‘Telenovela’: TV Review

telenovelaNBC’s bland new sitcom starring Eva Longoria tries, and fails, to do what “Jane the Virgin” does so remarkably.
There are precisely 2 factors for NBC’s Telenovela to be on the air: the return of Eva Longoria, who does not get adequate credit for being easily great in whatever she does; and more diversity on network tv, continuing a recent and long-overdue trend.
While Telenovela utilizes a lot of Latin stars, it doesn’t provide them enough good lines to make the newest entry in the Too Much Television universe worth your time. It’s one thing to play on the concept of the telenovela as an art kind; it’s fairly another to do so in a world where The CW’s Jane the Virgin is already offering a weekly master class in how that’s done. And while it’s perfectly great to have more than one series kinda-sorta effort the exact same thing, this isn’t really even the kind of fight that certifies as a rivalry. Whereas Jane the Virgin is perfectly firing on all cylinders in its 2nd season (a fantastic continuation of the impressive work it did last season), Telenovela provides up stale variations on the very same subject, just in a half-hour form (that in some cases feels painfully longer).
It’s not that Telenovela is some embarrassing brand-new entry in a currently crowded TV market– there have been plenty of those just recently, especially on the broadcast network side of things. Digging into a couple of additional episodes exposed the exact same problem– Telenovela never fails to break a sweat in its effort to develop something intriguing or funny, however all that effort falls wincingly brief of its goal.
Longoria stars as Ana Sofia, the over-the-top attractive center of a long-running telenovela that gets a little frothier when her real-life ex Xavier (Jencarlos Canela) is contributed to the cast. There’s no actual chemistry between them as stars or characters, an issue seen throughout Telenovela. Diana Maria Riva as the wardrobe queen and finest good friend to Ana Sofia probably works very well, with Gael (Jose Moreno Brooks) as the hunky gay side character completing the trio of on-set buddies who handle the drama that covers Ana Sofia’s life.
That drama isn’t really really fascinating. It appears … produced. And not in a wink-wink way, like on Jane the Virgin. Oh, sure, Telenovela has Isabela (Alex Meneses), the aging soap star pressed to the side years ago by Ana Sofia; central-casting bad guy Rodrigo (Amaury Nolasco); ditzy supporting actress Roxie (Jadyn Douglas); and unique show author Isaac (Izzy Diaz). Audiences get peeks at all of their heavy-handed characters, but absolutely nothing here lands as either interesting, amusing or something you’ll desire to revisit.
Telenovela is not bad, per se, simply boring, in spite of the game effort and welcome presence of Longoria. And in this current TV environment, you cannot be dull. If there’s a show that currently does what you do extremely well– and might use some brand-new viewers, specifically.
Airdate: Monday, Dec. 7, 10 p.m. ET/PT (NBC).
Produced and written by: Chrissy Pietrosh, Jessica Goldstein.
Cast: Eva Longoria, Diana Maria Riva, Jencarlos Canela, Jose Moreno Brooks, Amaury Nolasco.
Hollywood Reporter.