TELENOVELA WATCH: EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS Finale, SANTA DIABLA Premiere, LA SELECCIÓN and CLOROFORMO

Final thoughts on EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS
EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS concluded last night with a deeply unsatisfying, open-ended finale allowing way for a potential sequel and more fun, murderous adventures with Telemundo’s favorite drug lord. A big hit for the network, I confess I did not see much of merit in EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS – finding it utterly mediocre in performance, writing and production in comparison to the similarly themed material coming out of Colombia. A brief excerpt from ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL of Pablo Escobar’s demise inserted in an early episode of EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS was so much more dynamically filmed and edited than anything in SEÑOR, it gave the game away.

It often seems Telemundo (and Televisa in Mexico) never grasped the advances in TV action brought on in the early 2000s by the American shows 24 and ALIAS, lessons the rest of the world learned. Telemundo and Televisa seem stuck in the corny 1990s mode of TV action, stuff you’d see in lame crime time after primetime dramas or WALKER, TEXAS RANGER. That lumbering clumsiness can be part of the charm of patently silly novelas like AMORES VERDADEROS and CORAZÓN VALIENTE, but it becomes embarrassing in a purportedly serious one like EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS. The action scenes in SEÑOR were laughably inept and ridiculously staged - I caught a scene of SEÑOR’s cop hero played by Gabriel Porras running after a speeding away car while his fellow cops behind him continued shooting at the car. Porras would have been well dead from the friendly fire, which would have at least spared the audience from his usual tortured (and torturing) grimace-laced performance.

Carmen Villalobos continued the truly remarkable pattern in her career of following a good performance with a poor one: SIN SENOS NO HAY PARAÍSO (mostly good), NIÑOS RICOS POBRES PADRES (poor), OJO POR OJO (good), MI CORAZÓN INSISTE (poor), MADE IN CARTAGENA (her best), EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS (poor). Fernanda Castillo was fairly amusing in a bad ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS sort of way. Robinson Díaz seemed to having fun but he’s too good an actor to be slumming in this junk; Sara Corrales, however, was right in her element. Only Ximena Herrera approached anything resembling a modicum of depth. I found Rafael Amaya’s lead performance drab but then I find sociopaths, which Amaya was portraying from episode one, tend to be pretty boring bunch, lacking the moral complexity and ambiguity needed to make drama compelling – their rote answer to every problem being imbecilic violence.

It would be cheek to suggest that Andrés Parra gave the best performance of last year playing Pablo Escobar in ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL and the worst performance of this year playing Pablo Escobar in EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS (the latter also isn’t true), but his two Escobars ably demonstrate the yawning gulf in quality between the two shows: ESCOBAR was populated by richly defined humans and SEÑOR by shallow cartoons.

SANTA DIABLA
Taking over the 10 p.m. ET slot tonight on Telemundo is SANTA DIABLA, an original Miami-produced thriller from writer José Ignacio Valenzuela. It is tough gauging my expectation for this new telenovela: on the one hand, Valenzuela wrote the nifty and compelling mystery LA FAMILIA DE AL LADO for TVN in Chile; on the other hand, he then travestied his own work with an expanded version produced for Telemundo titled LA CASA DE AL LADO that as it strayed from the original, became unbearably stupid.

From the press materials: “This telenovela tells the story of Santa Martínez, a woman of humble origins who has been forced to live through a nightmare and spends her time plotting the ‘perfect’ revenge, never thinking that love will be the only thing that might disrupt her plans.”

SANTA DIABLA stars Gaby Espino (MÁS SABE EL DIABLO), who is such a ubiquitous personality on Telemundo it is a bit surprising to find that her last telenovela on the network was almost 4 years ago. She is joined by Aarón Díaz (EL TALISMÁN) in his first novela for the network, and Carlos Ponce (HOLLYWOOD HEIGHTS), who previously starred in the network’s PERRO AMOR and DAME CHOCOLATE.

The cast also features Ximena Duque (CORAZÓN VALIENTE), Wanda D’Isidoro (EL FANTASMA DE ELENA), Frances Ondiviela (UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR), Ezequiel Montalt (LOS HEREDEROS DEL MONTE), Lis Vega (DUELO DE PASIONES), Zully Montero (EL FANTASMA DE ELENA), Fred Valle (UNA MAID EN MANHATTAN), Virna Flores (ACORRALADA) and Lincoln Palomeque (LA MARIPOSA).



LA SELECCIÓN and CLOROFORMO
Over on UniMás, prime time dramas return to their schedule this week, following a brief suspension the previous month and a half for soccer, with a pair of novelas set in the world of sports.

From Caracol comes LA SELECCIÓN, LA SERIE (Monday-Thursday at 9 p.m. ET), a biographical novela following the lives of four renowned Colombian soccer players: Freddy Rincón (Antonio Jiménez), Faustino Asprilla (Omar Murillo), René Higuita (Jhon Alex Castillo) and Carlos Valderrama (Édgar Vittorino), who rose to world stage in the late 1980s and 1990s. I haven’t had a chance to watch the first episode yet except to note that it is being aired with English captions available. (UniMás isn’t very consistent in the regard.)

A Mexican boxing drama called CLOROFORMO (Monday-Thursday at 10 p.m. ET) debuts tonight on UniMás. Produced by Adicta Films for Televisa, the 13 episode series is about 5 boxers who train at a rundown gym in Mexico City, navigating their way through the often seedy, highly competitive world of professional boxing. The boxers are played by Zuria Vega (UN REFUGIO PARA EL AMOR), Tenoch Huerta, Osvaldo Benavides (LA QUE NO PODÍA AMAR), Gustavo Sánchez Parra, and Alex Perea. Manuel ‘Flaco’ Ibáñez (LAS TONTAS NO VAL AL CIELO) plays the manager of the gym.

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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