A telenovela (// or //; Spanish: [telenoˈβela], European Portuguese: [ˌtɛɫɛnuˈvɛɫɐ]), Brazilian Portuguese: [ˌtɛlenoˈvɛla]) is a type of limited-run serial drama originally produced in Latin America that has become popular in European, Asian, and other global television networks. The word combines tele, short for televisión or televisão (Spanish and Portuguese words for television), and novela, a Spanish and Portuguese word for "novel". There are similar genres to the telenovela that use the novela format, but go by varying names including teleserye (Philippines), téléroman (Canada, specifically Quebec), or simply dramas (Asia and the rest of the Arab World).
Telenovelas differ from soap operas in that they rarely continue for more than a year. This makes them shorter than soap operas, but still much longer than most other serials. In Spain, they are also called culebrones ("long snakes") because of the convoluted plots. Episodes of telenovelas usually last between 30 and 45 minutes, and rarely more than an hour, except for final episodes. The telenovela combines drama with the 19th-century feuilleton, and naturally evolved from the Latin American radionovela, according to Blanca de Lizaur.
The medium has been used frequently by authorities in various countries to transmit sociocultural messages by incorporating them into storylines, which has decreased their credibility and audiences in the long run. By the 1970s and 1980s Mexico became a world pioneer in using telenovelas to shape behavior, particularly successfully in introducing the idea of family planning. Mexico and Brazil later, in the 1990s, played a key role in the international export of telenovelas, thus the so-called 'Telenovela Craze' that spread in many regions in the world until today.
Over time telenovelas evolved in the structure of their plots and in the themes that they address. Couples who kiss each other in the first minutes of the first episode sometimes stay together for many episodes before the scriptwriter splits them up. Moreover, previously taboo themes such as urban violence, racism, and homosexuality were later incorporated into telenovelas. Since the 2000s, Latin America and Asia altogether have emerged as the biggest producers of telenovelas, which remains one of the most common forms of popular entertainment in the world.
Many telenovelas share some stylistic and, to a certain extent, thematic similarities to the soap opera, a format popular in the English-speaking world; because of these similarities, the American colloquialism Spanish soap opera has come to describe the telenovela format (this format has been attempted in the United States but, generally, to much less success than in Latin America). However, telenovelas differ from soap operas primarily in their length; soap operas tend to have indefinite and continuing runs (with such programs only ending via cancellation by their network because of weak viewership) with intertwined storylines that can last in the most successful cases for decades, while telenovelas tell one self-contained story, typically within the span of a year or less. The end result is that the telenovela requires a faster-paced, more concise style of melodrama compared to the soap opera.
Telenovelas, which are sometimes called "tassels" or "comedias," are produced primarily in Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries and are usually shown during prime time. The first telenovelas were produced in Brazil, Cuba and Mexico: Sua vida me pertence ("Your Life Belongs to Me", Brazil, 1950) was shown twice a week, and Senderos de amor ("Paths of Love", Cuba, 1951) and Ángeles de la calle ("Angels of the Street", Mexico 1951) were shown once a week. Between 1957 and 1958 Mexico produced its first drama serial in the modern telenovela format of Monday to Friday slots, Senda prohibida ("Forbidden Path"), written by Fernanda Villeli.
The first global telenovela was Los ricos también lloran ("The Rich Also Cry", Mexico, 1979), which was exported to Russia, China, the United States and other countries. Countries that produce well-known telenovelas are Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela.
Telenovelas tend to fall within these six categories:
- Working-class melodrama, which is easy to understand and contains less explicit content. They typically feature a poor woman who falls in love with a rich man whose family spurns her, such as the Las Tres Marias ("Maria Trilogy", 1992, 1994 and 1995).
- Historical romance is set in the past, such as the colonial period (Martín Garatuza, 1986), the restoration of the Republic (El carruaje "The Carriage", 1972), the late 19th Century (El vuelo del águila "The Flight of The Eagle", 1994) and the revolution (Bodas de odio "Weddings of Hate", 1982)
- Teen drama, which portrays the lives of high school teenagers and their issues with sex, drugs and other coming-of-age topics. This genre started with Quinceañera in 1987.
- Mystery/thriller is a category of telenovela that is more cold-hearted than the other subgenres. It may portray a mysterious death or disappearance, which may tear couples, even families apart, such as Cuna de Lobos ("Wolves Crib"), La Casa al Final de la Calle ("The House at the Street End"), La Mujer de Judas ("The Woman of Judas"), ¿Dónde está Elisa? ("Where's Elisa?"), El Rostro de la Venganza ("The Face of Revenge") or La Casa de al Lado ("The House Next Door").
- Romantic comedy, which portrays love stories with some or lots of comedy such as Las tontas no van al cielo "Fools Don't Go to Heaven" or Yo soy Betty, la fea (the most successful telenovela in history).
