TELENOVELA WATCH: OJO POR OJO and UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR Coming This Week; Plus, The Upfronts!

OJO POR OJO
The Telemundo telenovela OJO POR OJO (weeknights at 11 p.m. ET on mun2) finally makes its long-awaited U.S. debut on Monday, May 21st.

In the late summer of 2010, Telemundo first began airing television advertisements for this telenovela featuring three of the network’s biggest stars: Miguel Varoni and Gaby Espino, who were coming off the hit MÁS SABE EL DIABLO from earlier in the year, and Carmen Villalobos from SIN SENOS NO HAY PARAÍSO. The telenovela’s webpage and twitter account went live and all signs pointed toward an October premiere. And then, silence. The ads stopped running, the website and twitter account ceased to be updated, and the telenovela was shelved, at least in the U.S. – it aired in some Central and South American countries.

At last, OJO POR OJO comes to our screens, not on Telemundo, but on their sister network, mun2. OJO POR OJO is about the cycle of violence between two warring families, the Barragáns and the Monsalves. In typical Romeo and Juliet fashion, two younger members of the families fall in love, Arcangel (Gonzalo García Vivanco, currently playing JP on RELACIONES PELIGROSAS) and Nadia (Villalobos). Miguel Varoni plays the head of the Barragan family and Arcangel’s father; the wonderful Colombian actor Gregorio Pernía (LA HIJA DEL MARIACHI; FLOR SALVAJE) plays the head of the Monsalve family, both men are in love with Alina, played by Gaby Espino. The telenovela was written by Gustavo Bolívar (SIN TETAS NO HAY PARAÍSO; EL CAPO), based on Laura Restrepo’s 1993 novel EL LEOPARDO AL SOL.

EL REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR
Also premiering this week is Televisa’s UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (7 p.m. ET on Univision) on Thursday, May 24th. It seems UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR tells a pretty old-fashioned story as it is based on Delia Fiallo’s 1977 Venezuelan telenovela LA ZULIANITA.

Luciana Jacinto (Zuria Vega) is a beautiful young woman forced to flee her small village to Mexico City to escape the dangerous advances of Don Aquiles Trueba (Humberto Elizondo), her hometown cacique. In Mexico City, she gets a job as a servant in the Torrelanda mansion where she catches the eye of Rodrigo (Gabriel Soto), one of the sons of the wealthy family. The cast also features Jessica Coch as the other woman with her eyes set on Rodrigo, great telenovela villainess Frances Ondiviela as her mother, and Roberto Blandón and Laura Flores as Rodrigo’s parents.

With UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR joining ABISMO DE PASIÓN and LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR, Univision will now be airing three telenovelas in prime time that are remakes. While the familiarities of the plots annoy me, I find ABISMO DE PASIÓN and LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR both to be handsome, well-produced telenovelas that succeed in the traditional frameworks they set. Aside from some casting qualms I have with ABISMO, these are probably two of the stronger remakes of decade-old stories to come from Televisa in recent years. Judging from the promos, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR looks to follow the trend set by those other two productions. At the very least, the location footage looks beautiful.

UPFRONTS
This week networks had their upfront presentations where they announce their schedules for the upcoming television season and reveal what new shows they picked up. The Spanish language broadcast networks also do upfronts where they announce what telenovelas they are planning for the rest of the year.

There are few surprises from Univision as we know what telenovelas they have coming up – the Televisa productions currently airing in Mexico. These include the cross-dressing comedy POR ELLA SOY EVA with Jaime Camil and Lucero, and the revenge melodrama AMOR BRAVÍO with Cristian de la Fuente and Silvia Navarro. The only original telenovela coming to television screens announced at Univision’s upfront is actually from their sister cable network Telefutura, a remake of LA USURPADORA titled LA OTRA CARA, to be filmed in Colombia and star Danna García and Julian Gil. Univision also has three web telenovelas in the works for later in the year, two starring Mexican actress Kate del Castillo (LA REINA DEL SUR).

Since Telemundo produces their own telenovelas, their upfront has much more news. The network announced six new telenovelas, though typically, they only wind up producing about half the productions announced at these events.

