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TV Series Review

Oh, those American teenagers and their secret lives.

You'd think dealing with high school would be hard enough, what with all that algebra homework and relational angst. If teens are really looking for more to do, they could try out for football or join the band or, if they're really desperate, write for the school newspaper. Still bored? Why, back in my day, we'd take part-time jobs flipping burgers or tearing movie tickets or whatnot.

But kids these days aren't satisfied with those sorts of mundane jobs—at least not the ones we see on television. Noooo. They've got to be pop stars or Internet sensations or witches or spies.

Take Jane Quimby, the latest high schooler to lead an exotic double life. Hers is perhaps a little more plausible than some (you thought that wig would fool us, Miss Montana? Really?). Most of her friends know her as just a regular ol' high schooler, but all the while she's secretly working in the world of high fashion—as an assistant to the talented-but-stern Gray Chandler Murray.

It's not easy, mind you. While most of her classmates are presumably sipping malts at the local soda shop, Jane is dealing with Devil Wears Prada-levels of professional intrigue. And the fact that her split identity makes Jane an ingenue intriguer herself doesn't help matters. This light drama features more secrets than sequins, more histrionics than history classes.

ABC Family's slogan is "A different kind of family," and Jane by Design is certainly that. Jane's father has passed and her mom's disappeared, leaving her in the guardianship of overwhelmed older brother Ben. So she's slowly cobbling together relationships—a surrogate family of sorts—in her new workplace.

Jane, despite her duplicity, seems nice and well-meaning. Her high school friends make plot-driven missteps, but none of them seem to be in a rush to act like twentysomething hedonists. Couples kiss, but they're not constantly hopping in bed. Yet. And frankly, much of the show's charm stems from the fact that Jane is relatively innocent—a fresh and welcome contrast to her tarnished, jaded cohorts. Here's hoping she retains that innocence for a while.

Note though that Jane may be steering clear of explicit sexuality, but it's not above ogling or innuendo. Teens break hearts and change up their googly allegiances as often as lab partners; work-world designers backstab and manipulate. Jane's best friend, Billy, has a brother who gets in trouble with the law. One of Jane's colleagues is portrayed as being stereotypically effeminate.

And that makes the whole show feel like a strange mash-up of  Hannah Montana and 90210. Which means it's still quite a bit less problematic than other ABC Family efforts. (I'm looking at you, Greek.)

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Episode Reviews

Jane-by-Design: 2-28-2012



Readability Age Range



Erica Dasher as Jane Quimby; Nick Roux as Billy Nutter; Matthew Atkinson as Nick Fadden; Meagan Tandy as Lulu Pope; David Clayton Rogers as Ben; Smith Cho as Rita Shaw; Rowly Dennis as Jeremy Jones; India de Beaufort as India Jordain; Andie MacDowell as Gray Chandler Murray




ABC Family


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Paul Asay

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