- Pop band story portrays the lives of aspiring popsters such as in Alcanzar una estrella ("Reaching a Star", 1990) and its sequel Alcanzar una estrella II (1991), as well as Rebelde (2004), which spawned a multi-platinum pop group, RBD. Some, though not all, of these type of telenovelas are geared towards a teenage and/or pre-teen audience.
Besides these, another category of serial that has become popular in recent years is the youth telenovela, which borrow some elements of the teen drama format but are usually more family-oriented in structure, contain comedic elements and sometimes maintain a high concept or supernatural plotline (such as 11:11: En mi cuadra, nada cuadra and Chica vampiro).
Telenovelas are widely popular in Latin America and Iberian countries including Brazil, Spain, and Portugal, and in Hispanic speaking communities in the United States. They also have a huge following in Russia, Eastern Europe, France, Greece, Italy, the Philippines, Israel, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and Japan. In the Arab world, telenovelas are very popular with families taking breaks during the day from midday onward to watch these shows, whose content often reflects many of the moral and social issues faced in cultures like Morocco, Algeria and Egypt. The medium has been used repeatedly to transmit sociocultural messages by incorporating them into storylines.
Major producers of telenovelas
Some of the world's major producers of telenovelas include the following:
- North America
- Latin America
- Puerto Rico
Telenovelas by country
Argentina's telenovelas focus on melodramatic twists of traditional middle class life, with touches of comedy. Telenovelas are broadcast by the main television networks, Artear and Telefe. Many popular "youth telenovelas", aimed primarily at children and teenagers, are produced in Argentina. Several youth telenovelas have become hits in other countries, where they have been remade or shown in their original Argentine versions. Some well known youth telenovelas are Chiquititas ("Little Angels"), Rebelde Way ("Rebel's Way"), Floricienta, Muñeca Brava ("Brave Doll"), Violetta and Patito Feo ("Ugly Duckling"). Because Argentine television broadcasts many American- or European-style situation comedies and dramedies, the telenovela is less pervasive today in Argentina than in many other Latin American countries.
In Bolivia, telenovelas contain drama, romance, music, natural landscapes, remote situations and adventures, some are based on novels, historical and factual events. Some melodramas produced in Bolivia include Las Tres Perfectas Solteras, Indira, Tierra Adentro, La Virgen de las 7 calles, Luna de Locos and Tres de Nosotras. The country has made over 15 telenovelas so far, most of the productions take place in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Most of the popularity has been made into much of prosperity for much of the country. Not very many telenovelas are made in the country. The genre's carriage on domestic television networks comes from international productions (imported from Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Mexico). The Bolivian telenovelas are produced by independent producers, many producers are more dedicated to the country's film industry.
Brazilian telenovelas (more often "novelas") are both more realistic and apt to broach controversial subjects. These programs showcases realistic depictions of middle class, working class and upper class individuals in society. Brazilian productions are the most expensively produced telenovelas in South America. Escrava Isaura (1976) was a major hit in South America, the Eastern Bloc, Africa and China. Novelas usually last eight months at most in Brazil. One of the longest-running telenovelas in that country, however, is the teen-oriented Malhação ("Working Out"), which has aired since 1995; as such, it is commonly classified as an American-format soap opera instead.
Brazilian telenovelas often have convoluted subplots involving three or four different settings. Usually there is a rich setting, a poor setting and one or more settings in which the characters of both settings can interact. There is no black-and-white cut between "good" and "evil" characters, with the protagonists often displaying weaknesses like promiscuity, drinking, drug abuse, stupidity and excessive ambition, among others; and the antagonists showing features or motivations that attract sympathy, like abuses suffered in the past, family problems and poverty. It is not uncommon for a villain to attract the sympathy of the public, or even to have their storylines conclude with a satisfactory ending for them (for instance, in the novela Belíssima ("Most Beautiful") in 2006, villainess Bia Falcão (played by Fernanda Montenegro) managed to escape a police siege and flee the country to France, where she resettled with a handsome boyfriend living on a secret bank account in Switzerland, which she had kept over the years). On the other hand, it is not uncommon for a hero to be relegated to a secondary role due to the actor's lack of charisma. Besides the convoluted plots, Brazilian telenovelas also approach sensitive social issues and try to present a bit of the country's actual culture, sometimes in an idealized way.
Another important difference with telenovelas from other countries is that Brazilian telenovelas rely much less on individual stars than other South American works. A Brazilian telenovela may have a permanent cast of more than 40 actors, of which some seven or eight are considered "central" to the show. The chief reason for this is that telenovelas are not shot in advance (instead chapters are shot only fifteen days before their airdate), so that they can respond to public reaction. Under this scheme, the eventual death or poor performance of the actor playing the main character may turn the production into a flop (which happened with the 1982 serial Sol de Verão ("Summer Sun") after the death of main star Jardel Filho).
In Canada, telenovelas are known as téléromans in French and are a part of the culture of the Francophone province of Quebec. Nearly all television stations in the country that broadcast in the French language carry téléromans. The first téléroman was La famille Plouffe ("The Plouffe Family"), which was broadcast on Radio-Canada in the 1950s.
