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TELENOVELA WATCH: UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR's Breakneck Pace, LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR, UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN; Plus, Start Dates For PABLO ESCOBAR and POR ELLA..SOY EVA

UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision) continues to zip along at a breakneck pace as this week Rodrigo (Gabriel Soto) and Luciana (Zuria Vega) married in a civil service.  It was a clever move by the writers, giving the audience a week of romance, a great deal of it familiar telenovela tropes like the make out session in a stream, though tossing in an odd little excursion assisting a woman in childbirth.  The pair are still planning a big church wedding, which in a Mexican telenovela, is the wedding that counts.  As Luciana says, they are wed by laws of man, soon, they will be wed in the eyes of God.  Of course, with church weddings typically serving as the climax of the telenovela, and with Rodrigo’s jilted fiancée Gala (Jessica Coch) and her mother Julie (Frances Ondiviela) digging dirt on Luciana, it seems doubtful that church wedding will go as Rodrigo and Luciana intend.

The other major event of the week was Rodrigo’s mother, Rosalena (Laura Flores), confirming what she’d feared: that Luciana is Aurora’s daughter, the baby Rosalena gave away twenty years earlier.  The shock lands Rosalena in the hospital.  Rosalena is convinced her husband, Maximino (Roberto Blandón), had an affair with Aurora and is Luciana’s father.  Laura Flores continues to pitch her performance precariously on the edge, perhaps veering over the top on occasion, but how can hysterical frenzy not be?  It is certainly a ballsy performance, not just for the extremes Flores is willing to go, but for the lack of vanity in the hospital scenes.

I find devastating the contrast in Rosalena between the public persona of a stolid, in control, Junoesque, stylish beauty and the fragile, cracking woman behind closed doors.  There was an especially poignant scene this week between Rosalena and her daughter Jana (Ilean Almaguer) as Jana pleaded with her mother, trying to understand why she disliked Luciana so much, and Rosalena, exhausted, lay on her hospital bed, painfully unable to respond, afraid if her past sins are revealed, she will lose the love of her children.  Jana finally just told her mother to get better and she loves her, and then hugged her, and Rosalena held her daughter close, tightly, clingingly.

This week, LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision) featured a story device I never find satisfying as Rogelio (Jorge Salinas), the wheelchair-bound antihero of the telenovela, out of love for the heroine Ana Paula (Ana Brenda Contreras) and to indulge in self-pity, pushed her away for her own good so she could maybe one day find happiness with a “whole” man.  I tend to find these self-imposed separations terribly phony, a stall tactic to provide filler when there isn’t a proper conflict in place to actually move the plot forward.  The way this device is employed is incredibly consistent from telenovela to telenovela.  The pushed away party inevitably believes some lie their loved one tells them, something hurtful that they will never forgive.  Here, Rogelio tells Ana Paula their renewed romance was simply a revenge conquest, a fairly far-fetched scenario that, of course, Ana Paula believes and will never forgive.  After they are separated, the noble, self-sacrificing protagonist pines for his lost love, but stubbornly maintains the charade.

It usually takes a third character to intervene and get the lovers back together.  In this case María (Ana Martín) reveals the true reasons for Rogelio’s actions to Ana Paula.“He’s pushing you away because he loves you and he doesn’t think you can be happy with him.”  Since the conflict separating the pair is ultimately phony, the resolution of the conflictseems phony as well - it only takes a bit of petting and loving from Ana Paula and Rogelio quickly caves, all notions of noble self-sacrifice forgot.  The reconciliation was a sweet scene, but the whole week was largely pointless.  I suppose the separation allowed Ana Paula to be plucky and self-reliant, albeit rather dim to have believed the lie in the first place, but I find these stall storylines awfully tedious.  Thankfully, this one only lasted a week and things should pick up as the telenovela is entering its final weeks.

Over on UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on Telemundo), the noble self-sacrifice routine to break up the protagonists is going on two months.  Now in its últimos capítulos, the plotlines have been mired in a rut for a while with no sense of building momentum or rising of stakes.  It is not just the central plotline, but several subplots like Victor’s alcoholism and Gojo and Belinda’s friction over the paternity of their child, which remain frustratingly static andundeveloped from two months ago.

Meanwhile, two characters I liked, Leticia (Liz Gallardo) and Lucas (Carlos Athié), were given exceedingly unsatisfying exits.  Leticia’s exit, in particular, seemed botched, with the audience led to believe her rich fiancé was a criminal with nefarious designs on her only for it to be revealed in her final episode he wasn’t a bad guy after all, it was all a misunderstanding and they go off to live happily ever after; but because the viewers were cued to believe the guy was bad news, they could never invest in the relationship, so the happily ever after was incredibly hollow.

SCHEDULING
Telemundo will premiere PABLO ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL on July 9th at 10 p.m. ET.  An acquired series produced in Colombia by Caracol, this ambitious biographical novela about the infamous drug lord’s rise to power in the 1970s and 1980s is getting blockbuster ratings in Colombia and I imagine will do the same here.

Univision announced on Friday the Jaime Camil/Lucero comedy POR ELLA…SOY EVA will premiere on July 16th at 8 p.m. ET.  It will be interesting to see if Univision continues the four hours of telenovelas in primetime lineup upon the conclusion of LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR.

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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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