TELENOVELA WATCH: EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA Premieres July 30, ROSA DIAMANTE Expands, LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR Nears End; Plus, PABLO ESCOBAR, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR, PREMIOS TU MUNDO

EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA PREMIERE
EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA premieres this Monday at 10:30 p.m. ET on Telemundo, the third telenovela to premiere on the network this month.  Bizarrely, the television promos for the show vaguely state the start time as “after PABLO ESCOBAR;” EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA looks to be a mystery telenovela, but does the time the show is airing really have to be kept a mystery as well?

An original story by Sebastián Arrau, EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA stars David Chocarro (LA CASA DE AL LADO) as a man released from prison after 20 years for a crime he committed as a child.  He reenters society supported by his psychiatrist played by Maritza Rodríguez (LA CASA DE AL LADO) and a powerful benefactor played by Saúl Lisazo (EL CLON) who gives him a new identity and hires him to be the bodyguard of his fiancée played by Elizabeth Gutiérrez (EL FANTASMA DE ELENA) whose faithfulness he doubts.  The cast also includes Jonathan Islas, Wanda D’Isidoro, Cynthia Olavarría, Roberto Mateos, and Paloma Márquez.

It appears EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA will be sharing the 10 p.m. hour with PABLO ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL for a while as PABLO is nowhere near ending.  PABLO ESCOBAR is airing in half-hour installments in Colombia, I imagine Telemundo is not allowed to air episodes before they air in Colombia, which would have eventually happened if Telemundo continued airing the show in hour installments.

ROSA DIAMANTE
ROSA DIAMANTE (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET on Telemundo) expanded to an hour this week which coincided with the show finally starting to click for me.  In effect, the previous episodes now largely seemed to act as a prologue, setting up the story which started in full this week.  The premise of ROSA DIAMANTE is probably the most traditional one Telemundo has produced in a while and fairly outlandish.  Two girls, Rosa (Carla Hernández) and Eva (Thalí Garcia) grow up together at an exclusive boarding school for girls.  Rosa is an orphan and Eva, after the death of her parents, has been abandoned by the rest of her family except for visits from her grandfather, Eduardo Sotomayor, the owner of the largest lingerie company in the country.  The two girls are as close as sisters and when Eva has a baby, they decide to raise him together.  After Eva’s grandfather dies, she inherits the family mansion and 40 percent of the company.  The two girls are headed to Mexico City to collect when their car crashes.  Eva is killed.  Rosa, afraid to lose custody of Eva’s baby whom she swore she’d take care of if anything happened to her friend, decides to assume Eva’s identity.

The telenovela could have been titled “Everybody Hates Eva” given the sheer host of villains on the show that want her gone, mostly out of greedy desire to control the company.  In a nice bit of black comedy, a would-be murderer who is about to smother a comatose Rosa/Eva in her hospital bed with a pillow is thwarted when another would-be murderer enters the room.  After the first man leaves, the second man is about to inject some poison into her IV only to be thwarted in turn by the arrival of a pair of brownnosers who want to get on Rosa/Eva’s good side should she recover.

As Rosa takes her place, or rather, Eva’s place in the Sotomayor mansion, the suspense hinges on when it will be discovered she is an impostor.  In the meantime, it is enormously entertaining watching Rosa enter that world inhabited by all those awful, avaricious degenerates and make them squirm.  It’s interesting that her primary weapon, rather than being her beauty and sex appeal, seems to be a youthful, brazen impudence - she is an awfully saucy girl who doesn’t take guff from anybody.

I was surprised by how funny the show was this week as nothing in the promos really suggested it was a comedy.  Most hilarious to me are Rosa’s confrontations with Eva’s spiteful grandmother Rosaura (Lupita Ferrer), who becomes something akin to a malevolent Margaret Dumont in these encounters, utterly flummoxed by Rosa’s disregard and disrespect for her authority.

As Rosa, Carla Hernández is giving an absolutely winning performance.  She is feisty and strong without becoming overly aggressive, and her comedic timing is superb, accentuated by wonderfully mischievous eyes, and I love the mock innocent, “who me” faces she puts on.  The hard edge of the character melts away nicely when she is in protective big sister mode, exuding a touching warmth in her relationship with the more innocent Eva, and also in the scenes with Sofía Lama.  The character is allowed moments of vulnerability when she flees to her room and lets out her anxieties and self-doubts, unfortunately, often employing the soap convention of talking to herself out loud; actually, she doesn’t just talk to herself, sometimes she talks to a photo of Eva, sometimes to a painting of the Virgin.  At any rate, the telenovela could probably handle these scenes better – it is unlikely a character as smart as Rosa would risk lengthy conversations with herself where the truth of her identity could be overheard by other characters.

LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR NEARS ITS END
As LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision) is moving into its final chapters, I was struck by the diminishing focus the telenovela has placed on its heroine Ana Paula (Ana Brenda Contreras) in recent weeks, seeming to shift a lot of the attention and screen time to the antagonista Cinthia (Susana González).  While it is true the antagonists on telenovelas are often the characters driving story and Susana González has certainly given a riveting performance as this increasingly desperate, frazzling embodiment of selfishness – who could have foreseen the fairly sweet, fairly bland protagonist of ENTRE EL AMOR Y EL ODIO and VELO DE NOVIA would eventually be capable of a performance this marvelously crazed and wild – I think the bigger problem with this telenovela is the coupling of Ana Paula with Rogelio (Jorge Salinas) was ultimately too hasty and easy and left the character with little left to do.  What we’re mostly getting now from the character are her reactions as the crimes perpetrated against her through the course of the novela are uncovered and the villains outed, and while Ana Brenda Contreras’s performance in these scenes is often very moving, it’s a shame the character doesn’t seem to have a more active role within in the remaining drama.