The téléroman was created during the earliest days of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's television network, when the CBC was the only television network in Canada (as per the 1949 Massey Commission). Whereas theoretically the CBC's main English-language television network could broadcast English-language shows from American stations (and also was forced to compete with U.S. television networks), CBC's Radio-Canada network had to develop its own programmes for French-Canadian viewers. As a consequence, Francophone television in Canada developed differently from Anglophone television.
Chilean telenovelas focus on both traditional drama and middle class life, with some touches of comedy. Often, these programs show life outside of the capital, like with the TVN novela Iorana (which took place on Easter Island). Telenovelas in the country are usually produced and broadcast by the Canal 13 and TVN networks, which debut their main telenovelas in March each year with a few days between their premiere dates, which have led marketing to a "telenovela war" of sorts. Lately, other Chilean television networks such as Mega and Chilevisión are joining the so-called "telenovela war". Many of the most successful telenovels in Chile are set in a historical era such as Pampa Ilusión (1935), El Señor de la Querencia (1920), Los Pincheira (1918) and Adios al Septimo de Linea ("War of the Pacific").
Colombian telenovelas such as Betty la fea ("Ugly Betty") often focus on comedic storylines. However, some are of a more realistic vein, or are adaptations of novels.
The first Colombian telenovela was El 0597 está ocupado, produced in 1959 by the programadora Producciones PUNCH. From then until the late 1990s arrival of private television in the country, a variety of programadoras produced and aired their own telenovelas, such as those from Colombiana de Televisión, TeVecine, Cenpro Televisión (the producer of Perro amor, which was popular in the late 1990s).
Telenovelas produced by RTI Colombia and Telemundo are usually shown and produced on Caracol, while Televideo and Fox Telecolombia produce some of RCN's telenovelas. Caracol and RCN also produce and broadcast their own shows. Currently, four or five Colombian telenovelas are usually broadcast from 6:00 to around 11:00 p.m. on those networks.
It is notable that many novelas designed and written by Colombians sell outside the country well, as a prime export. Other countries then "nationalize" them by creating novelas based on the same story, barely changing names, settings and, more often than not, mixing the cast with Colombian actors to respect ownership/property agreements and copyright laws. One fine example is Betty, la fea (adapted by ABC in the United States as Ugly Betty) in which the franchise for the storyline was translated and adapted by over 30 networks around the world.
Over the years, a new style of novelas/series have been produced by Caracol and RCN dubbed "narco-novelas" or "narco-series", including El Cartel, El Capo and Sin senos no hay paraíso, which have been greatly successful in the American market and have achieved high ratings. These tend to focus on drug trafficking and situations related to it such as violence, mafiosos living luxurious hedonistic lives and women selling themselves to them in order to escape poverty.
These stories have often been made in the format of television series even making seasons of these shows like El Cartel which consists of 2 seasons
There are Croatian telenovela Pod sretnom zvijezdom (Under a lucky star) and Larin izbor (Lara's choice). Nova TV made two season of Lara's choice, which has got 367 episodes together. The main actors are Lara (played by Doris Pinčić) and Jakov (played by Ivan Herceg). The telenovela is created by Jelena Veljaca and written by Tomislav Hrpka.
Television networks in the Dominican Republic have started to produce their own novelas through Venevision International, Iguana Productions and Antena Latina Productions. The first Dominican telenovela, María José, oficios del hogar ("María José, Housewife"), was produced by Venevision and television station Color Visión, which formed the first Dominican telenovela company (now inactive) in 1986. Comedy-drama series such as Catalino el Dichoso and sequel En La Boca de los Tiburones were also considered telenovelas during the early 1990s. The telenovela Tropico was produced by Venevision International, Iguana Productions, and Antena Latina Productions, in 2007 with mostly Dominican actors and a few from Venezuela and Peru. It aired domestically on Antena Latina 7 and in United States on Univision. There are currently plans for more telenovelas that are filmed and produced in the Dominican Republic.
In 2004, Germany began producing its own telenovelas. All German telenovelas are formatted as melodramatic love stories. With the exception of Sturm der Liebe ("Storm of Love"), which is produced by Bavaria Film Studios, and "Rote Rosen" which is produced by Studio Hamburg Serienwerft, every German telenovela is produced by Grundy UFA. The most successful ones, Bianca – Wege zum Glück ("Bianca: Paths to Happiness"), Wege zum Glück ("Paths to Happiness"), Verliebt in Berlin ("In Love in Berlin/In Love with Berlin"),Sturm der Liebe and "Rote Rosen", were also syndicated in Italy, France and other European countries; Verliebt in Berlin was also syndicated in Canada. German television channels ARD, ZDF, Sat. 1 and ProSieben all include telenovelas on their programme schedules.
In Indonesia, a similar format exists called the sinetron (a portmanteau of sine, short for cinema and tron, from "electronic"), which are essentially soap operas in a miniseries-style format. While most English-language soap operas can continue indefinitely, almost all Sinetrons have a predetermined duration, usually running for only five-, six- or seven days a week and in total for more than five months.
