In March of 2010, none other than The Wall Street Journal took notice of a new trend in the ratings and revenue magnet of Hispanic television, the telenovela.
Rather than focusing on the racy (and toned-down) title of the Telemundo drama Sin Senos No Hay Paraíso (“There’s No Paradise Without Nipples”), the Journal instead turned its magnifying glass on the character of Catalina — a “beautiful but poverty-stricken young girl who wanted nothing more than an ample bosom so she could attract a boyfriend in a powerful drug cartel.” For added drama, Catalina’s life is thrust into turmoil when a hit man hired by her narco-novio winds up shooting her.
Nearly five years have passed since Senos ushered in what the Journal dubbed the “narco-novela” — a trend that includes MundoFox’s airing of Colombian series El Capo; the 2012 Telemundo smash Pablo Escobar, El Patrón del Mal; Telemundo’s early 2014 entry Camelia la Texana; and even a Colombian scene-by-scene retelling of AMC’s acclaimed meth-fueled series Breaking Bad — UniMás’s Metásasis.
The latter program debuted June 8 at 10 p.m. on UniMás. As Hispanic Television Update reported in June, lead character “Walter White” is now “Walter Blanco,” a Colombian high-school chemistry teacher who, like a certain Albuquerque, N.M.-based high-school chemistry teacher, turns to methamphetamine production with a former student to provide for his pregnant wife and disabled son after he loses a battle with terminal cancer.
Unlike Breaking Bad, the tale of Señor Blanco was condensed into a typical telenovela arc of four months; the Metástasis series finale was Sept. 18.
Now airing in that timeslot as of Nov. 10: En la Boca del Lobo, which tells the story of the man responsible for the downfall of the infamous Cali drug cartel.
The story centers on Ricardo Salgado, portrayed by Luis Fernando Hoyos (Love in The Time of Cholera), an engineer and soldier who rises to become head of security for the godfather of the Cali cartel, which is at war with the Medellin cartel. After losing his best friend and family, Ricardo has nothing else to lose and is willing to turn in the Cali cartel to the CIA. The operation goes south, forcing Ricardo to fight for his own life.
As of the week ending Nov. 9, En la Boca del Lobo had not placed among the top 25 most-watched Spanish-language prime-time programs; the aforementioned Pablo Escobar-themed telenovela ranks No. 22.
In fact, the top-rated telenovela is a prime example of the tried-and-true Cinderella story. Mi Corazon es Tuyo, airing at 8 p.m. weeknights on Univision, tells the story of a wealthy widower who unknowingly hires a struggling exotic dancer as the nanny of his seven unruly children. According to Nielsen, the show averaged roughly 7.3 million viewers during the week ending Nov. 9.
The No. 2 ranked show, Univision’s Hasta el fin Del Mundo, focuses on the oldest of three sisters who takes over the operations of the family chocolate factory following their father’s death. For added value, the female protagonist is engaged to a man looking to cash in on her wealth but falls for her chauffeur, a former race-car driver. Hasta averaged slightly more than 3.1 million viewers for the week ending Nov. 9, according to Nielsen.
No. 23-ranked Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal attracted an average of 421,000 viewers for UniMás.
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