PABLO ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL
This week PABLO ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Telemundo) focused on Pablo (Andrés Parra) arranging the assassination of Minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla (Ernesto Benjumea) and the resulting fallout.  It is interesting how the narrative of the show occasionally veers focus over the course of several episodes, how characters are highlighted and given prominence and others shifted into the background, even Pablo, who for much of the week became seemingly a secondary character, not even appearing until the final fifteen minutes of one episode.  This shift in focus onto Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and Luis Carlos Galán (Nicolás Montero) and their families gave the assassination the appropriate weight and significance.

UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR
A common complaint I make of telenovelas is many have the story for a cracking good 90 episode run, but are unfortunately stretched to an unsustainable 150-plus episode run, so it is worth noting as UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision) reached the 80 episode mark this week, the storylines remain rich, full and compelling with a constant impetus forward.

Friday’s episode was especially superb.  It began with the heroine Luciana (Zuria Vega) at the airport to fly home to her village, leaving Mexico City with no intention of ever returning.  Her friends from the Torreslanda household: Patricio (Brandon Peniche), Jana (Ilean Almaguer) and Melissa (Tania Lizardo) arrive in time for a touching goodbye.

Meanwhile, Roselena (Laura Flores), exhibiting a newfound glee and confidence, believing she sufficiently covered up her tracks regarding her sin of twenty years ago of giving the newborn Luciana away and letting the father, Claudio Linares, believe she died with his wife, has shifted her energy toward tightening her grip over her children, formalizing the family meals and expecting her three children to attend while she creepily smiles from her place at the head of the table.  Having “saved” her son Rodrigo (Gabriel Soto) from his marriage to Luciana, Roselena is now impinging upon the relationships of her sister, Conny, and daughter, Jana.  Earlier in the week, she criticized Conny’s relationship with Oscar, in an especially cruel display, warning her no man could really have interest in a woman her age (the pain, coupled with anxiety from her sister’s words were exquisitely played by Luz María Jerez); then on Friday, she threw a fit upon learning Jana’s boyfriend had entered Jana’s bedroom and forbid the boy from ever entering the house again.

It was beginning to look like an awfully bleak episode as Rodrigo later engaged in a booze-influenced re-coupling with his ex-fiancée Gala (Jessica Coch); but the episode ended on a high note as a major secret long known to the audience was finally revealed to a pertinent character: Paz revealed to Claudio Linares that she isn’t Luciana’s birth mother, that Claudio’s daughter didn’t die twenty years, that, in fact, Luciana is his daughter.  It was one of those wonderfully torturous scenes as the revelation was doled out, bit by bit, and you’re not sure if the crucial information will ever actually get out.  You begin anticipating all manner of delay, minor (phone call, knock on the door) and major (swoon, heart attack, meteor strike).  The revelations of big plot secrets on soaps and telenovelas are tricky business, it’s necessary to build up anticipation for the reveal to be impactful, but wait too long and the audience will become restless or annoyed or lose interest in the secret altogether.  But when the revelation is done well and the scene lands just right, it can be downright cathartic for the audience and is one of the things that make soaps great.  Needless to say, this revelation on UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR was pretty great and set the table for what looks to be another eventful episode Monday.

PREMIOS TU MUNDO
Telemundo announced this week the first edition of the PREMIOS TU MUNDO, an award show to celebrate their telenovelas to air August 30th.  Voting will be conducted online at http://www.premiostumundo.com/

As these award shows are all in good fun and their primary function is promoting product and performers, it perhaps ill behooves me to grumble how the nominations are overwhelming skewed toward Telemundo’s Miami-based productions, i.e., the performers most likely available to show up at the award show while the network’s Colombian productions, their redheaded stepchildren, FLOR SALVAJE and LOS HEREDEROS DEL MONTE, have just one nomination between them.  Even the network’s biggest hit, LA REINA DEL SUR, wasn’t immune to that Miami slant, with only Kate del Castillo nominated, ignoring the fine work from the rest of the international cast of Mexican, Colombian and Spanish actors on the telenovela.

RELATED:
TELENOVELA WATCH: Gabriel Porras Joins CORAZÓN VALIENTE; Wedding Fireworks On UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR; Plus, Schedule Changes (June 16, 2012)
TELENOVELA WATCH: RELACIONES PELIGROSAS Finale On Monday; Plus: Who Shot Bernardo On CORAZÓN VALIENTE? (June 23, 2012)
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 (June 30, 2012)
TELENOVELA WATCH: ROSA DIAMANTE, PABLO ESCOBAR Starting Next Week; Plus, CORAZON VALIENTE (July 7)
TELENOVELA WATCH: PABLO ESCOBAR, ROSA DIAMANTE Premiered; Plus, UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN, UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR & POR ELLA SOY EVA (July 14)
TELENOVELA WATCH: POR ELLA SOY EVA, PABLO ESCOBAR First Thoughts Plus, UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN, CORAZON APASIONADO (July 21)

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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