Sinetron are usually made by production companies such as Sinemart and MD Entertainment. These programmes are usually broadcast on national television networks during the country's designated primetime period (6.00 to 11.00 pm), becoming a priority since these programme earn significant ratings that attract advertisers to buy commercial space during such timeslots.
In Malaysia, the equivalent of telenovela for a local language drama is drama rantaian. The drama may last for 13 episodes for a weekly drama and more than 15 episodes if broadcast by a daily basis, usually three to five days a week.
However, since almost all television broadcasters that air domestically produced dramas also air foreign dramas, Malaysian television dramas are less prolific compared to Indonesian, Philippine or South Korean dramas.
Mexico is one of the first countries in the world to be known for producing telenovelas aimed to shape national social behavior - one issue of which is on family planning during the 1970s. The Mexican model of telenovelas - then to be replicated by other telenovela-producing countries in Latin America and Asia for most of the 1990s - usually involves a romantic couple that encounters many problems throughout the show's run, a villain and usually ends with a wedding. One common ending archetype, consists of a wedding, and with the villain dying, going to jail, becoming permanently injured or disabled, or losing his/her mind. The use of sexually themed episodes starring the leading couple of the story has been a common element through most Mexican (and even Latin American) telenovelas.
Televisa and TV Azteca are the largest producers and exporters of Mexican telenovelas. Their main competitor is independent company Argos Comunicación. Telenovelas produced by U.S.-based network Telemundo tend to follow the Mexican model. Previously, telenovelas were often thought to be used as a government tool to distract citizens from national issues, a reason cited for temporary decrease in their credibility and popular appeal. Nowadays, Mexican television has managed to counteract government influence in its telenovelas. In particular, around 1990, Televisa found an enormous market for its telenovelas in regions such as Brazil and parts of Latin America, post-Cold War Eastern Europe and Asia. This precipitated the so-called 'Telenovela Craze'. Credited by media experts especially to Televisa's move in the early 1990s of exporting its telenovelas to parts of the world, this rivaled the wave of American sitcoms that had been broadcast worldwide in the same period.
During the peak of the global success of Latin American telenovelas in the 1990s and 2000s, several prominent Mexican actors and actresses gained huge following for the telenovelas that they starred and which were viewed in the mentioned regions. For example, Verónica Castro's international fame grew when the novela she had starred in many years earlier, Los Ricos Tambien Lloran in 1979, became a major hit in Russia. In the same period, Thalía earned the title as the "Queen of Soap Operas" after starring in the so-called Las Tres Marias or the "Maria Trilogy" telenovelas – Maria Mercedes, Marimar and Maria la del Barrio – and Rosalinda, converting her into one of the world's foremost television icons, as her telenovelas were broadcast in Mexico and more than 180 other countries to almost 2 billion viewers worldwide, earning the all-time highest television ratings both in Mexico and other regions.
Due to the international success of the telenovelas broadcast in and out of Mexico, by the late 1990s, the company claimed that telenovelas were Mexico's leading export product. Many consider the period from 1958 to 2004 to be Televisa's Golden Age of telenovelas, at the same time when the Mexican government loosened its control over television. Telenovelas, primarily those produced by Argos Comunicación, consequently addressed new themes, including poverty, political corruption, immigration and drug smuggling. However, with American drama and comedy series becoming increasingly popular among Mexican audiences through cable or satellite television and unlicensed copying of them becoming for prevalent, the television companies opted to adapt stories from Argentina, Colombia or Brazil and use veteran actors in order to decrease expenses in an industry that is decaying, at least, for both Televisa and TV Azteca.
Currently the most successful telenovelas are being created by Argos and Telemundo and are rebroadcast (or adapted) by the main companies. The most successful one, La Reina del Sur, based on the book by Arturo Perez Reverte, is based on the true story of a female drug trafficker in Sinaloa. Though it was censored somewhat due to the Drug War and was broadcast on a low-rated channel, it achieved higher viewership than other programs in the same timeframe.
Domestically produced telenovelas first appeared on Philippine television in the 1960s, beginning with the ABS-CBN program Hiwaga sa Bahay na Bato. The format of Philippine telenovelas is almost the same as Spanish and Mexican telenovelas, as they have borrowed many elements including many clichés. However, Philippine telenovelas, which portray the reality of Filipino (as well as much of other Asian) societies, have evolved through decades and feature specific characteristics distinct from most of the world's telenovelas.
Philippine telenovelas usually contain more episodes than Latin American telenovelas. They can also be divided into seasons, much like American television series, and last up to more than a year depending on the audience ratings. They may suffer sudden cancellation if they prove unpopular among viewers. Another distinct feature of Philippine telenovelas from almost all of the world's other television dramas is that guest actors and actresses usually are not promoted to regular cast, and that once a member of the cast is assigned among series regulars, he or she cannot be demoted to recurring characters anytime throughout the show's run (regardless of whether he or she exits the series due to various reasons).
