Juan: [appearing from closet] Wait! [...] That is my twin brother, Rodrigo!
Rodrigo: It is I, Rodrigo! [smolders at camera]
Juan: [takes out a ring] I've been waiting for the right moment, for a long time...
Latin America and the Philippines' answer to the Soap Opera, telenovelas (also known as simply novelas) are perhaps a mini-series version, not running more than five years — the current record is just over four years and the average is six to ten months — but they make up for this with ten times the drama and melodramatic acting and plot twists that would pain any drama teacher. If you want shouting, cheating, secret relatives, murder, faked deaths, and fainting in Spanish, this is where you should go. They're very passionate, which is likely why many have "Passion" in the title.
In some places the genre is referred to as "culebrón", which comes from 'culebra', a word for snake, alluding to their length. Of note is how the telenovela has influenced similar productions worldwide, with an Arabic genre arising that bears more than a passing resemblance, possibly because of many Middle Eastern immigrants in Latin America raving about telenovelas to their relatives, or the fact that their shorter run than soaps and high melodrama fit in better with pre-existing Eastern productions and Bollywood.
The telenovela has two main styles: the classical, or "pink", and the "modern". The first style centers on classic and melodramatic pure love stories with poor, Naïve Everygirl heroines that are often Too Dumb to Live, while the second tries to use resources from other genres and explore modern social issues without neglecting the love story side. Stereotypically, the pink telenovela is a Mexican and Venezuelan staple, the modern style is predominant in Colombia and Brazil (though Mexicans and Venezuelans occasionally try their hand at it), and Chilean telenovelas are a mix of both. In the United States, the telenovelas brought over to cater to the large (and growing) Spanish-speaking population tend to be almost entirely of the "pink" variety. Curiously, a variant of telenovelas is also predominant in the Philippines that's partly influenced by Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean dramas.note These historically tend to be similar to the pink style, though the current batch of series has experimented more towards the modern style, with emphasis towards class conflict, topics normally taboo to Philippine society, and an emphasis of teaching Christian values to the audience.
Spanish and Portuguese speakers often run their soaps in Prime Time in countries where those are the major languages, like Commonwealth countries do of soaps. This is important compared to the US, where they won't make it to regular programming in daylight hours, let alone a good time slot. This means that Univision and other Spanish networks (e.g. Telemundo) can easily broadcast their novelas in the US whenever they want, which can include marathons all week if they so please, which understandably makes the target audience (supposedly elderly Latin American women with nothing else to do) very happy. This may also be helped by there being a significant US-led telenovela market, with many being produced in Miami. There's also a cable channel dedicated exclusively to showing telenovelas, Pasiones TV ("Passions TV"), which is broadcast in Latin America and the US.
Another odd fact is that there are often telenovelas produced that are aimed at a child audience, with the same drama transplanted onto (more) teenagers than the regular programming. There are also many shows that recognize the melodrama of the telenovela and play with the genre, including possibly having a Soap Within a Show.
The word "telenovela" does literally translate as "TV novel(la)", but in Spanish "novela" is rarely used for actual novels (which would be "literatura"), instead often used as slang for Harlequin/Mills and Boon-type novellas, which telenovelas share a lot of tropes with, and an obvious reason for why the 'tele-' can be dropped and not confuse anyone. In some countries, like Chile, they may be called "teleseries" (spelled "teleseryes" in the Philippines), which obviously shows how prevalent they can be.
Not to be confused with the TV series Telenovela.
- Isaura the Slave (2004), another adaptation of the book by Bernardo Guimaraes.
- Yo soy Betty, la fea, a Colombian soap, later remade in Mexico and again revamped in America as the Dramedy Ugly Betty; THE most successful soap in history, it's been imitated all around the world.
- Amar en tiempos revueltos ("To Love in Turbulent Times") and Calle Nueva ("New Street") are two successful Spanish culebrones ("big snakes"- that's slang for a soap... on account of their being as long as snakes.)
