La Sombra del Pasado is a hacienda telenovela about neighboring ranches and an affair between the owner of one of the ranches with his neighbor’s wife that leads to a death and a deep hatred between the two families. A love then grows between the son and daughter of the feuding families.
Michelle Renaud and Pablo Lyle play the protagonists, both in their first leading roles. Renaud was the appealing pianist cousin of Ariadne Diaz’s heroine in La mujer del Vendaval and Lyle was the juvenile lead of Por Siempre Mi Amor. In that telenovela, Lyle was paired opposite Thelma Madrigal, who plays the third side of the central triangle in La Sombra and also featured in La mujer del Vendaval as the hero’s spoiled sister.
The first-time protagonists are wisely surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast including Alexis Ayala (Lo Que La Vida Me Robó) as the antagonist, Alejandra Barros (Para Volver A Amar), Susana González (Por Siempre Mi Amor), Cynthia Klitbo (De Que Te Quiero Te Quiero), Lisset (Lo Que La Vida Me Robó), and Manuel Ibáñez (Qué Pobres Tan Ricos).
By a coincidence, a pair of remakes of telenovelas that starred Victoria Ruffo and were produced by Salvador Mejía recently premiered in the US.
Que te perdone Dios (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Univision) is from a story that has roots dating back to the 1950s, but is most famous for the 2000 telenovela Abrázame Muy Fuerte that starred Ruffo, César Évora, Aracely Arámbula and Fernando Colunga. Que te perdone Dios is produced by Angelli Nesma Medina, who in her last two telenovelas – Abismo de Pasión and Lo Que La Vida Me Robó – managed to walk that fine line of heightened, larger than life Mexican melodrama, the soapy pleasures exemplified by Mejía at his best, while mostly avoiding the cringe-worthy stupidities of Mejía at his worst.
The first week of Que te perdone Dios, a prologue set eighteen years in the past, is less successful as the drama moves too rapidly and the performances are over scaled. Thankfully, the second week sees the action move to the present-day and Que te perdone Dios morphs into very entertaining nonsense, not as good as Lo Que La Vida Me Robó, but better than Abismo de Pasión and the other three telenovelas making up Univision’s current prime time schedule.
There is a cheerful relish with which many of the actors seem to be taking their roles while resisting the trap of sending the material up, so scenes maintain their dramatic impact on one side, but exude a sly comic facet at the same time without descending into camp. This straight/comic duality is most apparent in the villain portrayed by Sergio Goyri, who makes his character frightening and repulsive, but also full of slick comic touches as when he carefully tosses his hat aside so it doesn’t get wet before he tries to drown his mistress in a pond or when he primps in front of a mirror before setting off to rape his wife.
Also amusing are the spunky heroine played by Zuria Vega and obtuse doctor played by Mark Tacher as the telenovela’s protagonists, Altair Jarabo as the conniving minx who is Tacher’s fiancée and Goyri’s mistress, Sabine Moussier as the slutty maid passed off as Vega’s mother, Zaide Silvia Gutiérrez as a community do-gooder, Alejandra Robles Gil as a servant pal of Vega, and Ana Patricia Rojo and Alejandra Procuna as hypocritically prim, proper spinster sisters who secretly cougar night’s with a grocer and mechanic. Also effective in straight roles are Rebecca Jones as the blind secret mother of Vega’s character and Goyri’s abused wife, René Strickler as the doctor falling in love with her, and Ferdinando Valencia as the brave ranch hand childhood friend of Tacher who is in love with Vega.
Quién Mató a Patricia Soler? (weeknights at 9 p.m. ET on MundoFox) is a Colombian production from RTI for MundoFox and RCN. It is the latest adaptation of La Madrastra, a telenovela originally produced in Chile in 1981, but most familiar to US audiences for the 2005 Televisa production that starred Victoria Ruffo and César Évora that became a recurring bit on the E! clip show The Soup.
It is a whodunit about a woman wrongly convicted of murder who is released after twenty years in prison (18 in this version) and returns to her former husband, friends and business associates determined to uncover the true murderer and reconcile with her now teenage kids, who were told when they were little their mother was killed in an accident.
As tends to be the case with Colombian telenovelas versus their Mexican counterparts, Quién Mató a Patricia Soler? is a much more sedate and sane handling of the material which begs the question: who wants to watch a sedate, sane version of La Madrastra? At least we are still treated to a mysterious black-gloved figure stalking the heroine, a convention out of the Italian giallo films of the 1970s.