Most domestically produced Philippine telenovelas, however, use ensemble cast which tend to be more flexible when new characters are introduced throughout a series' entire run. The Philippines is one of the first few nations in the world outside the United States to introduce international encore television programming (despite varying timezones abroad) - where television series are exported abroad not as canned shows but good for simultaneous broadcasting during their original runs in the source nation - through overseas satellite channels by the major Philippine television networks.
Classic Philippine telenovelas focus on the miserable life of the protagonist ("bida"), with a plot centred on some quest such as finding love or their lost family. Antagonists ("kontrabida") were depicted as thoroughly evil – characterized as very greedy, rude and violent, and often planning to kill or kidnap the protagonist for money. Telenovelas usually begin with the protagonists' past, move on to their present situations, and sometimes include flashbacks. Twists are also popular and often feature characters who are revealed to be siblings or relatives of the protagonist, or love interests.
A typical ending is obvious and predictable, with the antagonist dying painfully (as a form of retribution), and the protagonist only being injured and hospitalised, later marrying and having children. Casting was limited, with actors appearing as protagonists or antagonists in different, sometimes simultaneously-running series. Rarely do any former Philippine telenovela end in sudden cancellation due to the death of its lead star (one notable exception is the original, classic version of Anna Liza, which was cancelled in 1985 due to the death of its lead actress). Some classic Philippine telenovelas promoted protagonist-antagonist rivalries in each of these shows, and typically lasts up to 3 years or more.
The late 1980s and 1990s coincided with the end of martial law and the resulting expansion of commercial television networks as the Philippine government loosened controls over the press and media. With the help of simultaneous nationwide programming across the Philippines and the advent of the 'Telenovela Craze' precipitated by Mexican telenovelas broadcast worldwide, previously dominant Filipino sitcoms had been largely replaced by domestically produced drama series airing on primetime television to encourage more competition among networks and reach out to more audiences across the nation. Examples of such classic telenovelas include Flordeluna, Villa Quintana, Mara Clara, Esperanza, Valiente, Kung Mawawala Ka, Mula Sa Puso and Sa Dulo Ng Walang Hanggan.
Modern Philippine television dramas are usually termed teleserye, a portmanteau of the Filipino words "telebisyon" ("television") and "serye" ("series"), and are sometimes called P-drama overseas. The term teleserye originated in the 2000s from the ABS-CBN-produced Pangako Sa 'Yo, dubbed by the Philippine media as the first true teleserye as well as the most widely exported and most watched single Philippine television series abroad. In the 21st century, teleseryes may belong to one or several genres such as suspense, comedy, politics or fantasy, but featured several new variations from the previous Philippine telenovelas of the preceding century.
One distinct change among teleseryes from previous Philippine telenovelas is that they now focus on the lives of both protagonist and other characters they meet. Another variation is that they have a much faster pace of storyline compared to previous Philippine telenovela classics. Antagonists are less violent compared to the older, stereotypical telenovela villains. Instead, they have more developed structure and are depicted as more human and even pitiful. They often survive the show's ending and may reconcile with the show's protagonists. Plot twists are still but cautiously used during this decade in many teleseryes to respond to audience reception while retaining their popularity throughout their runs. As a result, most of the teleseryes end after less than a year. Unlike telenovelas, little to no crossovers between simultaneously running teleseryes have been aired in the country to date. Few teleserye antagonists have been headlined as the lead stars of their shows as well. Directors also hire successful reality television contestants and, starting 2010s, internet personalities, regardless of acting skill, either as minor characters or occasionally major characters.
Earlier Philippine teleseryes would soon replace Latin American telenovelas as the country's most popular form of primetime entertainment. However, in the mid-2000s, they faced stiff competition against imported Korean and Taiwanese drama series shown on national television as well. Still, the situation would improve considerably by the late 2000s when most of the country's major television networks had begun to shift to an all-Filipino primetime programming. Critically acclaimed and popular teleseryes of the 2000s include Basta't Kasama Kita, Kay Tagal Kang Hinintay, the Philippine adaptations of MariMar and Rubi, Sa Piling Mo, Maging Sino Ka Man and Tayong Dalawa.
Despite the country's strong and long-standing Catholic values, most of the teleseryes beginning the late 2000s and early 2010s contain storylines induced with controversial issues such as infidelity and adultery, mother surrogacy, or homosexuality and the LGBT community. Such popular yet groundbreaking batch of teleseryes include May Bukas Pa, Walang Hanggan, Ina Kapatid Anak, My Husband's Lover and The Legal Wife. Open discussion of national economic and political issues - some of which were previously restricted by the national government - such as neglect of rural agricultural production, urban warfare and the plight of OFWs abroad also began during this era of Philippine television. Some of the most recent teleseryes incorporating such storylines ranked among the all-time most watched Philippine teleseryes in and out of the country. In particular, these series of the 2010s include Be Careful with My Heart, Forevermore, On the Wings of Love, and the currently airing television adaptation of Ang Probinsyano.