- La Catrina
- Corazon Salvaje ("Wild Heart"), a Historical Fiction-based novela about a sensual and rebellious man named "Juan del Diablo" (Juan of the Devil). It has seen a lot of remakes ever since it was made.
- Rebelde Way (from Argentina) and its Mexican remake Rebelde ("Rebel"), a Teen Drama in soap opera clothing, each one spawning musical groups.
- Rubi: One of the few telenovelas in which the main character is also the villain, as she's a huge Gold Digger.
- Teresa: Another Mexican telenovela where the main character, desperate to leave a life of poverty, becomes a manipulative Gold Digger. The original story, aired in 1959, has had one film version and four television remakes (the latest and most popular reamke was aired in 2010).
- La Madrastra ("The Stepmother"), another Chilean soap but better known from its Mexican remake, about a woman who, while attempting to solve the Miscarriage of Justice which left her in prison for two decades, ends becoming the stepmother of her own children (who were told she died and were too young to remember her when she was sent to jail). And that's before the plot becomes truly convoluted. Famous in the United States for being comically recapped by The Soup.
- Sin Senos No Hay Paraiso ("Without Breasts There Is No Paradise"): The series is based on investigative journalist Gustavo Bolivar's debut novel "Sin tetas no hay paraíso" which has the same title except using a more vulgar expression; it features an attractive young prostitute who desires to have massive breast implants in order to attract a rich cocaine smuggler. It is based on a true story.
- Cuna De Lobos ("Den of Wolves"). Another eighties classic made in Mexico about an aristocratic family fighting among themselves over inheritance (name and money) rights.
- La Rosa de Guadalupe is a religious-themed Mexican novela with An Aesop learned in every episode. The storylines last one or two episodes and it follows a format that resembles more of a drama series, but it's still called and considered a telenovela.
- Por Estas Calles (In these streets). A telenovela with social issues about poverty, corrupt government and murders in a poor "Barrio". Almost all the lead characters are poor and struggle for reach a good living way, but the criminality and the corruption don't let them progress. The longest Telenovela in Venezuelan history: Almost three years of duration.
- Sos Mi Vida
- Son De Fierro
- Floricienta is an Argentinian telenovela focused on teenage girls with a Fairy Tale touch to modern times, being The Protagonist a kind of modern Cinderella. It has various remakes in various countries, some of them with the names changed ("Floribella" in Portugal, Chile, and Brazil; "Lola, Erase Una Vez" in Mexico.)
- Patito Feo
- Vidas Robadas
- Botineras, about the wives and girlfriends of soccer players.
- Herederos De Una Venganza
- Los Exitosos Pells, about an actor who, because his extremely similar looks to a famous newscaster, is roped into secretely substituting him while the latter is in a coma.
- La Otra
- Imperio De Cristal
- Solamente Vos
- A Todo Corazón: another Teen Drama
- La Reina Del Sur, adapted from a novel by Arturo Pérez Reverte, is a telenovela about a poor woman who ends up becoming the biggest drug trafficker in Mexico. It was so popular that it got an English language remake, Queen of the South.
- Jane the Virgin and Juana la Virgen
- Trail Of Lies
- Simplemente Rita
- El Privilegio De Amar
- Las Aparicio
- Novo Mundo ("New World") is a Brazilian telenovela based on the Italian immigrant wave at the beginnings of 19th century, some time after Brazil got independence from Portugal.
- Esperanza Mia
- Talia In The Kitchen
- Los Ricos No Piden Permiso
- Violetta is the Disney version of telenovelas, focused on teenage girls and made completely in Argentina. The story is about this girl, Violetta, who came back to her hometown Buenos Aires and discovered a talent for music. It was so successful that Disney later made another telenovela after this one: Yo Soy Luna.
- I Am Frankie and Yo soy Franky
- A Passion For Revenge (known as Tierra de Reyes in Spanish)
- La Impostora ("The Impostor"): A rich woman tricks a poor lookalike into taking her place so she can be free to have an affair. One of the most popular novelas ever, it's been remade several times, the most popular version being the one done in The Nineties.
