The comedy show “Telenovela” was picked up by NBC for its first 13 episodes in January 2015. But now, the peacock network has cancelled the series starring Eva Longoria after one unsuccessful season.
Telenovela had a tepid response from viewers; ratings fell below a 1.0 while the show aired. Still, the season finale had a ratings boost, receiving a 0.9 with audiences aged 18-49—but that may not be enough for the comedy to be renewed.
When asked what likely led to the show’s cancellation, New York magazine’s senior editor and television reporter Maria Elena Fernandez had this to say: “I don’t think it’s a matter of what it’s lacking. I think it just might be a case of being too culturally specific for its own good. I like it. I get it. But if you didn’t grow up in that world, you might not be as interested. Where Jane the Virgin has been the most successful is in being culturally authentic but also accessible to others. Even if you didn’t grow up watching telenovelas with your abuelita, you can still relate. Telenovela feels more removed in that sense.” ‘
With a previously weak NBC comedy block, the network had high hopes for the show, a series that could potentially attract a Latino audience to the network. In January, at the Television Critics Press Tour, actress, creator and executive producer Longoria acknowledged the difficulties in finding a show that would do well with Hispanic viewers.
“It’s very hard to program to Latinos. I am not saying African Americans are a monolithic group [because] they are not,” said Longoria. “They are very diverse as well … But Latinos are definitely not a monolithic group, and so, when you have the Cubans and the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, if you see our cast, we touch all of that and then some. You know, if you tell an East L.A. story, sometimes the New Yoricans don’t get it. And I’m a Texican. So sometimes I don’t get either coasts, and it has definitely been hard.”
About Latino viewers, Longoria added: “I think they want good shows. They want great content. We are lucky that we hit on both of those things. We are a really great big broad comedy that has a lot of Hispanic cues in it.”
Fernandez noted that she didn’t feel the show was offensive or stereotypical, which is always a possibility with satire. “I think it plays with stereotypes and maybe is a bit insider-y in that way. But I haven’t felt insulted and I have seen almost all of the episodes. Sadly, I do not think it will be renewed.”
“Telenovela is spoofing its genre, which if you don’t watch novelas, probably doesn’t make sense to you,” said Yolanda Machado, an award-winning Latina lifestyle and entertainment influencer who runs the blog Sassy Mama in LA. “I don’t find it stereotypical, in fact, I love that it opens up what a Latino is. There’s a blonde Latina, there’s the Latina that doesn’t speak Spanish, there’s the working mom. Really, I think if you’re a novela fan, or grew up watching them like I did, you’ll really enjoy it.”
A recent Paste magazine feature posits that shows like Telenovela deconstruct Latina stereotypes, including the spicy, loud sexpot with a heavy accent or the sassy, obnoxious female clown (also with a heavy accent). “Telenovela avoided pigeonholing Longoria’s character Ana who is Pasión in the fictional soap Las Leyes de Pasión (The Laws of Passion). On the telenovela, Pasión is glamorous with smoldering stares, flowy dresses and fan-swept hair. Outside of the telenovela, Ana is Ana—a neurotic actress who loves her Cheeto Puffs, doesn’t speak a word of Spanish and is awkward on first dates.”
Longoria herself works against type as a Latina woman calling shots, both as executive producer of Lifetime series Devious Maids and Telenovela. “There’s a lot to be done to have more diversity in front of the camera, but it starts behind the camera. I think our show is a great example of it because we’ve done such a great job obviously in front of the camera, but the writers’ room is very diverse. Our crew is very diverse. Our directors who we use are very diverse … I was a producer turned actor. I’ve always had a producer’s mind. I like the business side of things, and so I always knew I would produce. I took a left turn somewhere and became an actress but always knowing and when I was on Housewives I was producing.”
We’ll have to wait and see if Telenovela is renewed. In the meantime, Longoria says she will continue to create and produce other TV concepts, including her successful Lifetime series, Devious Maids, now in its fourth season.