Four episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
NBC is giving fans another preview of an upcoming mid-season sitcom this Monday, December 7, with the Eva Longoria-starring Telenovela previewing back-to-back with Superstore (both returning in January). The new series follows the cast behind the scenes of a zany and crazily popular telenovela, where every staple of the genre – from ghosts to evil twins – happens just as often off screen as they do on. As led by the always-eager Longoria, NBC’s new effort is glitzy and goofy, full of over-reactions to over-reactions and delivered by a game cast that liven up an otherwise staid concept.
And, of course, it all begins when the status quo gets shaken up. In Telenovela, that means Ana Sofia Calderon (Longoria) is going to have to deal with the ratings-minded casting of her ex-husband Xavier (Jencarlos Canela) as the new co-star for her uber-popular daytime soap, “Las Leyes de la Pasión.” She apparently plays a lawyer, but all we see her in are cleavage-enhancing gowns that catch the prop guy’s wind fan at just the right angle. Slight eccentricities like this highlight Telenovela‘s reach at being a workplace parody, but with scripts that favor character-driven escapades over nuanced Hollywood satire, that reach mostly exceeds its grasp.
But that’s okay, because the cast here is weird and humorous enough to elevate the bottom-barrel sitcom arcs. Longoria as the Spanish-averse and salsa dancing klutz Ana Sofia is perky and brash, full of sermons about big ideas and big changes she wants to make on a daily basis to the cast of mostly-bored key grips, but in such an internal spiral she and her best friends have a designated cheese-puff cleaning towel in her dressing room. She’s a bit of a trope-filled work-a-day modern woman, but Longoria infuses her with such out-of-left-field charm – particularly in some genuinely funny reaction shots and physical comedy bits – that it makes Telenovela as a whole feel worthwhile.
Rounding out the cast is a writer afraid of spoilers from his own scripts (Izzy Diaz), an evil arch-nemesis (Alex Meneses), and Ana Sofia’s close confidants, the show’s wardrobe department head Mia (Diana Maria Riva) and her on-screen lover, off-screen gay BFF Gael Garncia (Jose Moreno Brooks). They’ve all got your typical showy personality quirk, but each actor sees them through to the nth degree so that it’s at least consistent in its predictability. “You’re a cop, do what your character would do!” Ana encourages Gael as the two attempt to retrieve a phone with all of their juicy secrets locked away on it. “Okay,” he says, ripping off his shirt, unmoving. Telenovela won’t win NBC any Emmys, but at least it’s narratively cogent.