finite; this one
(like “Ugly Betty”) has continued for years, with a narrator
often poking fun at the tele-twists.

Now, Urman says, it
has this big twist. “I knew that was a trope ... we were going to
save up 'til the end.”

-- “Jane the
Virgin,” 9 p.m. Wednesdays, CW

-- Final season
starts March 27 and is expected to continue through July

A blizzard in St. Louis? Or in Los Angeles? It's sorta possible

At the time, this
seemed like Hollywood whimsy.

For an episode that
airs Thursday, “Superstore” shot a blizzard in Los Angeles.
“People were bringing their kids to ... see snow for the first
time,” said Colton Dunn, who plays Garrett.

It seemed especially
odd, because the show is set in St. Louis, which barely averages 15
inches of snow a year.

And then? In January
– after that episode was shot – a storm hit. St. Louis had 8-12
inches; parts of Missouri had 20.

At least, the
pretend one was fun. “It was so cool,” said Ben Feldman, who
plays Jonah.

“It was an amazing
couple of days,” Dunn said. “We all got to bundle up and wear
coats when it was 70 degrees out.”

Then came that real
storm; that happen a lot, said Lauren Ash, who plays Dina. “Stuff
will happen on the show and then it will happen in real life.”

Or something real is
copied on the show. Dunn once got a coupon-filled receipt, bigger
than the thing he bought; that was soon on “Superstore.”

personalities also sneak in. Scripts “just read more and more like
30-page roasts of me,” Feldman said.

He grew up in
Potomac, Maryland, listed as America's richest town. So Jonah is
mocked for his upper-class references.

Also reflecting real
life is America Ferrera, who spent four sunny years as the “Ugly
Betty” star. “That was fun and so exhausting,” she said.

Now she plays Amy,
often the opposite. “Amy has definitely brought the cynic out in

Other characters
have also adjusted. Mateo was “a straight Latino guy,” Nico
Santos said, then was adapted. “I never thought in a million years
I'd be (in a show that) celebrated the fullness of my identity of
being queer and Asian.”

-- “Superstore,”
8 p.m. Thursdays, NBC

-- The blizzard
episode airs March 21, the first full day of spring

A feel-good, frontier tale becomes enmeshed in a modern scandal

Hallmark Channel
viewers, unaccustomed to surprises, got a jolt Sunday:

The scheduled “When
Calls the Heart” episode was gone. Replacing it was a rerun of a
2016 romance set at a dog show.

There was no on-air
explanation, but Hallmark had posted an Instagram, saying “Heart”
hasn't been cancelled.

This frontier,
feel-good drama, it seems, has suffered collateral damage from the
latest scandal.

On Thursday,
Hallmark sent a press release: “We are saddened by the recent news
surrounding the college admissions allegations. We are no longer
working with Lori Loughlin and have stopped development of all
productions ... involving Lori Loughlin, including 'Garage Sale

But that didn't
mention the bigger issue: Loughlin is one of the leads in “When
Calls the Heart,” which has just started airing its sixth season
and is still filming.

That got complicated
when she and her husband (designer Mossimo Giannulli) were charged
with using fraud and $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into
the University of Southern California. They're involved in a probe
that also includes actress Felicity Huffman and several business

Loughlin, 54, has
been a typical Hallmark star, with sweet face and family-friendly
resume. On “Full House” and “Fuller House,” she was Becky,
eventually marrying John Stamos' character, Jesse. On “90210,”
she was Debbie Wilson, a loving mom.

Then came the
Hallmark link – 15 “Garage Sale” movies, plus “When Calls the
Heart,” in which a young woman leaves her comfortable home in 1910,
to be a teacher on the Canadian frontier.

Loughlin has been
playing Abigail, whose husband and son were among the 45 men killed
in a mining disaster. Abigail was often the show's moral center –
until the modern scandal erupted.

