Does this sound familiar?
When a beautiful young wife marries a rich baron, she becomes an instant celebrity. Then he suddenly dies. After investigation, it is found that the woman’s last four rich husbands all died too – and in similarly suspicious circumstances.
This is a familiar type of story for the new telenovela – filled with sex scandals, murder and beautiful women, opulent surroundings and high drama. We’ve looked before at how the high emotion drama of telenovelas works so effectively with audiences, who love to empathize with the young heroines of these shows. The new show has everything that these audiences have come to expect – its called BLACK WIDOW, and has not only a familiar storyline and surroundings, but an interesting new edgy tone which audiences found exciting – and crucially, a dark protagonist. As we discussed in last week’s blog, darker protaganists are always a risk so the presence of one indicates a greater confidence on the behalf of producers in the maturity of the audience. Telenovela audieces have matured over the years and the genre has allowed for considerable experimentation with darker storylines. In addition, Telenovelas are good examples of shows which touch on what we call “The Gossip Instinct” that people have, a desire to compare notes with each other and relate information about people among themselves. In popular society, we see this often in showbiz and celebrity news, but it works in dramas too. As the Ancient Greeks were fascinated by the Gods on Mount Olympus, so each new generation reinvents these gods for ourselves time and time again.
The interesting thing though about all of this is that this new show is actually a remake — it is a US adaptation of the huge Latin American 2011 hit LA VIUDA JOVEN, which was one of the region’s big hits. It achieved a 79% viewer share when the finale aired in its home country Venezuela, for instance. In America, the show is to be called BLACK WIDOW, and its airing on NBC and all over industry breaking news this week.
LA VIUDA JOVEN aired across Latin America in 2011, and further marks the American entertainment industry’s deeper interconnectedness with the Latin market. We’ve looked at on this blog many times and investigated how the two markets have become further and further intertwined over the past few years, a process which takes place as the population demographic begins to change. “We believe there is huge potential for telenovelas to be adapted and developed for American viewers” said the President of NBC recently.
In pursuing BLACK WIDOW, NBC are also adapting completely to the established telenovela format, with multiple episodes to be produced each week. In addition, attached to the project are some of the industry’s biggest names, including Ben Silverman former NBC creative head and now CEO of Electus, NBC’s partner on the project. Now here’s where things get interesting, because Electus has recently inked a production deal with Caracol, a big name in Latin Telenovela productions, based in Colombia. The deal will allow Electus to produce their shows in the crucial new US market. Silverman was instrumental in bringing UGLY BETTY to American screens on ABC, and his new company not only has BLACK WIDOW in the pipeline, but KILLER WOMEN, an adaptiation of Argentine hit MUJERE ASSASSINAS, and not to mention access to Caracol’s big name telenovela, PABLO ESCOBAR: THE DRUG LORD (and the certain subject of a future blog). All this points to one certain thing: if one is looking to the future of the US entertainment industry, one needs to be familiar with the telenovela genre.