Two look to be sure things: EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA and LA PATRONA. EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA is already in production and looks like it will be taking the 10 p.m. ET slot in June when RELACIONES PELIGROSAS ends. The cast reunites David Chocarro and Maritza Rodríguez, last seen together in LA CASA DE AL LADO. Also in the cast is Elizabeth Gutiérrez, who starred with Rodríguez in EL ROSTRO DE ANALÍA. The plot is about a man (Chocarro) released from prison after serving twenty years for a crime he has no memory of committing and the psychiatrist (Rodríguez) who helps him dig into what happened in the past, leading to a romance and no doubt danger.

LA PATRONA is the project Telemundo cooked up for the newest addition to their talent roster, Aracely Arámbula. It seems to have a pretty traditional telenovela plot, a rarity these days for Telemundo: a young woman taken in by a servant to a rich family falls in love with the fiancé of one of the rich family’s daughters, the family has the woman kidnapped and locked away in an insane asylum, she escapes, becomes rich and seeks revenge.

The other potential Telemundo productions are a drug trafficker telenovela for Rafael Amaya called EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS; a daughter versus mother melodrama called PASIÓN PROHIBIDA; a telenovela based on the life of singer José José called NACE UN IDOLO (which seems to me the longest shot to be produced – emotional uplift based on a true story is just not Telemundo’s style); and a Spanish version of a Brazilian telenovela from last year called FINA ESTAMPA.

Telemundo also announced they were in very early pre-production of a sequel of their biggest hit, LA REINA DEL SUR. In a bit of he said, she said – the network claimed star Kate del Castillo was attached to the sequel which was later denied by the actress on her twitter account. Not sure what to make from that contradiction, but just a couple weeks ago there was a similar denial from Aracely Arámbula saying she had not signed a contract with Telemundo only for it to be revealed a few days later via an orchestrated media blitz with the network that included a television promo that she had, indeed, joined Telemundo. Frankly, I can’t see a sequel of LA REINA DEL SUR going forward without Kate del Castillo.

Telemundo also announced a daytime anthology series called VIRGEN MORENA, about people overcoming adversity through the help of Our Lady of Guadalupe. These miracle series must be fairly popular: Televisa has one called LA ROSA DE GUADALUPE and Azteca has one called EL MILAGRO DE LOS SANTOS. Their stories tend to be pretty exploitative and sensationalistic, but they get away with it by couching them in religious uplift – in effect, it’s a modern day employment of the Cecil B. DeMille paradigm from the 1920s and 30s where sex and violence is permissible so long as there’s a religious lesson at the core.

In a bit of an oversight, Telemundo failed to mention their upcoming telenovela ROSA DIAMANTE in their upfront press materials. Teaser promos for this telenovela starring Mauricio Ochmann, Carla Hernández and Lupita Ferrer are currently airing on Telemundo and it will probably be taking the 8 p.m. ET timeslot when UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN ends in July.

Also this week, MundoFox, the new Spanish language network from Fox and RCN launching this summer, revealed some of their programming plans. The flagship for the network looks to be the second season of the Fox production EL CAPO, which follows the continuing intrigues of a powerful drug trafficker played by Marlon Moreno. The first series was a big hit in the U.S. for Telefutura.

Not surprisingly, the bulk of the telenovelas announced for MundoFox come from their partner, Colombian media giant RCN. All the telenovelas announced are productions from this year: CORAZONES BLINDADOS, a gritty urban police thriller; LAS SANTÍSIMAS, a telenovela inspired by SEX AND THE CITY about five women friends from different backgrounds; ALLÁ TE ESPERO, about migration and human trafficking; and POBRES RICOS, about a wealthy family that loses their fortune, starring Paola Rey (PASIÓN DE GAVILANES; LA MUJER EN EL ESPEJO).

In addition to the new telenovelas, MundoFox is also planning to air the monster hit, YO SOY BETTY, LA FEA, in half hour installments.

RELATED:
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- TELENOVELA WATCH: A Look At RELACIONES PELIGROSAS; Plus, Short Takes! (April 28, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: MIA MUNDO And Product Placement On Telemundo (May 5, 2012)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: EMPERATRIZ Coming To Azteca America; Plus, Short Takes! (May 12, 2012)
- EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Ana Brenda Contreras On Her Career, The Telenovela Process & More!
- 2012-2013 Upfronts

R.G. Morin writes a weekly column for We Love Soaps, "Telenovela Watch: A weekly look at the world of telenovelas for non-Spanish speakers." For feedback or questions, you can email R.G. Morin at argeemorin@hotmail.com.

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