Mexican actress Itatí Cantoral is more believable in the leading role than the miscast Ruffo was. She is paired opposite Miguel de Miguel, the Spanish actor who unfortunately is as uninspired here as he is in the current La Esquina Del Diablo over on UniMás (weeknights at 10 p.m ET). Colombian actors mostly fill out the rest of the cast, including some familiar to US audiences for their work on Telemundo telenovelas like Andrea López (Zorro: La Espada y La Rosa), Kristina Lilley (Pasión de Gavilanes), Ricardo Vélez (Escobar: El Patron del Mal), Paula Barreto (Doña Bárbara) and Géraldine Zivic (El Clon) as the title corpse. The cast also features Ana Wills (La Mariposa), as in La Esquina Del Diablo, playing third side of a triangle opposite Miguel de Miguel, Natalia Ramírez (Yo Soy Betty, La Fea), Juan Pablo Franco (Tres Caines), Mexican actress Sandra Itzel from numerous Miami productions including El Talisman, and as something of a double act, the excellent character actors César Mora and Carlos Hurtado.
Tiro de Gracia (weeknights at 9 p.m. ET on UniMás) took a turn for the bleak last week which provided a showcase for Robinson Díaz, the fine lead actor of the series, that he exploited marvelously, but dampened my interest in this narco-novela which to that point had been an entertaining black comedy.
I did not anticipate the absurd premise – an actor is kidnapped and has his face surgically altered into the exact double of vicious drug capo – would be handled as humorously as Tiro de Gracia did in its first weeks. Tiro de Gracia approached outright farce in the sequences where the actor found himself in charge of the capo’s private militia, with the drug lord complaining he was making him look like a wimp to his men because he balked at committing the horrific, depraved acts the capo regularly indulged in, like hacking a traitor to death with a machete.
Like too many narco-novelas, the emphasis is on action which in a nightly serial, quickly reduces the plot into a nonsensical runaround of shoot outs and chases, kidnappings and escapes. The two cop heroes each have been shot in the span of a few episodes only to get patched up and right back in the chase.
Dueños del Paraíso (weeknights at 10 p.m. ET on Telemundo) attempts to build character moments better than most recent narco-novelas, but I can’t muster much interest in the dalliances of its killers and scumbags. Not helping matters is the telenovela’s dull dialogue, lethargic direction and dead sound.
Kate del Castillo, the lead of Dueños, is a good actress, but not a particularly good telenovela actress because she rarely has chemistry with her male co-stars. (The infinitely inferior actress Blanca Soto has a better hit/miss record in love scenes than Castillo in far fewer telenovelas.) In La Reina del Sur, only one of her three pairings had any sizzle and even it was dwarfed by the sexual chemistry between Castillo and Cristina Urgel. Castillo’s chemistry with her male co-stars in Dueños is tepid, and while she hits her “big scenes” dutifully, she otherwise seems bored. The only actor in Dueños with a consistent pulse is Geraldine Bazán. Poor Tony Dalton is stuck with the thankless role of the faithful henchman/bodyguard who loves the narco heroine in silence, a conceit ripped off from the far superior La Reina del Sur.
It’s a good thing Dueños del Paraíso attempts character scenes because its plotting is otherwise embarrassing. Like Señora Acero, Dueños is a cartoonish and naive depiction of narcos with a story consisting of little more than a succession of damsel in distress scenarios. The contrived plotting makes all the characters look stupid: the heroes for constantly allowing the heroine to be kidnapped, the villains for never being able to kill the heroine despite her being in their clutches. In the press, Kate del Castillo is quick to scoff at traditional telenovelas for being old-fashioned, yet the repeated damsel in distress scenarios her character is subjected to in Dueños, would be right at home in any Mejía production with the crucial difference being they would actually be entertaining in the Mejía. A sequence in Dueños with Castillo tied to a chair on a dock waiting for crocodiles to devour her is straight Perils of Pauline nonsense, but what would be amplified and funny in a Mejía production is played straight in Dueños and the resulting scene is a thudding bore because Telemundo’s Miami directors are incapable of rendering suspense.
You start to feel embarrassed for the cast of Dueños who try repeatedly in the press to hard sell this dreck as something innovative and new, never mind that Telemundo has basically remade the same narco-novela five times in a row, each a worse production than the one before. You giggle when you see an action set piece in this self-proclaimed “Super Series” – a hovercraft chase over Florida swamps – that can’t even manage to top a similar sequence from back in 2002 in the far lower-budgeted Miami fluff telenovela Gata Salvaje. To see a hovercraft chase set piece actually done well in a telenovela, one need turn to the Florida sequences of the 2011 Colombian narco-novela La Mariposa.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.