THE SHOW “Telenovela”
WHEN | WHERE Previews Monday night at 10 on NBC/4. Official premiere is Jan. 4.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Ana Sofia (Eva Longoria) is the lead star of “Las Leyes de Pasión” (“The Laws of Passion”). Then, SHOCKER! The network’s new president, James McMahon (Zachary Levi), decides to goose ratings by adding her ex, Xavier (Jencarlos Canela), as love interest. They had a bad breakup; this bodes ill. The rest of the cast — including Rodrigo (Amaury Nolasco), Gael (Jose Moreno Brooks) and Roxie (Jadyn Douglas) — are perplexed. But her archrival Isabela (Alex Meneses) is thrilled. Xavier? Just amused. Longoria is also executive producer of this NBC newcomer along with Levi.
MY SAY With the aid of wind machines, hairspray, gauzy camera shots and volcanic passions, the telenovela has become possibly the most popular form of television in the world. The paradox is that many of us (or at least many of us critics) have never seen one. The language barrier is an obvious reason — which also happens to be the standing joke in “Telenovela,” because Ana Sofia doesn’t speak Spanish either. The other standing joke is that the fireworks taking place offscreen of “Pasión” far exceed those taking place on-screen. In “Telenovela,” life just doesn’t mirror art, so to speak, but magnifies it — then pillories it. But standing or sitting, the jokes still work here because of Longoria. Love her, and you’ll love “Telenovela.” Otherwise, don't even bother.
But what’s not to love? Without Longoria, “Desperate Housewives” would’ve just been “Housewives.” She was the straw to the drink. “Desperate Housewives” was almost an Anglicized telenovela anyway, with repression on one side of Wisteria Lane and outsized, libidinous, tempestuous passion on the other. (You do recall who represented the latter, right?)
Besides Longoria, everything else pops in “Telenovela,” too, especially the colors, which would make a rainbow covetous. There are not even words for some of them. Everyone else pops, too. The cast is fun and outrageously attractive, but then what else would you expect from a show about a telenovela called “Telenovela”?
BOTTOM LINE Fun, light, colorful and original.