The Philippines has been known to have initially imported foreign-made telenovelas as part of their nationwide television programming and then eventually switched to producing and broadcasting their own domestically produced telenovelas in and out of that country. Currently, ABS-CBN and its rival network GMA are among Asia's biggest telenovela producers. Teleseryes appeal to almost 3 billion viewers across regions in North America, Western Europe, Africa and Asia, cementing the Philippines' reputation among the world's most prolific television programming producers.
The first Portuguese telenovela was Vila Faia, in 1982. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s almost all Portuguese telenovelas were broadcast by RTP. However, since the start of the 21st century, TVI has emerged as the most prolific broadcaster of Portuguese telenovelas. Morangos com Açúcar, one of its most successful telenovelas, lasted for nine seasons. SIC, which usually imported telenovelas from Brazil's Rede Globo, has also started to produce its own telenovelas.
Portuguese telenovelas have since began to find expression in the world. In 2010, Portugal won the first Emmy for a Telenovela, with Meu Amor ("My Love"). In 2011, Portugal won its second consecutive International Emmy for a Telenovela with Laços de Sangue ("Blood Ties"). Portugal also sells telenovelas to Eastern Europe and America.
The history of telenovelas produced in Puerto Rico often must be divided into before and after in many situations. There was a lot of acceptance of the telenovela genre in that United States of America territory and there still is some interest to this day. The serials then were usually broadcast on domestic television stations three days a week at 6:30 pm, with hour-long telenovelas airing at 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. during prime time. During the 1980s Puerto Rican telenovelas were shown daily. Production of telenovelas in the U.S. territory began in the 1950s with "Ante la ley" in 1955. Successful novelas to have come out of Puerto Rico have included La Mujer de aquella noche, El Hijo de Angela Maria, El Cuarto Mandamiento, Tomiko, Cristina Bazan, El Idolo, Yo Se Que Mentia, Vivir Para Ti, Tanairi, Tres Destinos and many others. It is unknown if Puerto Rico will continue with its production.
Telenovelas were first introduced to Soviet viewers in 1988, when a stripped-down version of Escrava Isaura (running only 15 episodes) was shown on central TV. The adaptation of that series was very popular with Soviet viewers. An even bigger success was Los Ricos También Lloran, shown shortly after. People were actively discussing the plot in stores and buses. Since that time, Russian channels have broadcast telenovelas (usually those imported from Brazil) on a regular basis. Starting in the early 2000s, Latin American telenovelas were replaced by Russian-made programs of that genre. Many modern Russian telenovelas are adaptations of the successful foreign series (primarily Latin American).
Korean telenovelas include a genre similar to the soap opera, but without the neverending plot and frank sexual content. These dramas typically involve conflicts such as single and marital relationships, money bargaining, relationships between in-laws (usually between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law), and often complicated love triangles while the heroine usually falls in love with the main character who may treat her badly from the beginning, instead of the one who always cares for her. These telenovelas last anywhere from 16 episodes to over 100 (most often not exceeding 200). The main broadcasters and producers of telenovelas are KBS, SBS and MBC. Korean telenovelas have been exported to the rest of world and have contributed to the general phenomenon of the Korean Wave, known as Hallyu.
Spanish telenovelas are known in the nation as culebrones (Spanish of "long snakes") because of their convoluted plots. Broadcasters of telenovelas in the country are Telecinco, Antena3, and La 1; there are regional telenovelas produced in Basque and Catalan languages and are produced by EITB (in Basque) and TV3 (in Catalan). However, Spain is not a producer of telenovelas so much as it is an importer of these programs.
Telenovelas have also aided in the formation of a transnational 'Hispanic' identity, as the Venezuelan scholar Daniel Mato has suggested. The appeal of the genre lies in the melodramatic and often simplistic narrative which can be understood and enjoyed by audiences in a wide variety of cultural contexts. Bielby and Harrington have argued that this reverse flow has influenced soap operas in the United States, leading to "genre transformation," especially with daytime soaps.
Turkey began producing its own telenovelas, also known in Turkish as televizyon dizileri, in the 2000s, at the same time that its Asian rivals such as the Philippines and South Korea began exporting their own television dramas as well in parts of the world. The storylines of Turkish dramas are usually based from the country's classic novels as well as historical settings (mostly during the Ottoman Empire period), and are known to have episodes lasting at least two hours each, much longer than an ordinary telenovela episode. These drama shows, in general, are of miniseries type, typically lasting for less than half a year, and are broadcast either as canned series or simultaneous telecasts in Turkey's key television markets with subtitles in multiple languages depending on the country outside Turkey where it has been aired.
Turkish telenovelas has gained wide popularity and appeal among viewers especially in the Arab World and much of the Middle East as well as the Balkans, Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central and South Asia due to the picturesque cinematography applied in their productions, through the tourist spots featured in them, which attracted more potential tourists from these regions to visit Turkey more often. This exportation of dramas has been cited as one of Turkey's foremost strategies in boosting their popularity in these regions by promoting Turkish culture and tourism. As a result, these make up one of its most economically and culturally important international exports.
