In Destiny of Desire, playwright Karen Zacarías brings the beloved Latin American art form of the telenovela to the stage. And while the telenovela is the leading form of entertainment in Latin America, it’s also had an influence on some primetime television shows here in the United States. If you’re looking to get a taste of telenovelas, here are some American television shows that take that style as their inspiration.
Jane the Virgin: Now in its third season on The CW, creator Jennie Snyder-Urman’s critically acclaimed television show based upon the Venezuelan telenovela Juana La Virgen has garnered quite the following. Jane the Virgin follows aspiring writer Jane Gloriana Villanueva (in a Golden Globe Award-winning turn by Gina Rodriguez), who is accidentally inseminated, and thus finds herself a pregnant virgin. In true telenovela form, a dramatic narrator presides over the action, and the show employs a number of telenovela tropes: the central conceit; cases of mistaken identity; a love triangle between Jane, her boyfriend and the father of her unborn child; and other outsized plot points. But the show is also notable because of its strong female characters: the core of the series focuses on the relationship between Jane, her mother Xiomara and her grandmother Alba. As The New York Times writes, “Jane does a lot of things extraordinarily well, but what holds the show together is how devoted Jane, her mother and grandmother are to one another.” Jane the Virgin airs Monday nights at 8pm on The CW. Catch up on the current season on TheCW.com and watch the first two seasons unfold on Netflix.
Devious Maids: This Lifetime “dramedy” series, adapted from the Mexican telenovela Ellas son…la Alegría del Hogar came to a conclusion in August 2016 after four seasons. Devious Maids follows a close-knit group of friends, all with jobs as maids, who bonded over their work lives and the melodramatic antics of their employers. Fun fact: Charise Castro Smith and Tanya Saracho, both playwrights who have had work staged here at the Goodman, were members of the show’s writing team. Watch Devious Maids episodes on iTunes and Amazon.
Ugly Betty: Based on the popular telenovela Betty La Fea, this ABC comedy starred American Ferrara as the title character—a bright but plain-looking journalist who lands a gig at a glitzy fashion magazine. Stream Ugly Betty on Hulu.
Telenovela: This short-lived NBC sitcom featured Eva Longoria as a telenovela star who couldn’t speak Spanish. Things really heated up when her ex-husband lands a role in the show. Watch all 11 episodes of Telenovela on NBC.com.
Buy tickets and learn more about Destiny of Desire here. Tickets start at just $20!