A key ingredient of my teaching philosophy is to provide students with opportunities to link what we learn inside the classroom with the "real world" that exists beyond the university's walls. This is the reason why in my telenovela class and seminars I've always included phone conferences with people who work in the telenovela industry. (In previous years, I've had as guests Julie Restifo, Daniela Bascopé, Carlos Cruz, Edgar Ramírez, Marisa Román and Leonardo Padrón).


This week we had two guests that visit my class every time I teach it because they're very generous with their time and insights. And because both of them have taught me a lot as I continue my intellectual journey through the beguiling landscape of telenovela research: Marisa Román and Leonardo Padrón. This time we benefitted from technology since we used video conference thanks to the facilities provided in the Faherty Lab here at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. We enjoyed the experience even more than in previous opportunities because we could see our guests and they could see us. 




Thanks to these conversations, my students were able to hear Leonardo Padrón explain the details of his creative process, describe the everyday life of a telenovela writer, list his major concerns and satisfactions as he tackles the difficult, absorbing and exhausting process of writing a telenovela, which is a product of industrial dimensions. 

The students were also able to ask Marisa Román about the construction of a character, and which have been the most difficult and most satisfying characters she has interpreted. Román explained the differences in the actors craft when she/he faces television, theater and film. 



It was a truly special class in which all involved learned a great deal thanks to a couple of conversations that were enjoyable, sincere and gratifying.


ENDS AND BEGINNINGS: TORRENTE AND ¿VIEJA YO?

Sep 21, 2008


The last two weeks have been so hectic for me that I haven't been able to write in my blog(s). Meanwhile, in Venezuela  Venevisión broadcast the final episode of Torrente, which was substituted in the 9 p.m. slot by ¿Vieja Yo? These telenovelas are polar opposites in the continuum: melodrama<---->humor.


On the melodrama side is Torrente, a pretty predictable telenovela that suffered from a lack of humor (in this sense, the characters played by Gioia Arismendi and Eduardo Orozco were the exception that saved the telenovela from being unbearably dramatic). In my opinion, Torrente's best qualities were: 1) The production quality of all sequences taped (or seemingly taped) in the  beautiful and wild area of la Gran Sabana. 2) The quality of the directorial work which never tapered. 3) The presence of some cast members who were able to take their characters beyond the unidimensional and simplistic way in which they were written.

Regarding the last point, I should underscore again (I already mentioned it in a previous post) Iván Tamayo's excellent performance as  Roque/Bayardo Santa Cruz, the antagonist. His work was so good that it forced one of the few interesting and atypical elements in a story pretty typical and average: that we didn't know until the last episode whether the protagonist Ana Julia would end up with him or with Reinaldo, the official protagonist. This unresolved situation afforded the final episode very high ratings (the episode averaged a rating of 17.5 and a 62.1% share, pretty high numbers even in an environment without  RCTV). And in that final episode writers had to write/include a video clip of memory bits of the antagonist's love story with the protagonist and a short monologue by him just before the protagonists' final scenes (See the following video from 6:33 on). 




Torrente's final episode reinforced the old lesson: it's important to have a question/dramatic knot to be resolved in the last episode. On the other hand, Ana Julia's choice wasn't believable to me. Even though the script tried its best to push her back to Reinaldo, her story and chemistry with Roque/Bayardo were more intense, longer and believable. 

¿Vieja Yo? comes from the distinguished pen of Mónica Montañés. I want to preface my brief analysis with a caveat that limits my point of view: I've only been able to watch the first four episodes

I place this telenovela in the humor side of the continuum. It has a clear thesis: there is no due date to fulfill our dreams and most of the times we are our worst enemies. (See in the following video the first sequences in the telenovela. In particular where the protagonist is on top of the mattress. Pay attention to her words.)



I like telenovelas with a thesis. I believe a thesis gives a telenovela depth, structure and a reason (beyond television's commercial requirements). I admire the design of all the sets that make the department store where most of the action happens in ¿Vieja Yo?. Once again, Carmelina De Jacovo shows that she is a master at set design. The cast has plenty of talent and presence. There are themes that are in many telenovelas, like infidelity. But, there are also topics that need continuous examination. For instance: domestic violence. But, above all, this telenovela is centered on Margot, the over-50 protagonist conceptualized and written for actor Mimí Lazo. The antagonist, Estefanía, is well delineated in the script: ambitious, without scruples and clueless as to how to be the rival of a woman Margot's age and with her characteristics.  I don't like, however, Marjorie De Sousa's interpretation. Her Estefanía is cartoonish. This has the unfortunate consequence of making the main triangle akin to a cartoon too. Something not desirable in a telenovela. 

And even though I know well that humor is a key ingredient in Venezuelan telenovelas and functions as the enzyme that allows the important digestion of critical sociocultural issues like the ones present in this telenovela, I felt that in the first four episodes romance was sacrificed for humor's sake. And romance is a defining element of telenovelas. While I was watching the fourth episode, I asked myself: Is there anyone here IN LOVE? I'm sure there is, but it isn't evident in the first four episodes, which are characterized by layered misunderstandings, that give us a feeling similar to that of a sitcom.

I will continue watching, of course. Mónica Montañés is a writer I believe in. She's talented, smart, knowledgeable of the paradoxes, challenges and opportunities that characterize Venezuelan women, and she has something important to say. 

The audience, who always has the last word, has also something to say: where do they locate their preferences regarding telenovelas in these two axes:
melodrama<---->humor  
romance<---->humor .

DOÑA BARBARA'S EFFECT ON THIS BLOG

Sep 5, 2008

A few months ago I wrote a post about the effect of the final episodes of telenovela Arroz Con Leche on the Spanish version of this blog. 


Today I write on the effect that telenovela Doña Bárbara (Telemundo) is having on this blog in English. The blog in Spanish is not being affected in the same way. This indicates the existence of a significant public whose primary language is English who is particularly interested in Doña Bárbara. We might see in the future a similar effect in the blog in Spanish, once the telenovela airs in Spanish-speaking countries. For the moment, Doña Bárbara seems to be responsible for a "first" in my blogs: Currently, the blog in English is more read than the blog in Spanish.

Below are numbers and charts for both blogs organized in two time periods (click on the graphics to enlarge them):

  • July 4-August 3, 2008: The month before Doña Bárbara's premiere
  • August 4-September 4, 2008: Doña Bárbara's first month on the air in Telemundo
For every comparison, I place first the graphs for the blog in Spanish, followed by the equivalent graphics for the blog in English. 

BLOG IN SPANISH-NUMBER OF VISITS-BEFORE AND DURING DOÑA BARBARA'S FIRST MONTH ON THE AIR:





BLOG IN  ENGLISH-NUMBER OF VISITS-BEFORE AND DURING DOÑA BARBARA'S FIRST MONTH ON THE AIR




A continuación información de los posts más visitados del blog en ambos períodos.

BLOG IN SPANISH-MOST VISITED ENTRIES-BEFORE AND DURING DOÑA BARBARA'S FIRST MONTH ON THE AIR




BLOG IN ENGLISH-MOST VISITED ENTRIES-BEFORE AND DURING DOÑA BARBARA'S FIRST MONTH ON THE AIR




BLOG IN SPANISH-MOST USED KEYWORDS-BEFORE AND DURING DOÑA BARBARA'S FIRST MONTH ON THE AIR




BLOG IN ENGLISH-MOST USED KEYWORDS-BEFORE AND DURING DOÑA BARBARA'S FIRST MONTH ON THE AIR