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Telemundo taking turn to originals

'Cenicienta,' 'Amor' among new shows slated for Sept.

Pumped up by an increasingly close relationship with its Peacock parent, No. 2 Hispanic broadcaster Telemundo is banking on a barrage of original shows to boost its profile and its ratings.

Among them are “La Cenicienta,” an upcoming primetime reality romance show, and “Amor Descarado,” a south Florida-set telenovela.

Both reflect the mores and interests of the Latin community the station serves but are more outspokenly “with it” than most of the Spanish-language product heretofore aired Stateside.

That was the key message Friday as the web unveiled the two fall hopefuls at the biannual Television Critics Assn. press tour in Hollywood and talked about its beefed-up commitment to serving what is now the largest ethnic minority in the country.

Shift toward production

Since Telemundo prexy-CEO Jim McNamara took over two years ago, the network has moved from largely acquiring product to producing it.

McNamara pointed out that the web has boosted its spending on original programming from approximately $85 million per year to $140 million in just two years.

There will also be “a little more punch” to the web’s promotion and marketing thanks to NBC input, he said.

McNamara also pointed out that the company has recently set up a full-fledged production studio in Miami under the direction of Patricio Wills, whom he called the Dick Wolf of Spanish-lingo production with 40-odd novelas to his credit.

Peacock crossover

McNamara and his newly minted chief operating officer Don Browne, a longtime NBC exec, described life under the Peacock umbrella as “a sea change,” in which the criss-crossing of talent and practices between the two broadcasters has quickened.

Reality show “La Cenicienta” is a Hispanic “Bachelorette” with a twist, producer Nelly Galan told journalists: It centers around a single mom, a figure in Latin society who, she said, typically has a much harder time starting over in life than does her counterpart in mainstream America.

“The show touches on sexism, class prejudices and racism — things Latinos don’t talk about much,” Galan said. We’re trying to show that there is a second chance in life for these young women, too, she added.

Actress Eva Tamargo-Lemus, a regular on NBC sudser “Passions,” acts as the madrina or confidante-chaperone to the single mom on the show.

Room for reality

Galan added that Hispanic auds, especially those who are Spanish-speaking only, have not been inundated with reality shows on TV, unlike their mainstream American counterparts. “This is mostly new to them,” she said.

As for the telenovela “Love Unmasked,” Telemundo senior VP of programming Alejandro Garcia said it was a humorous love story set squarely in the contemporary south Florida Hispanic community.

McNamara added that the cost of producing these serials in Miami is roughly $60,000 an hour, slightly more than what is typically spent to produce Latin soaps in Mexico but clearly much less than is lavished on U.S. soaps.

Both new shows will debut in early September.

While subtitling in English is considered “intrusive” by many Hispanic viewers, McNamara did say that in the future there would be more closed captioning in English.

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