TELENOVELA WATCH: SECRETOS DEL PARAÍS and CACHITO DE CIELO Debut Today; Thoughts on CORAZÓN INDOMABLE

A pair of new telenovelas premiere Monday, July 22 with SECRETOS DEL PARAÍSO on MundoFox and CACHITO DE CIELO on Univision.

SECRETOS DEL PARAÍSO (weeknights at 8 p.m. ET) is a new Colombian telenovela from RCN. A remake of the 1993 Colombian telenovela LA MALDICIÓN DEL PARAÍSO, SECRETOS DEL PARAÍSO looks to be the most traditional telenovela to ever air in prime time on MundoFox.

The story follows a beautiful, sophisticated woman who finds herself trapped in a love triangle with two brothers, not realizing she may be repeating the tragic past of her mother.

Natalia Durán (CORAZONES BLINDADOS), Juan Pablo Espinosa (EL SECRETARIO) and Iván López (AMOR EN CUSTODIA) make up the triangle. The cast also features Linda Baldrich (SIN SENOS NO HAY PARAÍSO), Patricia Tamayo (A MANO LIMPIA), JORGE CAO (EL ÚLTIMO MATRIMONIO FELIZ), Silvia de Dios (VICTORINOS) and Ernesto Benjumea (ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL).

CACHITO DE CIELO
On Univision, the Mexican telenovela CACHITO DE CIELO (weekdays at 2 p.m. ET) finally makes its US debut, coming eight months after it has already concluded its run in Mexico. The novela was not a ratings success in Mexico which perhaps accounts for Univision’s demurral and the afternoon time slot, but it is produced by Giselle González and Roberto Gómez Fernández, who were coming off the fine PARA VOLVER A AMAR, so CACHITO is certainly worth a peek.

CACHITO DE CIELO is one of the rare telenovelas based on US source material – it is inspired by the 1978 Warren Beatty film HEAVEN CAN WAIT, itself a remake of the 1941 movie HERE COMES MR. JORDAN which was based on the 1938 play HEAVEN CAN WAIT by Harry Segall.

Cachito is a promising soccer player in love with Renata, a beautiful sports journalist. Cachito dies, but it turns out a mistake was made in heaven and he was taken too soon, so he is allowed to return to earth, but as a different man. Thus, Cachito dies as Mane de la Parra (CORONA DE LÁGRIMAS) and returns as Pedro Fernández (HASTA QUE EL DINERO NOS SEPARE), who attempts again to win the heart of Renata, who is played by Maite Perroni (TRIUNFO DEL AMOR).

Also in the cast are Jorge Poza (RAFAELA), Cynthia Klitbo (EL PRIVILEGIO DE AMAR), Azela Robinson (LLENA DE AMOR), Cecilia Gabriela (LLENA DE AMOR), César Bono, Esmeralda Pimentel (ABISMO DE PASIÓN), and Rafael Inclán (ALMA DE HIERRO).

Thoughts on CORAZÓN INDOMABLE
Leaps in logic are easy to make in a telenovela where nearly everything strains credibility, like Televisa’s CORAZÓN INDOMABLE (weeknights at 7 p.m. ET on Univision). You don’t believe for a second the male protagonist wouldn’t immediately know his wife after merely a few weeks of separation during which she was taught a few etiquette lessons and purchased a new wardrobe, but because it is part and parcel of a nonsensical whole, you tend to just shrug and go along with it.

There is a fine line between the innocent and the imbecile that unfortunately, during the first weeks of CORAZÓN INDOMABLE, the peasant heroine Maricruz (Ana Brenda Contreras) crosses as she falls prey, again and again, to every predictable trap set by the villainess. The central plot construction of the telenovela, which is similar to Telemundo’s LA PATRONA, is so crudely manipulative and heavy-handed that I ultimately find it off-putting. The first weeks are little more than an escalating series of humiliations and cruelties inflicted upon the heroine and her family, climaxing in outright atrocities – the rape of her deaf mute younger sister, the imprisonment of Maricruz after she is framed for a theft, and the burning down of her humble shack resulting in the death of her grandfather.

Is the excessive piling on of misery meant to instill a bloodlust in the audience like in LA PATRONA? There is a dopey naiveté to the proceedings of CORAZÓN INDOMABLE that leaves one with hope for something better than that Telemundo rubbish – CORAZÓN INDOMABLE doesn’t seem to have the cynical calculation that I found ultimately made LA PATRONA so repugnant, where the audience was expected to welcome a brutal rape as a baddie getting her just deserts.

CORAZÓN INDOMABLE improves some during the PYGMALION stage of the story, as Maricruz is taken in by a kind millionaire who turns out to be her father, though neither is initially aware of this. If the poorly motivated villainy of the baddies was overkill in misery, his excessive benevolence is overkill in the opposite direction; but the episodes of Maricruz and her sister’s educations and self-improvements are enormously appealing. The charming respite is far too brief, however, as Maricruz is soon rushing off to sort out the crooks stealing from her father’s casino.

The novela hops along, but to the detriment of the story - the set ups are rushed and every big moment seems underwhelming: Maricruz’s transformation, her finding out the millionaire is her father, the discovery her sister is pregnant from rape, the reveal to the millionaire she is his long-lost daughter – all damp squibs. The lack of follow up and concern over the state of the younger sister is especially puzzling, with Maricruz trekking off for her tedious casino boat non-intrigue, leaving the traumatized girl in the care of strangers. The action often feels too diffuse over the different locations, the characters that are removed from the heroine’s direct interactions are too isolated, they begin to feel unimportant.

Ana Brenda Contreras brings a sense of reality to what is a cartoon character. Indeed, I’m not sure I wouldn’t enjoy the novela more with a cruder, less nuanced performer as the lead. The role is essentially beneath Ana Brenda’s talents. A good low comedienne would have brought a boisterous vulgarity to the dirty barefoot girl, would have played Maricruz’s dinner table faux pas and jealous rows for laughs. Ana Brenda played those scenes for what little reality they contained, which left them flat, eliciting pity for Maricruz more than anything. As the plot shifts focus to the heroine’s quest for revenge, whatever was appealing about the character has largely disappeared. The character is undermined by the plot: the eye-roll inducing implausibilities of her instantaneous genius for machinations and how her thirst for vengeance seems more important to her than her loved ones – her sister, newborn baby, even frail father, whom she blurts out her identity to at seemingly the most stressful time possible (seriously, why toss in such a dumb plot contrivance as the father’s fading health as the reason not to reveal his daughter’s identity to him – the idea being the shock will kill him – if that contrivance is just going to be jettisoned willy-nilly anyway). Another unfortunate consequence in the shift in character: when engaged in one of her many verbal tiffs, Ana Brenda’s voice tends to go annoyingly shrill.

Elizabeth Álvarez and René Strickler as the villains and César Évora as the millionaire are all good actors and make do with what they are given – but their characters are colorless and dull because there just aren’t any shades to play. Poor Daniel Arenas as the male lead fares worse of all as he doesn’t even have a “type.” His character is so severely underwritten, so amorphous, with motivations so vague – he is a cipher - I’ve rarely felt so indifferent as to the fate of a protagonist. As the heroine grits her teeth in planning her vengeance against the poor dope, I can’t help but feel a big why bother?

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R.G. Morin writes a regular 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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