‘Laura’ re-emerges as the talk of Mexico

Scandal-ridden Bozzo's latest strip soars to top of ratings

After leaving her native Peru in March 2008 under a cloud of controversy, longtime talkshow host Laura Bozzo has re-emerged atop the ratings in her new yakker, “Laura,” aired by Mexico’s broadcast giant Televisa.

The strip, which bowed last week in Mexico, is set to make its way Stateside via Univision’s Telefutura channel Feb. 7.

On its opening day in Mexico, the show scored an impressive 18.0 rating/40.5 share, beating No. 2 web TV Azteca’s attempt to go head-to-head via its own diva-led talker, “Ella es Niurka” (She is Niurka), hosted by Cuban-born Niurka Marcos, which finished far behind at 10.7.

Bozzo had long been rumored to want to move to the world’s top producer of Spanish-language content since her arrival in Mexico three years ago.

A trained lawyer, she’s a magnet for scandals, including accusations that she faked the hard-luck stories of the poor and needy whose cases she took up on her Telemundo show, “Laura en accion” (Laura in Action), which was canceled in March 2008.

She insists that every case she covers on the new “Laura” will be real (though she doesn’t admit any of her previous shows were staged). The cases are to be chosen from within the network’s own massive charitable organization, Fundacion Televisa.

“You all are going to be able to see another kind of program,” Bozzo told local media. “Here, nothing is acted. I know that there are a lot of programs acted, but this one is totally verified, and we are going to get to the bottom of the matter (each time).”

Known in Peru as the queen of TV trash and”the dirtiest mouth on TV,” Bozzo took the Hispanic media by storm in 1998 with her hit Telemundo program “Laura en America,” which aired widely in Latin America and ran until 2006.

She presented herself as an advocate to the impoverished and abused who found themselves in extreme situations, often acting on their behalf and unspooling their stories each week.

Her tearful hand-holding frequently devolved into on-air brawls sparked by jilted lovers or outraged mothers, earning her another nickname — the Jerry Springer of Peru.

The host got into political hot water after being accused of using her show to sway public opinion to support the government of Alberto Fujimori, which fell apart in 2000.

In July 2002, Bozzo was placed under house arrest, accused of taking a $3 million bribe from former Peruvian spy Vladimiro Montesinos, who was alleged to be her lover; her show was banned in Peru.

Undeterred, she moved into Monitor Studios in Lima, where “Laura en America” filmed, to keep her show on the air outside the country.

In 2005, both her house arrest and contract with Telemundo ended, and she briefly moved production of “Laura en America” to Televisa until calling it quits in 2006.

Narrowly avoiding a four-year sentence for her crimes in Peru, she tried to re-enter TV in 2007 via Spain’s Telecinco, but the program never made it out of pilot.

Her 2009 show “Laura de todos” (Everyone’s Laura), for Mexico’s TV Azteca, made its way to the U.S. via Azteca America. But a new controversy surrounding the show seemed to emerge every few months.

She feuded with fellow Azteca personalities, threatened to sue Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa for barring the show there, and even got into a very public shouting match with Mexican rock fixture Alex Lora, who accused her of manipulating the poor.

In September, the embattled host announced her departure for Televisa, sparking rumors that Azteca was preparing a lawsuit and threatening to freeze her assets in Mexico. While no action against Bozzo emerged, leaked tapes revealed her angry tirades against her producer and others at the broadcaster.

More recently in radio interviews, Bozzo has repeatedly said that she has no ill-will against the company.

High ratings in tow, Bozzo’s new show will go toe-to-toe Stateside with Telemundo’s “Caso cerrado” (Case Closed).