Telenovela Time: Manana Es Para Siempre and El Desprecio

Telenovelas were always supposed to end happily ever after! 

(Reposted from my Non-Romance blog)

Manana Es Ayer

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the hospital (nothing life-threatening), and I turned on the tv to see an old telenovela, Manana es Para Siempre starring Lucero and Fernando Colunga. Our household cut the cable cord over a decade ago, so I’m not familiar with too many modern-day tv programs unless we stream them on Amazon or Netflix. 

I forgot how terribly awesome this show was. It ran sometime in 2009 and was a remake of a much better Colombian original, Pura Sangre. Of course, the Mexican version cheesed it up with the dramatic music, the extreme closeups, the exaggerated acting (Mexico is like Latin America’s version of America when it comes to remakes).

Telenovelas used to be great. Recently, I saw part of one at my Mami’s house, and they are not filmed in the way they used to be. Unfortunately, they seem to have lost part of their charm. It’s all digital now. But then, everything is digitally filmed. Nothing is on video anymore. 

Fernando Colunga, who was probably in his early forties when Manana first aired, played the virginal twenty-something Eduardo, posed as the wealthy businessman Franco Santoro. Eduardo had been about 10 or so and was caught kissing Fernanda, the youngest daughter of the Elizalde family. Barbara Greco, the purported assistant to the Elizalde family–who had a secret revenge plan of her own–, concocted a ruse and said he forced himself upon Fernanda. And so, Eduardo was sent away for many years to study in the States. Upon returning to Mexico, he sought to avenge his mother’s premature death and save Liliana Elizalde. Barbara had kept Liliana heavily medicated and sedated in a mental institution for 15 years, as Liliana knew the horrific secret that Barabra Greco had killed her mother. 

Actress/singer sensation Lucero, wearing raccoon-eye makeup, played against type. Although usually she was the heroine of the telenovela, here, she played Barbara, the villainess nicknamed La Hyena. Barbara married into the Elizalde family and planned a labyrinthine plot of revenge on her husband. She ended up imprisoned and lighting herself on fire after her long-lost daughter refused to have anything to do with her. Co-starring as the object of Eduardo’s desire was Fernanda, played by Silvia Navarro, who spoke at a ludicrously rapid speed and seemed way too smart for this turkey of a convoluted plot. 

For some reason, Dominican hottie Carlos de la Mota wore a roadkilled squirrel wig on his head, and actor Rogelio Guerra hammed it up in a dual role as the mastermind villain and the hapless family patriarch. At the same time, Guillermo Capetillo underplayed his role as an impotent, cuckolded husband. Sergio Sendel was charmingly sleazy, as always, as Fernanda’s fiance/husband, Damian. And Mario Ivan Martinez played Eh-Steve Norton, Eduardo’s gringo-accented friend from New York. 

The show was extended to a whopping 160 episodes, way more than the original program’s 100 episode run, and I think I watched every drawn-out minute. My daughter refers to Manana es para siempre as the milk company telenovela, which is true as the big business that kept la familia Elizalde living in fine style was dairy cows. I remember some ads would say this show is sponsored in part by “Company X,” which has been providing Mexico with fine dairy products for years. 

Soapy Memories

I’m going to try to relive every wonderfully cheesy telenovela I can. A few American soap operas are still on the air, but they’re practically dead. At some point in my life, I watched all of them on all the main channels, General Hospital, The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, and many more. I think 3 or 4  soaps are still on the air, but there used to be about a dozen daytime soaps back in the day. Santa Barbara, All My Children, As the World Turns… Now all long gone. 

The American soaps were always inferior to the Latin ones anyway because the Latin ones had a complete and finished story that had a beginning and an end. What was the point of rooting for your favorite super-couple like Eden and Cruz, Bo and Hope, Patch and Kayla, or Luke and Laura to make it, only to see them break up when an actor’s contract was not renewed three years down the road? The Latin soaps always ended with a “Fin” emblazoned on the screen, usually at a wedding. 

I remember to my horror, the gran final of El desprecio, which was the first telenovela I saw that didn’t have a happy ending. In it, a shy, stuttering, thick-glasses-wearing heroine raised by nuns fell in love with a married man whose mother was one of the best villains–male or female–in tv history. But, unfortunately, they didn’t end up together! I didn’t know they were allowed to do that! I remember crying, and my mother couldn’t understand that my illusions had been shattered. Telenovelas were always supposed to end happily ever after! 

Incidentally, RCTV in Colombia remade El desprecio several years back to great acclaim. I can see this generation preferring a gritty ending like that. Unfortunately, happy endings are quaint and old-fashioned.

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