Admittedly, the premise of OJO POR OJO is odd for a telenovela - a bloody war between cousins: the Barragáns headed by Nando (Miguel Varoni) and the Monsalves headed by Manny (Gregorio Pernía). The killings are committed according to an honor system – the families can only kill each other on certain designated days, and women and children are not to be harmed (though in the first episodes, the women seem to do an awful lot of shooting, I guess there’s nothing in the rules that say the women can’t harm others).
Over the first week, the telenovela quickly fell into a pattern of attack, treat wounded, plan next move, attack – hopefully more variety will be introduced this week because right now much of the show seems little more than a slow, inevitable march toward the two sides annihilating each other. As neither side of the war is the least bit sympathetic, the show struggles to work up much suspense. In Thursday’s episode, as Nando and his brothers were driving into an ambush at the local brothel, a couple of the prostitutes ran up the road in a vain attempt to warn them and all I could think was, “why bother,” ultimately feeling as indifferent to the killing as the characters.
Rather than another telenovela, what the story of OJO POR OJO most reminds me of is Akira Kurosawa’s film YOJIMBO (and the Sergio Leone western remake, FISTFUL OF DOLLARS) with the equally loathsome factions wiping each other out in a small town. All that’s missing is an outsider, the Mifune/Eastwood character the audience gets behind as he serves deadly retribution to both sides.
What OJO POR OJO offers instead is its most characteristic telenovela element – a Romeo and Juliet narrative. That romance is also the most dramatically successful and interesting thing in the telenovela. Nando’s son, Arcangel (Gonzalo García Vivanco) and Manny’s niece, Nadia (Carmen Villalobos) flee a gun battle together. Winding up on the beach, the practical Arcangel, fed up with the killing, suggests he and Nadia have a baby – the child bearing both the Barragán and Monsalve names would be safe from both families. It’s a slick proposition, but Nadia will only have a baby born out of love. After a bit more frolicking on the beach, they go to their respective homes and admit to trusted family members they have indeed fallen in love.
Their budding love has immediate consequences. Learning of an ambush plot to wipe out the Barragáns at a cemetery, Nadia runs to warn Arcangel, thus betraying her family. One of her uncles is killed in the subsequent gun battle and Arcangel is accidentally shot in the chest by his father - providing some potentially juicy plot developments as the telenovela heads into its second week.
AMORCITO CORAZÓN (weekdays at 3 p.m. ET) premieres this Wednesday, May 30 on Univision. A Televisa adaptation of the 2002 Venezuelan telenovela TRAPOS ÍNTIMOS, AMORCITO CORAZÓN is a light comedy that follows the love lives of three women: Isabel (Elizabeth Álvarez), an architect cursed in love (literally, by the mother of her first love after an accident) who crosses paths with Fernando (Diego Olivera), a widower with three daughters; Lucía (África Zavala), Fernando’s younger sister, a novitiate who falls for a gigolo named Willy (Daniel Arenas); and Zoe (Grettell Valdez), who after catching her husband Álvaro (Pietro Vannucci) with another man, attempts suicide and is saved by Cecilio (Ricardo Fastlicht). The cast also includes Fabiola Campomanes, Alex Ibarra, Liz Vega, Miguel Ángel Biagio, Macaria, Silvia Mariscal and Mariana Karr.
On UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on Telemundo), the stories continue to sit in a holding pattern, delaying plot development in an effort to stretch out extra episodes before the final push to the end. Interestingly, the telenovela is using a pair of common stall story lines in tandem: a coma and the imprisonment of a protagonist. At the end of Friday’s episode, it seemed Marisa (Litzy) will finally be released on bail, allowing the telenovela to get moving again as it enters its “capítulos culminantes.”
Lalo’s coma story has allowed for some movement in the redemption arcs of his father Victor (Paulo Quevedo), who is trying to quit drinking and finding possible romance with Lalo’s teacher Mireya (Mónica Pasqualotto), and his aunt Yaya (Karina Mora), a comic relief character who is attempting to go to college; but it’s a shame the delays to the central story haven’t been better utilized to develop the story lines of the other maids.
Especially clumsy and poorly structured is the story involving Lety’s (Liz Gallardo) engagement to Rolando, a possible human trafficker. The pace of the story is far too slow, the serious subject matter is continually undercut by a strangely comedic tone, and there just isn’t any sense of urgency in the scenes involving Lucas (Carlos Athié), the chauffeur in love with Lety and his cohort Carmen (Tina Romero), as they attempt to come up with a way to trap Rolando. Everybody seems far too calm given the potential danger for Lety, she could already be in a crate headed for Japan, Lucas and Carmen would still be sipping their coffee, planning their impractical schemes.
EMPERATRIZ (weekdays at 1 p.m. ET on Azteca America, no English friendly options) is the telenovela I’ve been enjoying the most these past few weeks, a bit of a surprise for me as I’m not usually a fan of Azteca productions. What I love most about EMPERATRIZ so far is it features at its center a good, old fashioned star turn for its star actress, Gabriela Spanic, and that is something becoming increasingly rare in telenovelas.
The story seems to be headed toward a rather unfortunate love triangle as Emperatriz (Spanic) and her daughter, Esther (Adriana Louvier), are pining for the same man – the dramatic irony being the mother and daughter are unaware of their relationship to each other. Also rather odd is Alejandro, the man Esther is in love with, and indeed, has been in love with since she was a little girl, is her uncle. Obviously he isn’t a blood relative, but it’s a rather peculiar story choice nonetheless.
UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision) premiered this week to horrible first night ratings. It’s a telenovela I’ve been looking forward to watching; unfortunately, the two hour, late in the week (Thursday) premiere pushed it into weekend viewing for me, but I’ll be discussing it next week.
- TELENOVELA WATCH: No Spanish? Our New, Weekly Column Makes Telenovelas Fun for Everyone! (April 21, 2012)
- 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)
- TELENOVELA WATCH: OJO POR OJO and UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR Coming This Week; Plus, The Upfronts! (May 19, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.