TELENOVELA WATCH: 'Metástasis' Premieres Tonight; Plus, Favorites for the Week

Two Univision novelas featured gay-themed storylines last week.
Metástasis, the Colombian adaptation of Breaking Bad, premieres Sunday, June 8 at 10 p.m. ET, following the two-hour finale of La Viuda Negra. Univision is attempting the same “event TV” launch for Metástasis that proved successful for La Viuda Negra, simulcasting the premiere episode across the Univision family of networks: Univision, UniMás and Galavision. It will move to its regular slot on UniMás on Monday where it will air weeknights at 10 p.m. ET.

A Colombian co-production by Teleset and Sony for US broadcast on UniMás (Caracol in Colombia), Metástasis is the story of Walter Blanco, a chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer, who turns to making and selling methamphetamine with one of his former students in order to secure his family’s financial future before he dies.

Diego Trujillo stars as Walter Blanco. A Colombian character actor not well known in the US even to telenovela watchers, his most prominent role to reach our screens is probably the roguish antagonist of Los Reyes, currently airing its final episodes weekdays on MundoFox at 2 p.m. ET. In Colombia, he is coming off the title role in a hit telenovela called ¿Dónde Carajos está Umaña?, a raucous coastal comedy that aired here on the cable channel WAPA America. The Jesse character, José Miguel in this version, is played Roberto Urbina, a Colombian actor who has bounced back and forth between US and Colombian productions, appearing in the excellent Colombian novela Correo de Inocentes, as well as guest spots on Grey's Anatomy and The Mentalist. Walter’s wife, named Cielo in this version, is played by Sandra Reyes, probably the most familiar face in the cast to American telenovela audiences due to her lead role in the enormously popular 2002 telenovela Pedro El Escamoso.

Spanish-language adaptations of English-language dramas are fairly rare. The difficulty lies in transposing the episodic nature of English-language television to the nightly serialized formats of most Spanish-language television. On the other hand, the apples to apples, telenovelas to telenovelas adaptations are rampant among Spanish-language television companies. The same telenovelas get passed from country to country: original Argentine novelas are adapted into Colombian versions, Colombian and Venezuelan originals are adapted into Mexican versions, Chilean and Brazilian originals are adapted by Telemundo in the US. A popular telenovela can see several foreign adaptations in just a few years. The 2004 Argentine telenovela Los Roldán had a Colombian adaptation and a Mexican adaptation by Azteca in 2005, a Chilean adaptation in 2007, and a second Mexican version, this time by Televisa, in 2011.

Among the Spanish-language adaptations of English-language dramas, the most successful was probably A Corazón Abierto, a Colombian telenovela adaptation of Grey's Anatomy. Attempts to adapt Desperate Housewives in Colombia, Argentina and in the US as Amas de Casa Desesperadas were less successful, opting to make a series of 23 episodes rather than adapting the material into the telenovela format, only the Colombian version reached a second season. In 2012, Azteca in Mexico produced Los Rey, an adaptation of the long-running 1970s-80s prime time soap Dallas. Gossip Girl was given a Mexican version called Gossip Girl: Acapulco, also a series rather than novela that ran briefly in the US on UniMás. Last year, Warner and Caracol produced a Colombian version of Nip/Tuck called Mentiras Perfectas that was a moderate success in Colombia, but has not aired yet in the US.

Heavily serialized series like Nip/Tuck and Breaking Bad actually fit snugly into the relatively new tele-series formats coming out of Colombia with their higher budgets and shorter runs, averaging 60 to 80 episodes instead of the 120-150 episodes of traditional telenovelas. Metástasis will run approximately 60 episodes, about the length of the original American series. The big difference in the tele-series format is the entire series is produced in one swoop from beginning to end to be run nightly, rather than in yearly seasons to air once a week.

Sony might be the most aggressive company in recent years in farming out their catalog for foreign adaptation, especially their sitcoms. Looking at Central and South America alone, in the past decade Sony has produced versions of Married with Children in Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Brazil; The Nanny in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico; Who's the Boss in Argentina, Colombia and Mexico; Mad About You and The Jeffersons in Chile; even sitcoms dating back to the 1960s like Bewitched was adapted in Mexico and Argentina and I Dream of Jeannie in Chile. It was only a matter of time before they began utilizing their dramas in the same way.

A quirk of Colombian television is their series and telenovelas often air in the US before reaching the actual target audience in Colombia. This will be the case with Metástasis. Two current series, La Viuda Negra and El Capo 3, will finish their runs in the US before either even premieres in Colombia. The ratings success of Mentiras Perfectas probably bodes well for Metástasis in Colombia, but I have my doubts to its appeal to the US audience beyond a curio.


FAVORITES FOR WEEK OF MAY 30-JUNE 5

Favorite telenovela: Lo Que La Vida Me Robó

Favorite performer: Marisol del Olmo on De Que Te Quiero, Te Quiero

Favorite scene: from Lo Que La Vida Me Robó, Rosario (Ana Bertha Espín) threatening Graciela (Daniela Castro).


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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