SMG sets local version of telenovela

CANNES — Following the success of the Chinese version of telenovela “Ugly Betty,” the Shanghai Media Group has started production on a local version of Mexican TV giant Televisa’s “Las tontas no van al cielo” (Dumb Girls Don’t Go to Heaven).

SMG, China’s biggest entertainment group, plans to broadcast it this year in a primetime slot.

Production on the first season of around 40 segs will be handled by indie production house, Ma Zhong Jong’s Cewen, which owns TV studios in Beijing.

The Televisa-SMG deal copies Televisa’s pioneering sale of its “Ugly Betty” format in China, except that, this time round, Televisa has inked with a broadcaster — SMG — and not a production house like the Beijing-based Nesound, which produced the “Ugly Betty” retread for satcaster Hunan Satellite.

“Dumb Girls” will be shot in Mandarin.

A contempo parable of modern motherhood, “Dumb” turns on a woman who discovers her husband is having an affair with her sister.

Feigning her own death, she moves to another city and raises her son on her own. But she finds herself attracted to a plastic surgeon who’s a shameless womanizer.

In China, a country which stresses emotional balance, the in-your-face emotions of “Dumb Girls” will have to be “smoothed,” said Arturo Casares Cortina, Televisa Intl. advisor for Asia.

The “Dumb Girl” deal includes split ad revenues and a minimum audience-trigger.

“China is a complicated market. We are in first-phase expansion. Our next aim must be to consolidate our presence there,” said Casares Cortina.

“Ugly Betty,” which started production a year ago, punched top or second-best ratings across China.

According to Televisa Intl. VP Fernando Perez Gavillan, Hunan Satellite and Televisa have started discussions on a telenovela to follow on from “Ugly Betty” when it finishes its run.

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