International media experts have cited 2010s as the biggest turning point of Turkish television production, which shifted to a balance of export of religious shows that were often widely viewed in these predominantly Islamic countries (with Ramadan known to be the most lucrative month of every television season in most Islamic countries for imported Turkish television shows) and secular shows tackling national issues of Turkey and even of the rest of the Islamic world. Some of the most internationally prominent Turkish television dramas include Muhteşem Yüzyıl, Fatmagül'ün Suçu Ne?, Aşk-ı Memnu and Binbir Gece. The rise of Turkish television drama on the international market attracted worldwide attention during this decade when it began gaining more viewers in Latin America, which is cited as a difficult market for foreign shows to be broadcast as its own produced telenovelas dominate programming there since the 1990s.
Islamic conservatives in many Arab countries, however, condemn these Turkish shows as "vulgar" and "heretical" to Islam, as most of the prominent secular Turkish television series often have political undertones as well as a noticeable trend on emphasis of female empowerment, which contrasts the patriarchal nature of Islam. Nonetheless, Turkish television drama invokes wide impact to much of its 1 billion viewers from approximately 100 countries in the world, helping it surpass Latin America by 2010s as the second largest exporter of television series worldwide after the United States.
- See English language producers Fox Broadcasting Company and The CW
- See Spanish language producers Univision and Telemundo
- See MyNetworkTV telenovelas
In the United States, the telenovela concept has been adapted into the English language. The first telenovela was the soap opera Port Charles, which, although starting off as a traditional soap when it debuted in 1997, adopted a 13-week telenovela-style storyline format beginning in 2000 which continued in use until the show's cancellation in 2003. MyNetworkTV, an upstart network launched by News Corporation (now owned by 21st Century Fox), launched on September 5, 2006 with two nightly serials. The inaugural series Desire and Fashion House were moderately successful, however ratings began to decline. The second pair of telenovelas, Wicked Wicked Games and Watch Over Me had decent ratings but were not as successful as its two predecessors. By the time the third batch of serials, American Heiress and Saints and Sinners debuted, ratings had declined significantly to where the network scaled back and eventually dropped the novela format in favor of reality-based series and specials by the fall of 2007.
In contrast, ABC's adaptation of Betty la fea, Ugly Betty, proved to be successful; however, the network opted to develop the show as a standard weekly series with elements of the comedic telenovela. An adaptation of the Venezuelan comedic telenovela Juana la virgen, Jane the Virgin, aired to success on The CW beginning in 2014, airing in a weekly format similar to other American series. NBC developed an adaptation of the racy Colombian telenovela Sin tetas no hay paraíso called Without Breasts There Is No Paradise, however it was never picked up to series.
In 2001, after it was purchased by NBC (which later merged with Vivendi Universal to form NBCUniversal in 2003), Telemundo decided to stop importing Latin American telenovelas and produce its own. The network collaborated with RTI Colombia and Argos Comunicación to co-produce its telenovelas, which follow the Mexican model. In order for its telenovelas to be recognized by U.S. and Latin American audiences, Telemundo chose to hire established telenovela actors from Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Puerto Rico; the network's novelas have since also hired American-born Hispanic actors. Telemundo's first telenovela co-productions were Amantes del Desierto (with RTI) and Cara o Cruz (with Argos) in 2001. The network also co-produced the 2002 novela Vale Todo in conjunction with Rede Globo, that series did not fare well in the ratings. In 2003, Telemundo began producing its novelas stateside in Miami, beginning with the RTI co-production Amor Descarado. Telemundo has experienced increasing success with its telenovelas, which have also been syndicated to Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Chile. Argos ended its co-production deal with Telemundo on December 31, 2006, with the last such co-production being Marina. Telemundo continues to co-produce telenovelas with RTI, but has also started to produce these serials on its own. In 2005, the network opened Telemundo Television Studios in Miami, as a production studio for its telenovelas; Dame Chocolate also became the first telenovela to be fully produced by Telemundo. In 2006, Telemundo broadcast two telenovelas not created by the network or its partners, Amor Mío (co-produced by Televisa and Telefe) and La Esclava Isaura (produced by Rede Record).
Venevisión International has also produced American-based telenovelas, which follow the Venezuelan model and aired on Telemundo competitor Univision in the U.S. (in addition to being carried by main Venevisión network in Venezuela); its telenovelas portray the lives of Venezuelan Americans in the United States. In recent years, Univision has also begun producing its own telenovelas for its primetime schedule.
Mystery Incorporated, the 2010–13 incarnation of the long-running Scooby-Doo franchise, was set in an animated telenovela format, with each of the show's 52 episodes noted as a chapter in an overall story arc.
