There’s never a dull moment in a telenovela! From the long and often theatrical pauses, the vicious tongue lashings, and the inevitable cachetadas, one after another, we can’t help but keep our eyes glued to the screen when we’re watching a good soap opera in Spanish. The best of them usually stay with us forever, especially the ones from our childhood.
I still remember the theme song to Rosa Salvaje with Veronica Castro! That novela is probably one of the all time classics; right up there with Los Ricos También Lloran and its English-language counterpart The Young and the Restless. The main difference between the two latter being that The Young and the Restless spanned several decades, while Los Ricos También Lloran, like most telenovelas, was only on air for a couple of months.
That’s part of the allure of the Spanish-language soap opera. It only requires a minimal investment of our time every season. Of course, then the big networks make it their goal to hook us on their next telenovelas before they even start, and there we go, down the vicious path of becoming a novelero. I can tell you from experience it takes a whole lot of willpower to pull oneself out of a good series of captivating telenovelas. At one point in my life there were three of these soap operas that commanded three hours of my life every weekday evening. It was exhausting! I haven’t done that since!
The last telenovela I really watched religiously was La Reina Del Sur, although it was so not cheesy and so suspenseful that I think it has ruined all other telenovelas for me. It could also just be a phase. Only time will tell.
Still, the other day, I read an article about how telenovelas might be the wave of the future because they’re helping big networks like Univision and Telemundo prosper over their English language counterparts in the US, that can’t seem to pull in the same high ratings. It got me thinking: Should American viewers really be getting ready to see more over-the-top dramatic programming on their small screens, one right after the other, on prime time slots, every evening? Or maybe, just maybe, could the fact that until now there have been so few options for Spanish-language-viewing audiences have something to do with the stellar performance of these big networks?
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I’d tend to agree with lack of competition being a big factor in the big numbers some of these
Spanish-language networks are pulling. That, however, won’t be the case very soon. From major English-language networks, to cable channels, to foreign-owned conglomerates—even celebs like JLo are in the mix—there are a slew of new networks and entertainment ventures on the horizon that threaten to put a major dent on Univision and Telemundo’s current hold on U.S. Latino viewing
Still, I don’t think the telenovela is the wave of the future, no matter how big of a fan of the genre I might be. What’s going to make the difference for any and all of these new and existing television networks is one thing only: programming. Specifically when it comes to U.S. Latinos, broadcasters are going to have to get smart about how they’re courting us. Slapping endless telenovelas on top of each other is not going to cut it anymore. Neither is casting us only in small inconsequential roles. We’re going to have to see ourselves in front of and behind the cameras. We’re going to have to relate to the Latinos on screen. And guess what? We’re going to want to have options too.
It’s a brave new world folks. Are you ready?