“Telenovelas are on their way out.” These days, the phrase has become commonplace. For those of you familiar with the heyday of soap operas, it’s easy to turn up your nose at today’s mediocre telenovelas. But even despite the slump, rare quality moments and gripping characters still spring up from time to time, captivating our hearts and imagination.
In 2007, there were more than a few great productions, some of which were incredibly mature, in the best sense of the word. Others may have been plagues with clichés, but some characters and elements are still praiseworthy.
LA ESCLAVA ISAURA
For many people, it seemed absurd to resurrect La esclava Isaura, one of the most widely-viewed telenovelas in history, but in the age of remakes, the white slave had to be reborn. This time around, Isaura didn’t have the cunning of Lucelia Santos, who once cast a spell on Fidel Castro himself, but instead was played by Bianca Rinaldi, whose face like a Victorian doll made her perfect for the role of the martyr slave.
Even though the Bernardo Guimaraes production distanced itself a bit from its previous plot, the new Isaura boasted an unforgettable story. It was without a doubt the telenovela of the year.
Código postal was a telenovela anomaly, since youth soaps typically aren’t embraced by the general public. Unfortunately, they usually promote stereotypes of adolescents, and their characters are silly and difficult to understand. But Código was different, presenting sensible characters like Afrodita, tormented ones like Pablo, and responsible teens like Memo. These types of characters do attract all audiences.
Although the José Alberto Castro production included run-of-the-mill teen soaps elements – like music, night clubs, sports, the beach and teenyboppers in bikinis – he also showed more profound complex elements of adolescence, like recovering from the death of a parent, feelings of incest, and a young girl who fights off a pedophilic stepfather. If nothing else, Código postal was an interesting telenovela experiment.
THE BEST CHARACTERS
Destilando amor was an incoherent, paradoxical and absurd show. Nonetheless, the telenovela had far-reaching success, was considered Televisa’s soap of the year, and will be remembered with affection for seasons to come. And Angélica Rivera’s stellar performance had a lot to do with that.
How many actors have played Zorro, both on the big screen and small screen? Recreating the character in a telenovela was an enormous challenge Christian Meier had to face. Fresh off his hit show La tormenta, the Peruvian actor put on his mask, mastered the sword and went out to fight for justice.
Most people view El Zorro: la espada y la rosa as a parody of a revered story with a century’s worth of followers. Viewers laughed at its mediocre actors, but they couldn’t say anything bad about Meier. He managed to deliver two characters: the masked hero and the weak, card-tricking Don Diego. Meier is without a doubt an underestimated actor who deserves better roles.
THE MOST ORIGINAL PLOTS
In 1994, Café con aroma de mujer put telenovela creator Fernando Gaitán and Colombian coffee on the map. A decade later, the show was redone, this time with tequila instead of coffee. Beyond the romance between an impotent millionaire and his virginal employee, the plot of Destilando amor was a drawn-out lesson about the importance of Mexico’s national beverage. So we can venture to call tequila in that soap the best non-human protagonist of 2007.
Another lesson: this time about history from the Carlos Estrada-production Pasión. It had a lot of flaws, but it was still a huge success. In the history of soap-dom, no one had ever presented a plot centered on pirates in the Caribbean. In 18th century Americas, Fernando Colunga’s character works for an Englishman who has a base in Jamaica. He’s associated with a costal brotherhood that plows through the Caribbean waters assaulting boats and trading beautiful female slaves. Unfortunately, its overdone modern sensibility coupled with a weak story killed the soap’s potential to become a classic.