TELENOVELA WATCH: Gabriel Porras Joins CORAZÓN VALIENTE; Wedding Fireworks On UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR; Plus, Schedule Changes

GABRIEL PORRAS JOINS CORAZÓN VALIENTE
This week, Gabriel Porras (LA CASA DE AL LADO; DÓNDE ESTÁ ELISA?) joined the cast of CORAZÓN VALIENTE (weeknights at 9 p.m. ET), Telemundo’s action-oriented telenovela about childhood best friends Angela and Samantha, two girls of different backgrounds – Angela is the daughter of Miguel (Jorge Luis Pila), a bodyguard who dies in the line of duty saving rich Samantha - who reunite years later and become bodyguards, following in Angela’s late father’s footsteps.

A telenovela lead actor for nearly a decade, Gabriel Porras, sporting a beard and riding a motorcycle, enters the story as the son of Miguel, abandoned with his mother in Mexico, who comes to the United States seeking revenge on the men responsible for his father’s death.  In his first week on the show, Porras has managed to liven things up a bit – he is righteously intense in the search for his father’s killers, bemused and good-humored in the light comedic scenes opposite Fabián Ríos, and credible in the action scenes.


Perhaps his storyline will help strengthen the structure of the plot, which is all over the place, careering from incident to incident with little payoff or logic.  Rather than building a large, coherent over-arching umbrella plot like most telenovelas, CORAZÓN VALIENTE seems to employ a series of mini-plots lasting only two or three episodes.  Plot turns that in most telenovelas would take weeks to resolve, such as a fake pregnancy or a character secreted away to a shady psychiatric hospital, are resolved in less than a week.

The speed at which the plot moves, the constant accumulation of incident, leads to absurdities like the ludicrous piling up of murder victims connected to the male protagonist, Juan Marcos (José Luis Reséndez); so far in the course of the telenovela, his parents, unborn child, wife, mother-in-law, sister’s best friend, bodyguard, daughter’s bodyguard, and maid have been murdered.  The high body count means there is a very high character turnover – the telenovela is constantly introducing new characters who stir up trouble for a couple weeks before they are offed by one of the villains.

The storyline of CORAZÓN VALIENTE is broadly divided into two halves following each pair of protagonists – the Juan Marcos/Angela (Adriana Fonseca) story and the Willy (Ríos)/Samantha (Ximena Duque) story.  As the plot has progressed, bizarrely, each of the four protagonists has been given a corresponding antagonist fatally attracted to them.  There is a third pairing, in telenovela nomenclature, the ‘young protagonists,’ rich girl Emma (Vanessa Pose), who suffers from a severe bipolar disorder and is in love with her bodyguard Pablo (Jon Ecker); the two are charming enough but have been given little story.

What is striking about CORAZÓN VALIENTE is rarely have I seen a telenovela where one segment of the story – in this case, the Willy and Samantha pairing - works so much better than the rest of the show.  You almost wish Willy and Samantha could be extracted out of the telenovela and put on their own, separate show, solving crimes a la Nick and Nora Charles or having adventures a la THE AVENGERS (not Marvel’s, but the mid-sixties British adventure series that paired Patrick Macnee with Honor Blackman and later Diana Rigg).  An extremely rootable couple, Willy and Samantha have an easy-going, light-hearted chemistry; they are joshing equals and just plain fun together.  Willy, the irrepressible playboy who wants to change his ways for the woman he loves, attempting to be responsible, stepping up to the plate when needed, though managing not lose his roguish charm; and Samantha, the stolid bodyguard, devoted entirely to her work who lets her guard down and allows herself a modicum of vulnerability with Willy.

With that one aspect of the telenovela working so much better than the rest, I’m left scratching my head as to why, in his first week, Gabriel Porras had the majority of his scenes opposite Ximena Duque and Fabián Ríos.  Why are they trying to fix what works on the show rather than what does not?

WEDDING FIREWORKS ON UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR

The two episodes of the non-wedding of Rodrigo (Gabriel Soto) and Gala (Jessica Coch) were the best so far of UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknight at 7 p.m. ET on Univision).  Following the also excellent episodes of the Torreslanda company celebration, this telenovela is proving to excel at the ‘event’ episodes, where a large number of the characters are gathered together and able to interact – a testament to the strength of the cast.

There were so many fabulous little moments during these episodes, my favorite scene had Luciana (Zuria Vega), the maid in love with Rodrigo, staring out the window with Rodrigo’s siblings, Patricio (Brandon Peniche) and Jana (Ilean Almaguer), at the wedding preparations outside, and none of the trio could look at the others, all aware of the pain Luciana was in by the wedding, but unable to say anything.  When Luciana and Patricio were alone, he asks her to accompany him to the wedding, but she says she can’t do it, he guesses the reason why and she leaves the room, weeping.  Then, Patricio also weeps, for Luciana and for himself because he is not the one to win Luciana’s heart.

Suspense built as the ever vacillating Rodrigo took pen in hand, agonizing upon whether or not to sign and marry Gala, finally telling her no, he can’t marry her.  Marvelously soapy drama ensued: Gala gives Rodrigo a well-deserved slap, then swoons, and in a wonderfully crazed performance by Jessica Coch, vowed revenge; Gala’s shallow mother Julie (Frances Ondiviela) lambasted Rodrigo’s mother Roselena (Laura Flores); Rodrigo tells Luciana he didn’t get married and she is the reason why before running off again; Luciana, tormented all day by the impending wedding, is now tormented by the non-wedding.  The episode concludes with an ire-raising slice of injustice as Roselena, to “save” her grown sons who she knows are in love with a mere maid, fires Luciana and tosses her out of the mansion leading to a piteous scene of the bullied, tearful innocent girl, trundling with her hastily packed suitcase and a box of her belongings, dropping clothes on the street as she disappeared into the night.

The other major event of the week was the revelation to the audience that Luciana is the daughter of the kind attorney, Claudio Linares (David Ostrosky), the child Roselena gave away twenty years ago and that now weighs on her conscience.  Of course, the key characters are still in the dark as to Luciana’s true parentage, leading to the irony of Roselena, so racked with guilt over giving away Luciana as a baby, yet with no qualms tossing the same girl from her house as an adult.  It is refreshing the writers divulged this secret so quickly as I imagine most regular watchers of telenovelas figured it out fairly early on and it can be frustrating watching a show maintain the pretense of holding a plot secret long after its audience guessed what’s what.

SCHEDULE CHANGES
EL TALISMÁN ended this week on Univision, so starting Monday, June 18th, the Guy Ecker/Marlene Favela telenovela CORAZÓN APASIONADO will be airing an hour earlier, at 1 p.m. ET.  The Elizabeth Álvarez/Diego Olivera telenovela AMORCITO CORAZÓN will also start an hour earlier, at 2 p.m. ET and will now run for two hours.

Also starting June 18th on mun2, OJO POR OJO moves to the 10 p.m. ET time slot with a rerun at 1 a.m. ET.


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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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