Plain Jane, which premiered last night on the CW, is a makeover show that’s cleverly designed to resemble a romantic comedy. While shows like What Not to Wear and How to Look Good Naked exist solely to turn participants into better-dressed-and-coifed versions of themselves and then walk away, Plain Jane goes one step further: The made-over ladies then use their newfound looks and confidence to land the guy they’ve been pining for to no avail. It’s hard to believe no one thought of doing this before: Take the uplift of a makeover and add the heartwarming ending of a rom-com, and you’ve got catnip for female viewers of all ages (we say that as a fan — no one is above the charms of a makeover or happy ending; no one). Plain Jane stars The City’s Louise Roe (annoying here still, but less so), who acts as a “fairy godmother” to lucky girls, including Cristen, a cute, laid-back 24-year-old who’s into plaid and hanging out with her guy friends. Cristen is seeking Roe’s help — she has a crush on her friend Ty, but thinks if she tells him, she’ll ruin their friendship. Also, she hates her hair: “It kind of just looks like a mop on my head.”
Cue a shopping montage out of Pretty Woman, a learning-how-to-talk-to-boys lesson out The Princess Diaries, and a get-your-hair-done-for-the love-of-God moment out of Clueless, and our heroine is ready to face her biggest fear, telling Ty she loves him. Of course, like in any good romantic comedy, Ty not only sweetly takes the bait, but it turns out he was nervously pining, too! “I’m not sure if you know this, but I spent a good part of college with a crush on you of my own … I’m not lying, this is unbelievable.” And then they slow dance together, alone, with no music playing, which is something no one in the real world ever does, but seems to be a staple of movie couples everywhere. And so the episode succeeds: Cristen gets the makeover she wanted, her friend reciprocates her feelings, and it’s unearthed that he liked her before all this makeover nonsense anyway, which perhaps vindicates those offended by Roe’s message of “showing off the goods to get the guy.” (See the video below for some humiliating lead-up, plus the final “aw” moment.)
But what happens when Roe has a Plain Jane whose crush doesn’t feel the same way? It’s possible that she confesses her love, and instead of an impromptu slow dance, is met with a blank stare, “Eh, no thanks,” and a shrug. Can you imagine the humiliation of going on TV, renouncing your former self, and putting on painful heels and pancake makeup, only to be rejected by the dude for whom you were changing? Though the producers would likely cut the harshest parts out, use the scene earlier in the episode as a life lesson, and provide another cutie in the end to save the day — at least we hope they would. Romantic comedies in which the couple doesn’t end up together, ones like My Best Friend’s Wedding and (500) Days of Summer, just don’t satisfy in quite the same way. (We still think Julia Roberts should have gotten with Dermot Mulroney … Cameron Diaz was so insufferable!) That said, it will be interesting to see if Plain Jane can maintain the perfect balance of makeover thrill and rom-com romance that it manages to pull off in its first episode.