TV Review: ‘Telenovela’

Telenovella cancelled
Courtesy of NBC

Television shows about TV are seldom very good, which doesn’t raise hopes particularly high for “Telenovela.” In a mildly pleasant surprise, though, this NBC comedy — marking Eva Longoria’s return to primetime, here as a semi-desperate soap star — finds enough humor in its exaggerated situations to deliver some laughs. Granted, the show covers a lot of the same territory as “Jane the Virgin,” albeit not as well, but the episodes previewed have a breezy, unpretentious quality, and Longoria offers a reminder that she’s a pretty gifted comedienne, as evidenced by some of the show’s physical bits.

Longoria plays Ana Sofia, the star of a Spanish-language telenovela who, in one of those made-for-TV gags, doesn’t actually speak Spanish. The expected cast of characters surrounds her, including a gay co-star (Jose Moreno Brooks) who rips his shirt open whenever someone from the network happens to visit the set, referring to his six-pack abs as “job security.”

Not surprisingly — in another wrinkle that directly mirrors a recent “Jane” subplot — Ana Sofia is horrified when the new network suit (Zachary Levi) seeks to goose the ratings of her show, “Las leyes de pasion” (The Laws of Passion), by reuniting her with her ex-husband (Jencarlos Canela). And naturally, there’s still chemistry there, even if she split with him for cheating on her, she’s convinced, with Shakira.

Longoria holds an exec producer credit on the series, along with “Cougar Town” veterans Chrissy Pietrosh and Jessica Goldstein. But happily, once the rather tired setup is out of the way, there are some amusing situations, such as the show’s rivalry with another telenova, with the two shows’ characters seemingly mirror images of each other. “Telenovela” (originally “Hot and Bothered,” a much worse title) also pads out the cast with promising players, including Diana Maria Riva as the costumer and sort-of Ethel to Longoria’s Lucy, and “Prison Break’s” Amaury Nolasco as another one of her needy co-stars.

The neurotic, vaguely narcissistic star hardly treads any new ground, but Longoria manages to make her reasonably likable, despite all the requisite eccentricities. That includes constantly ribbing the show’s one-time diva (Alex Meneses) — who remains in the cast but has been elbowed toward mother roles — about her age, by celebrating her “birthday” every few months, while Ana Sofia frets about her own demographic expiration date.

“Telenovela” will get a preview behind “The Voice” before returning in January in the show’s regular time slot, paired with the somewhat compatible (and markedly better) “Superstore.” Although neither show inspires genuine passion, after a mostly disheartening run for NBC sitcoms, the gentle chuckles they provoke at least provide the foundation for a potential relationship.

TV Review: 'Telenovela'

(Series; NBC, Mon. Dec. 7, 10 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Tall and Short Prods. and Unbelievable Entertainment in association with Universal Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Chrissy Pietrosh, Jessica Goldstein, Eva Longoria, Ben Spector, Josh Bycel, Jonathan Fener; co-executive producer, Melody Derloshon; supervising producers, Craig Gerard, Matthew Zinman; producers, Patrick Ward, Dylan K. Massin; directors, Steve Pink, Reginald Hudlin; writers, Pietrosh, Goldstein, Robert Sudduth. 30 MIN.

Cast

Eva Longoria, Jencarlos Canela, Diana Maria Riva, Jose Moreno Brooks, Alex Meneses, Amaury Nolasco, Jadyn Maria, Izzy Diaz

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  1. Art says:

    Sorry…bored stiff! this won’t make it through one season if not two weeks CANCEL

  2. Mary says:

    This show is probably going to fail and I’ll explain you why, read the crew credits; not even one Latino creative or executive behind this. And no, Longoria doesn’t count as she doesn’t even speak Spanish well.
    I can tell this is going to be filled with poorly written stereotypes, and I’m not talking about the comedic satire they are going for.

    • Spider says:

      I believe the show will fail because the previews didn’t even look good, nor were funny!

    • Mark says:

      WAAAAHHH. No one cares. That’s as dumb as saying the reason John carter bombed and got dreadful reviews is because Martians weren’t involved in creating it. Now…had they been WIMMEN Martians…..still dumb.

      • Rick says:

        No, because Latinos are actual people that exist, while Martians are not. I’m gonna assume that you’re a white man (because only white people would say something silly like what you said) – how would you feel, for example, about a roomful of black women writing a show about a group of white guys? Do you think they’d be able to depict it accurately?

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