TELENOVELA WATCH: Thoughts on MENTIR PARA VIVIR; EL OCTAVO MANDAMIENTO Premieres Tonight; The End of DAMA Y OBRERO

MENTIR PARA VIVIR
After two weeks, MENTIR PARA VIVIR (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision) is by a wide margin the best telenovela to premiere on Univision this year. This is perhaps faint praise in what has to this point been a decidedly poor year for Televisa – the mere fact MENTIR PARA VIVIR features a fresh, original story that develops swiftly, characters who behave as recognizable humans with actions and feelings psychologically motivated, and good acting and direction, is enough to place it above the other Televisa productions we’ve seen on Univision this year.

It is too early to tell if MENTIR PARA VIVIR is truly a great or even good novela, but promising groundwork has been laid in the opening episodes. Most effective thus far is the central relationship between Oriana (Mayrín Villanueva) and her daughter and their relationship with Paloma (Adriana Roel), the sad rich woman who believes Oriana to be her the long-lost granddaughter. The false life Oriana constructs to protect her daughter and Paloma, the guilt Oriana feels in maintaining the charade, and the fear of the truth getting out makes for a fascinating internal conflict.

More conventional and rather less successful so far is the relationship between Oriana and Paloma’s godson Ricardo (David Zepeda). Part of the strength of the novela, that Ricardo is allowed the smarts to suspect that Oriana’s story doesn’t add up and his suspicion she is really the woman wanted in connection with his father’s murder, ends up muddying the romance – you question why he is developing feelings for her with the doubts he harbors. Also, the speed of their connection is the stuff of more conventional novelas and seems a bit misplaced here where the characters are afforded more depth.

EL OCTAVO MANDAMIENTO
As Mexican productions dominate the ratings of Spanish language channels in the US, it is no surprise MundoFox is now augmenting the Colombian fare from their partner RCN with acquired programming produced for the Mexican network Cadena Tres. EL ALBERGUE (weeknights at 6 p.m. ET) arrived a few weeks ago, an execrable comedy not at all representative of the other Cadena Tres novelas.

The second production from Cadena Tres making its US debut on MundoFox, EL OCTAVO MANDAMIENTO, premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET. Produced for Cadena Tres in 2011 by Argos Comunicación, from an original story by Epigmenio Ibarra and Laura Sosa, EL OCTAVO MANDAMIENTO is a newspaper drama about a family of journalists.

The synopsis from the press material: “This enthralling drama tells the story of a family torn by tragedy after the loss of their mother during the events of 9/11. Although presumed dead, she returns ten years later spurring emotional turmoil. While the family looks to heal the wounds of the past, they encounter more questions than answers in this riveting thriller filled with unexpected twists.”

The cast features actors more familiar to US audiences than most MundoFox productions, including stars Saúl Lisazo (EL ROSTRO DE LA VENGANZA; TIERRA DE PASIONES) and Sara Maldonado (LA REINA DEL SUR; AURORA). Also with Leticia Huijara, Erik Hayser (LAS APARICIO), Ximena González Rubio (LAS APARICIO), Arap Bethke (DOÑA BÁRBARA), Alejandra Ambrosi, and Constantino Costas (ROSA DIAMANTE).

DAMA Y OBRERO
Over on Telemundo, DAMA Y OBRERO ended with a whimper, its plug pulled at a mere 81 episodes. The final two episodes were deeply unsatisfying, but how could they not be, needing to wrap the entirety of the novela in two nights, which they managed, hastily and dutifully. DAMA Y OBRERO was a novela where you kept waiting for the story to take off and for the characters to do something, and waiting, and waiting, and then it was over, and you were still waiting. It was inoffensive, even occasionally pleasant, but utterly forgettable, a why bother novela.

Indeed, why did Telemundo bother with this Miami adaptation when the Chilean original was also a tired and clichéd mediocrity? It seems part of an unfortunate trend amongst telenovela producers of adapting domestic versions of the least remarkable foreign novelas available. The flood of adaptations of foreign novelas is already annoying enough, couldn’t we at least get adaptations of good foreign novelas instead of junk like Brazil’s FINA ESTAMPA (as Telemundo’s MARIDO EN ALQUILER) or Colombia’s LOS CANARIOS (as Televisa’s LIBRE PARA AMARTE) and POBRES RICO (Televisa’s upcoming QUÉ POBRES TAN RICOS)?

The hole in Telemundo’s prime time line up from the cancelation of DAMA Y OBRERO will for the moment be filled by expanding MARIDO EN ALQUILER to two hours starting tonight at 8 p.m. ET because one hour of Maritza Rodríguez’s performance wasn’t excruciating enough.

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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