On Thursday,
Hallmark announced it won't develop any more “Garage Sale” films.
On Saturday, Netflix said Loughlin is out of “Fuller House.” And
on Sunday, “Heart” fans found their show in limbo.

Arquette is at it again -- true story, true transformation

(A brief note: Please be patient; the revamped website will be ready soon. Meanwhile, TV keeps providing interesting stories.Here's the latest, on an intriguing mini-series that reaches Hulu on Wednesday, March 20.)

Patricia Arquette
was busy un-transforming. She was returning to her old self, after
being Tilly in “Escape to Dannemora.”

Then she found Dee
Dee and “The Act.”

“I started losing
weight after 'Dannemora,'“ Arquette sid. “Then I stopped for

It's another true
story, another troubled soul, another transformation -- this time
holding back a tad.

For “Dannemora,”
Arquette put on weight, changed her voice, became a replica of the
woman who aided a prison break. She won a Golden Globe and a Screen
Actors Guild award, with more to come.

Then, just as she
was trimming down, came this role. “This real lady was like a
hundred pounds more and I thought, 'I will die, ... so I'll just stop

Still, it's another
drastic change in voice and mood. Arquette becomes Dee Dee, hovering
over her seemingly disabled teen-ager, Gypsy

That also meant a
transformation for Joey King, 19. “Along with shaving my head, ....
I wear several stages of fake teeth,” King said. Then there was
“being in the wheelchair, being in Gypsy's clothing.”

Dee Dee clung to an
earlier image of Gypsy. She was, Arquette said, “keeping her young
(with) the color palette ... of their pink house, their purple walls,
their dolls and their stuffed animals.”

Many parents may
cling to younger images of their kids, but Dee Dee went further. It
became a murder story “about love that is so extreme it becomes
toxic,” said screenwriter Nick Ancosta.

He created “The
Act” with Michelle Wolf, a lawyer-turned-journalist who had written
about this in Buzzfeed. Dee Dee fooled everyone, Wolf said, including
herself. “To be a successful fraudster, you usually have to believe
the fraud.”

It is, Arquette
said, “a distorted love affair. I am a little exhausted of playing
crazy women.”

-- “The Act,”
eight-week mini-series; available starting Wednesday, March 20, on

"Village" gives us a world that's warm, caring ... and maybe realistic

TV sometimes has
idealized worlds, where people know and care for every neighbor.

It's had Mayberry
and Walton's Mountain and Smurfs Village and such. And now, it has
... well, a chunk of New York City.

Lorraine Toussaint,
who stars, says that's believable. “'The Village' is not at all
foreign to me,” she said. “It's an old New York that I knew.”

She's not sure if
there are still areas like this -- “gentrification can take away
some of the family elements” -- but she knows it's possible.

In NBC's “Village,”
an older couple (Toussaint and Frankie Faison) provides the core for
neighbors who know each other. There 's a cop, a law student, a war
veteran; there are single moms – one from Iran, the other a nurse
with an activist, artistic teen-ager.

They've had crises –
from teen pregnancy to old age, plus cancer, war injuries and
immigration trouble – but they've done it together. That's what
Toussaint finds believable.

She was 10 when she
moved with her mother (a teacher) from Trinidad to New York, around

That was “when
Hell's Kitchen was still Hell's Kitchen .... We had pay phones on the
corner (and) I knew everyone in my building.” If a junkie blocked
her way “I would go to the corner and call one of my neighbors (to)
walk me home safely.”

It was a
togetherness world, she said. “We had picnics. We had real family
in that building.”

Toussaint graduated
from the High School for the Performing Arts, studied Shakespeare at
Juilliard and starred in “Any Day Now,” confronting racial issues
in Alabama. It “was groundbreaking .... We were talking about
things that I think still we're unable to talk about.”

Except, maybe, in
this Brooklyn village, where neighbors link to fight life's crises.

-- “The Village,”
10 p.m. Tuesdays, NBC, debuting March 19