TELENOVELA WATCH: Four New Shows Premiere This Week

Four telenovelas make their US premieres this week, two of them – LA VIUDA NEGRA and CAMELIA, LA TEXANA - are world premieres. Both LA VIUDA NEGRA and CAMELIA, LA TEXANA are examples of that often disreputable genre that follows the lives of drug traffickers dubbed narco-novelas.

Indeed, 2014 looks to be overbrimming with narco-novelas with a second series of EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS coming later this year to Telemundo, a third series of EL CAPO planned for March on MundoFox, all coming on the heels of the recently concluded reruns of LA REINA DEL SUR and ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL on Telemundo and the currently airing ALIAS EL MEXICANO on MundoFox.

There have been two prevailing approaches to the material in the recent string of narco-novelas. The first takes a true crime angle, presenting the story of a real person, often fictionalized and with many names changed, but an attempt to tell the story with at the very least, a docu-drama style of realism. The best of these and by estimation, the only masterpiece of the narco-novela genre as a whole, the only one to demonstrate the moral seriousness the material demands while also telling its story in an engrossing manner, is ESCOBAR: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL.

The other approach is the out-and-out drug fantasy. The best of these is probably LA REINA DEL SUR, one of the best productions from Telemundo, though it ultimately tells the same lie that plagues many of these productions by making its heroine the “good narco” in conflict with the “bad narcos.”

From the promos, it would seem LA VIUDA NEGRA is the first type and CAMELIA, LA TEXANA is the second, but the press materials from the networks often blur the line as to what kind of telenovela they have produced. Telemundo claimed their EL SEÑOR DE LOS CIELOS was inspired by Mexican drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes and included guest appearances by Pablo Escobar to give veracity to the material, but the story wound up closer to the cartoonish, ludicrous shoot ‘em up runarounds of the narco-baddies of Telemundo’s usual dreck like CORAZÓN VALIENTE rather than anything approaching reality.


LA VIUDA NEGRA is getting the event treatment from Univision, premiering tonight on the whole family of Univision networks: Univision, UniMás and Galavision at 10 p.m. ET before moving Monday to its regular home, UniMás, where it will air weeknights at 10 p.m. ET. It is produced by RTI in Colombia for Televisa in Mexico, Caracol in Colombia, and Univision in the US.

LA VIUDA NEGRA tells the story of Griselda Blanco, the Colombian-born “Cocaine Godmother” who ruled the Miami drug trade in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Mexican actress Ana Serradilla (AMAS DE CASA DESESPERADAS (US version)) stars as the title character. The series also features Tiaré Scanda (who can also currently be seen in QUÉ POBRES TAN RICOS on Univision), Eileen Moreno (LA SELECCIÓN, LA SERIE), Julián Román (LOS TRES CAÍNES), Luis Alfredo Velasco, and Ramiro Meneses (OJO POR OJO).


CAMELIA, LA TEXANA will premiere Tuesday, at 10 p.m. ET on Telemundo. Produced by Argos in Mexico for Telemundo, the story is said to be based on the song “Contrabando y Traición” from the band Los Tigres del Norte, unheard by me as I loathe that kind of music.

The story is set in the 1970s and is described as “the story of a passionate love affair and betrayal that leads an innocent young woman to become a criminal in search for revenge.”

Sara Maldonado (AURORA) plays the title character. She is a performer I have to this point in her novelas found crushingly mediocre, almost perversely inexpressive in face and voice. Her performance single-handedly sunk her previous telenovela, the otherwise intriguing EL OCTAVO MANDAMIENTO, and I fear her acting in the promos for CAMELIA have been less than encouraging.

The male lead is Erik Hayser, also from EL OCTAVO MANDAMIENTO. The cast also features Dagoberto Gama (LA REINA DEL SUR), Andrés Palacios (AMOR CAUTIVO), and Eréndira Ibarra (INFAMES).


LA PROMESA
Human trafficking is the subject matter of LA PROMESA, another series premiering this week. It starts Monday morning at 10:30 a.m. ET on Telemundo. A Colombian tele-series of sixty episodes, LA PROMESA is the latest production to reach the US from CMO Producciones, makers of the very fine CORREO DE INOCENTES, the less fine, though dynamic and visually exciting MADE IN CARTAGENA, and the current big hit in Colombia, LA RONCA DE ORO.

LA PROMESA is about three young women who fall into the hands of an international network of human trafficking, their struggle to stay alive, and the efforts of their families to find and rescue them.

The tele-series stars Julieth Restrepo (excellent in A MANO LIMPIA), Nicole Santamaría, Aislinn Derbez, Luis Roberto Guzmán (who currently can also be seen on LO QUE LA VIDA ME ROBÓ on Univision and INFAMES on MundoFox), Jesús Ochoa (POR ELLA SOY EVA), Christian Tappan (ESCOBER: EL PATRÓN DEL MAL), Zharick León (DOÑA BELLA) and Juan Sebastian Calero (ALIAS EL MEXICANO).

The morning time slot for a harrowing series like this one seems a bit asinine, the worst scheduling since Univision moved the racy and violent black comedy LA MADAME to an early evening slot behind their rerun of the children’s telenovela EL NIÑO QUE VINO DEL MAR.


HOMBRE TENÍAS QUE SER
Also debuting Monday is HOMBRE TENÍAS QUE SER at 9 p.m. ET on Azteca America. This Mexican telenovela from Azteca is adapted from the 1997 Colombian telenovela HOMBRES. It stars Ivonne Montero (LA LOBA; ANITA, NO TE RAJES!) and Victor González (PASIÓN MORENA) as the protagonists and features Jorge Alberti (LA OTRA CARA DEL ALMA), Fernando Alonso, Francisco de la O, Matías Novoa (LA TENIENTE), Sylvia Sáenz, and Javier Díaz Dueñas (LA PATRONA).

The story is a battle of the sexes romantic drama about a woman succeeding in a business environment dominated by men. Raquel (Montero) has just returned to Mexico after years away to work in the advertising agency owned by her unscrupulous father. He appoints her as the head of marketing where she discovers Róman (González), a man she had previously “met cute” will be working under her along with five other men resentful of their new boss.

Azteca America is easily the most egregious of the Spanish language broadcasters when it comes to chopping up episodes of their telenovelas, changing their time slots without notice or outright pulling their telenovelas off the air in mid-run, so watch at your own risk.


RELATED:
- TELENOVELA WATCH: Best & Worst Telenovelas in 2013
- Monica Spear, 1984-2014

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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