The critical acclaim Jane the Virgin received must have lit a lightbulb in the minds of a dozen NBC execs; "hey, maybe Latino actors can be funny and can carry a fantastic show at the same time". These mostly middle-aged, white male execs have recently turned up the volume of diverse shows on broadcast television and Telenovela is the latest addition.
Eva Longoria stars as Ana Sofia Calderon, a Telenovela star who does not speak Spanish. We see her daily life as she enjoys being the centre of attention on set of her show while also trying to avoid her ex-husband, who also happens to be the new addition to set.
Let's start with the positives. Eva Longoria fully embraces her role as Ana Sofia mostly due to the fact Ana Sofia closely resembles Gabriella Solis from Desperate Housewives (also played by Longoria). The similarities are quite striking and audiences would be forgiven for assuming, after the we said goodbye to Wisteria Lane, Gabby moves to Miami to be a Telenovela star! If Longoria doesn't choose her next few roles carefully, she may face being typecast as the spoiled, bratty but oh-loveable character. In the pilot episode, The network decides to bring Ana's ex-husband Xavi on the show, who had cheated on her. Now they compete to become the crew's favourite, and for the spotlight roles in the show, until Ana freaks out and Gael, the current hot lover in the show, starts stress eating. Ana and Mimi break into Xavi's yacht to take revenge but Ana is caught by Xavi and they apologize. Finally they perform a staged reunion kiss for the press, and manage to star in the show together.
The supporting cast are quite subordinate to Longoria, rather than creating a network of humour. although, the blame can also be placed on the writers and the directors for not exploring the seedier depths of "Las Leyes de Pasión". The other characters include Mimi Moncada (played by Diana-Maria Riva) Ana Sofia's in clothing designer and best friend, her gay best friend (because the show wouldn't be complete without one, Gael Garnica (played by Jose Moreno Brooks). Both characters complete Ana Sofia's entourage although, their characters are tragically underdeveloped. This happens to be the case for most characters in Telenovela, apart from Ana Sofia who relies mostly on tired rom-com tropes to maker her funny. Underdevelopment is certainly the main issue for otherwise intriguing characters like the dim-witted Jadyn Douglas portrayed Roxie Rios (because an ensemble work place comedy, which is essentially what Telenovela is, wouldn't be the same without one), the aging former leading lady and rival Isabela Santamaria (Alex Meneses), and resident villain Rodrigo Suarez (Amaury Nolsaco) all have the potential to become truly hilarious characters with the right material and focus.
The pacing of Telenovela can be frantic and overly long at times, while some situations are outlandish and unbelievable, even in a TV sitcom sense. Although, maybe the writing team consisting of Chrissy Pietrosh, Jessica Goldstein and Robert Harling are in fact conveying the outrageousness of Telenovelas by subtly parodying their conventions within the show...
While I have criticised Telenovela for its craziness while praising Jane the Virgin, which tells the story of a devout catholic woman who is accidentally artificially inseminated with her doctor's brother's last sample, Telenovela's craziness is tiresome and often forgets to be funny. Jane the Virgin is double the 22 minute running time of Telenovela, but The CW's dramedy has mastered the Telenovela within a Telenovela format as an art form and have managed to combine both style and substance. While I'm not suggesting there can only be one Telenovela series on broadcast television at a time, the faults of Telenovela are made clearer when each Jane The Virgin episode is a blueprint of how to be fresh and flawless.
Telenovela is cute albeit bland little show which is pleasant to watch in your spare time, and certainly has the potential to be better, but it does have some way to go before it becomes must-see TV.