Some Spanish-language telenovelas are now translated into English. Univision and Telemundo provides closed captioning in English in order to attract English-speaking American viewers (primarily American-born Mexicans who are not fluent in Spanish), carried as the second or third caption channel depending on the station. Xenon Pictures also includes English subtitles on its DVD releases of Mexican serials. The sudden interest in English telenovelas can be attributed to the appeal and successful ratings of the genre. Producers also see this as a way to attract the fast-growing Mexican population, most notably the female sector of this demographic. In addition, telenovelas break the traditional production format in the United States, in which a television program runs for 20–25 episodes a season, on a once-weekly basis.
Starting in 2014, Nickelodeon US has adapted some of its Latin American counterpart's comedic telenovelas and aired each season in a daily-strip format over a one-month period: Every Witch Way (based on Grachi), Talia in the Kitchen (based on Toni la chef), and WITS Academy (spun off from Every Witch Way).
Telenovelas in Venezuela are mainly produced by RCTV and Venevisión. Like Televisa in Mexico, Venevision controls a large portion of the entertainment industry in that country. Some of Venevision's telenovelas were also broadcast on Univision in the United States until the late 2000s. Some major telenovelas produced in Venevision include Amor Comprado, Dulce Enemiga, Cara Sucia, Bellisima and Pecado de Amor.
Venezuela is one of the largest producers of telenovelas in the world, with up to 279 serials of this style having aired to date. Many of the major productions have been syndicated to Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Spain, Italy, Japan and the United States, among other countries.
In the beginning, Venezuelan telenovelas followed the telenovela rosa format of a poor Cinderella who falls in love with Prince charming. Later in the 1980s, writers began writing realistic telenovelas that reflected everyday life of the common citizens where the audience could relate with the characters with telenovelas such as El sol sale para todos, Natalia de 8 a 9 and La señora de Cárdenas. The most famous of such telenovelas was Por estás calles which ran from 1992 to 1994. Another popular telenovela genre was the mystery telenovela which involved a serial killer with telenovelas such as Angélica Pecado, La mujer de Judas and La viuda joven which became successful during their original run and were sold to several countries around the world.
In recent years, telenovela production has declined in the country especially after the closure of RCTV which was a major telenovela producer and exporter. Channels such as Venevisión end up producing only one national production per year. Government sanctions and regulations on media content has led to self-censorship of telenovela writers, also leading to reduced telenovela production.
The most important Telenovela award shows are the Mexican TVyNovelas Award, hosted by the Televisa-owned TVyNovelas magazine, and the award presented by Contigo in Brazil. TVyNovelas also has editions in Colombia, Chile, Puerto Rico and United States, while Contigo has an edition in Chile. In 2008, The International Emmy Awards created a category for best Telenovelas.
Comparison with soap operas
The standard American, British or Australian soap opera is of indefinite length, sometimes running for decades, with an ever-rotating cast of players and characters. However, most Latin American telenovelas have an average run of six months up to a year. The show's duration is pre-planned at the show's inception, with the overall story-arc and conclusion also known by the show's creators and producers at its inception. Mundo de Juguete is one exception to the rule, with a total of 605 chapters (1974–1977), and a few cast changes during the course of the serial. Some earlier Argentine telenovelas (most of them written by Alberto Migré) had also run for a few years.
Telenovelas also have a different type of story from English-language soaps, the typical telenovela story being focused on a rivalry between two or more people or families in romance or business. Many of them use stock themes like a cinderella (who is a rival of the male protagonist's evil girlfriend), two brothers after one woman (or two sisters after one man) or mistaken/unknown parentage. Typically, the hero gets shot (or some form of fate equivalent to that).
Telenovelas comprise the great majority of the dramatic productions by South American television networks, whereas in the United States, other formats like sitcoms or drama series are more popular on English language networks.
Accusations of white ethnocentrism
Some North American media outlets object to telenovelas on Latin American and United States Hispanic media on grounds that they are not representative of the racial make-up of most of the countries where they are produced, as they tend to have white, blond or blue-eyed people in major roles. It has also been noted that characters in telenovelas who are economically successful tend to look more Caucasian. This is seen as a form of acceptance towards Caucasian models of beauty (present since Colonial times) and as a form of acceptance of inequality in terms of class, race and gender.
- Arab television drama
- Fantaserye – a genre of teleserye
- Fotonovela – the magazine equivalent, a sort of photo-comic book usually with a romantic theme.
- Hong Kong television drama
- List of telenovelas
- MyNetworkTV telenovelas
- Serial (radio and television) – for a general discussion of the serial format, including soap operas and telenovelas
- Taiwanese Drama
- Téléroman – the French-Canadian equivalent
- Webnovela – movement on the Internet, which is equivalent to the simulation of telenovelas.
- Telenovela | Define Telenovela at Dictionary.com. Dictionary.reference.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
- The word for "novel" in Portuguese is "romance", so "telenovela" should be "teleromance" in Brazil. But due to the popularity of the Spanish term, it was adopted in Portuguese-speaking countries, which helped fuel confusion between the novel and novella literary forms ("novela" is the word for "novella" in Portuguese).
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