After losing ratings ground this year, Telefe is fighting back with a comedy directed by Oscar-winner Juan Jose Campanella, who sharpened his skills helming episodes of “House” and “Law & Order.”
But instead of drawing viewers away from ratings leader Artear-El Trece, “El hombre de tu vida” (The Man of Your Dreams) is ramping up aud numbers for broadcast TV by luring viewers from cable — which Campanella had in mind.
“I bet on there being a lot of people who are dissatisfied with broadcast TV, and I went after them with a program made with the quality of an American series,” says the director of “The Secret in Their Eyes.”
Starring Guillermo Francella (“Secret”), the comedy is about an unemployed single father who takes a job as a matchmaker for single women. “The Man of Your Dreams” has become one of the hottest fictions of the year with a 25 rating and 49 audience share in its 10:30 p.m. Sunday slot.
Even so, Telefe is lagging behind Artear, a regular second until 2010. Artear started gaining in 2006 with the signing of “ShowMatch,” once the top entertainment program on Telefe, and continued with popular programs from top indies Ideas del Sur and Pol-ka.
This coincided with Telefe’s 2010 loss of the programming chiefs behind its 2000 success. With worsening results, Telefe this year hired Tomas Yankelevich, a 34-year-old who produced talent show “Popstars” and helmed spinoff film “Vivir intentando,” as top programmer.
The competition is tough, particularly against “ShowMatch.” The weeknight program has focused the past two years on a dance competition starring such celebs as boxer Mike Tyson and scantily dressed contestants — and scenes that even judges describe as almost pornographic.
The success is largely due to host Marcelo Tinelli, who has a knack for adapting “ShowMatch” to cultural trends including this year’s rise in coquettish demeanors, says Ana Wortman, a cultural sociologist at the U. of Buenos Aires.
Many people may scorn the program, but everybody watches it and Tinelli, who is held in esteem for climbing out of a farm town to triumph as a TV businessman with Ideas del Sur, one of the busiest producers in Argentina with comedies like wide international seller “Los Roldan” (The Roldans).
“Tinelli comes across as one of us, as a kid from the neighborhood who has triumphed like we all want to,” Wortman says.
Adrian Suar does this too with his series. He is head of Pol-ka, the busiest fiction producer in Argentina, and Artear’s chief programmer.
Suar is shining with weekly political drama “El Puntero,” secret-agent comedy “Los unicos” and winery-set telenovela “Herederos de una venganza.” They are all rating higher than Telefe’s comedies “Cuando me sonreis” (When You Smile) and “Un ano para recordar” (A Year to Remember) and its novela “El elegido” (The One), despite good stories and big names like Facundo Arana, Pablo Echarri, Gaston Pauls and Carla Peterson.
Pol-ka always focuses on “the importance of the common person who can pull himself out of a situation by his own strength” in its series, Wortman says.
Take “El Puntero.” It is about political point men who call the shots in lower-class neighborhoods and will do anything to gain more power. The drama stars Julio Chavez, who won actor at Berlin for “The Other,” and Rodrigo de la Serna of “The Motorcycle Diaries.”
The fiction boom is helping boost exports of formats and production services.
Disney Channel this year partnered with Pol-ka for teen series “Violetta,” to be filmed in Buenos Aires. That follows Pol-ka producing versions of “Desperate Housewives” and Endemol Argentina “Fear Factor” and “Wipe Out” for other territories.
“Argentina has a lot of writers creating new stories, and this is growing,” says Fernando Varela, director of international business at Telefe. “Televisa in Mexico and other foreign networks are hiring Argentine writers to do their series.”
Campanella, for his part, is working with a new concept for series in Argentina, using different directors and writers per episode much like in the U.S. His shoots are seven days, providing more time for writing and post-production compared with the average of four or five days for miniseries. Telefe is on board with this despite the added cost, ordering more.
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