Rating the South American Telenovelas

Every afternoon a deep peace descends in neighborhoods and small towns all over the South American continent. From Bogota to Buenos Aires and from Santiago to Guadalajara blinds are pulled and shutters dropped against the midday sun and peering eyes. The plot unfolds…slowly…very slowly for dramatic affect much like the tedious television news and the hyped up weather.

 TV Critics insist that these dramas are poorly concocted and methodically presented but they are part of life for millions who watch them religiously and contribute to the phenomenon. Some are sexy. Some are just windows in lives passing by. Others are the jumping off point for the celebrities of the future. Some seem more real than we do.

 Here are our favorites: Keep in mind that if you miss a week or so you can quickly catch back up as most of scenarios lap themselves and the intrigue is spent on the trailers. Tune in where overacting, bad organ music and well-worn narratives rule.

Herederos de Una Venganza

Perhaps the best known of all the Argentine daytime dramas, this never-mundane, always surprising favorite cascades down the mountain to the sea where cold beaches and windy plateaus await the brave and fearless. Don’t cry for me Argentina! Land stealing, cattle rustling, vintage wines, Cuban cigars, wife stealing, husband seducing episodes break from tradition. Scantily dressed gauchos parade through the ages whispering warnings about the embrace of lust and the disregard for etiquette.

La Maria Del Barrio

Long-running Mexican production with poor girl rags to riches theme. The heroine finds herself living in the house of the local patron where she falls in love with his handsome son. Sadly so have all of the other girls in town leaving Maria doting over the lost love she never had in the first place. Is Luis Fernando worth her standing in town? Will she be admonished by the extended family when they arrive for her odd brother’s Quinceanera in just a few days?

El Cartel de los Sapos

Ramon “Stoolie” Guzman runs aground when he tries to sell a bag of outdated chicharron to his former bosses in the cartel. This Colombian masterpiece dwells a little too long on the glories of drug smuggling and was kicked off the air in Panama and Ecuador. Collaboration with the police does not always work out well Guzman finds out one night at the bar that he is being watched by the very people he fingered. In keeping with a flowing anatomy they plan to break our hero’s arms and legs.

Mi Gorda Bella

Fat girl in Venezuela overcomes her challenges and becomes the top cosmetic surgeon in the region while the political climate diminishes along with her wealthy clientele. Her poorly plotted escape route is discovered and she is forced into the arms of the rogue police investigator Ricardo Muntante, renowned cyclist and muralist in Caracas. Will Julia stay off the sweets or will she join the millions of destitute dispossessed on miracle diets?

La Usurpadora

Love, money and betrayal…Can they all arrive at once? Bad acting and a horrible soundtrack overshadow this insipid plot. The untimely Mexican melodramatic music creeps its way into each episode like some whiney punctuation mark or a dose of simple syrup for the intrepid caste at bedtime. We have Paulina, Paola, Paul, Paulito, Paulette, Pablo and Pillar. Paulina and Paola were Siamese twins separated at birth. The others are just window dressing. Cameos by Mother Delphin fail to prop up the imbecilic exchanges and tempered threats that fly about the stage.

Las Juanas

This popular Colombia soap focuses on five daughters, fathered by Jorge Lucinn aka “Juan”. Rather than face up to responsibilities of parenting Lucinn goes out and starts another family. Soon the humane society captures Juan and begins the process of elimination. Caribbean scenes and lazy lifestyle are relaxing but go nowhere. Beach umbrellas are never enough to protect civilization from global warming while mindless coffee commercials irritate even the channel surfer.

O Clone

Far-fetched Brazilian presentation based on cloned lovers, Muslims from Rio and a naughty shoe convention. Jade, the Saharan princess is the prize but doesn’t know it until it’s too late. Armani, the sailor severed from the sea looks for credibility in a salty world far from the waves. His clone steals his woman duty-free and the two run off to Mozambique where they introduce daytime dramas to the capital, Maputo, the adopted city of Fred Sanford.

Donde Esta Elisa?

This suspenseful Chilean program focuses on the disappearance of the daughter of a Brahmin family in Santiago. Secrets quickly emerge when all of the family members become suspects despite airtight alibis. Kidnappers troll the wealthy suburbs while the cops dine on black eel and sip from tumblers of Don Melchor.

Muneca Brava

Hopeless love, the cruel orphan culture, heirs to fabulous fortune and love-hate flings thrive amid stimulating pampas muscle spasms. Inside the garden we see the restful pace of Olivia Chui, a disbarred attorney who joins the convent only to find she does like men, as long as they know their place. After much soul searching Olivia, played by Kid Malbec, and her newfound mate’ gourd and bombilla, leave the bright lights of the LaPlata for the Gran Chaco to open a Chicharia. Although a relative newcomer, this Argentine novela has claimed its place in television history.

-Ezmerelda de Rocha

Filed Under: Lifestyles at Risk


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