- Roque Santeiro: An small town in northeastern Brazil worships the titular character, a man who according to the urban legend was killed while defending the local church from bandits; what they doesn't know is that Roque is actually alive, just waiting to strike his revenge on the people who betrayed him and the ones who are profiting on his image.. Originally conceived (and canned by censorship) at the height of Brazil's military regime, this one got a new version in the mid-80's, achieving ratings close to 100% in Brazil and some other countries. The largest open-air market in Africa is named after it.
- Kassandra, a classic tale of Switched at Birth which become the most famous telenovela in the world during the early Nineties.
- Crystal: two women who raised themselves out of their Cinderella Circumstances, mother and daughter, cross paths; tragedy ensues as the former ruins the life of the latter while unaware of their real relationship. Remade several times.
- Esmeralda (and its similarly-titled imitators Topacio and Ruby): all are about poor, blind women named after gemstones.
- El derecho de nacer ("The Right to Be Born"), which was born on the radio and has had countless TV remakes. The plot is centered in Alberto Limonta, a young doctor, and the complications that ensue when he unknowingly becomes closer to his very rich biological family.
- Senda de gloria (Path of Glory): A historical soap opera. It was one of the first telenovelas that did not shy away from showing how brutal The Mexican Revolution was, and how it shaped modern Mexico. Notable also for the fact that Televisa took a lot of pains to ensure they got everything right. It was Screwed by the Network due to a political problem between the ruling party and the son of one of the presidents shown therenote .
- Los ricos también lloran ("The Rich Also Cry"), which was the first soap opera that Televisa exported to countries outside of the American continent. It became very famous in the ex-USSR countries and brought fame to Verónica Castro, the actress who played the female lead. Maria La Del Barrio is technically a remake of this one.
- The "Trilogy of the Marías" (Maria Mercedes, Marimar, and María la del Barrio) , a group of soaps with "Maria" in some part of their title with plots based in their titular characters' Rags to Riches, that catapulted their shared main actress, Mexican singer Thalia, from mere local fame to international superstardom.
- Escrava Isaura ("Isaura the Slave"), a late 1970's soap about a white slave in Colonial Brazil. Exposed the Eastern Bloc to Latin soaps. It is based on a book by Bernardo Guimaraes.
- Chocolate com Pimenta ("Chocolate with Pepper"), famous Brazilian soap taking place in the 1920's.
- Vale Tudo ("Anything Goes"), famous '80s Brazilian soap. Raquel, an incredibly honest woman, is the mother of Maria Fatima, an unrepentant Gold Digger who runs out of home after selling the family house behind her mother's back. The plot runs the parallel stories of Fatima trying to get her Meal Ticket thorough betrayal and backstabbing, and Raquel's reinvention and success thorough hard work.
- O Clone ("The Clone"), Brazilian soap about a guy, his twin brother and his clone, along with some stereotypes of Arab culture and very narmy soundtrack.
- Pobre diabla ("Poor She-Devil") (In Spanish "poor devil" means "loser"), an Argentinian classic from the 1970's, made internationally famous with a 1990 version (it also has a peruvian and a mexican remake). A young poor woman falls in love and marry with an older, richer gentleman. The guy was secretly dying, and manages to die just before introducing his new wife to his family, but not before changing his will to leave her half of his fortune. The other half he left it to an illegitimate son he had with a servant a couple of decades ago, and the condition for themn to receive their inheritance is that both inheritors must live together for a year. You can see where this is coming.
- Pasión de gavilanes ("Passion of the Sparrowhawks"): The three Reyes brothers, first looking Revenge against the Elizondo family for their sister's death, end falling in love with the three Elizondo sisters. Complications ensues thanks to the sisters' very uptight and classist mother and Fernando Escandon, the ex-husband of the elder sister who holds a grudge against the Reyes. A Hotter and Sexier remake of Colombian soap Las Aguas Mansas.
- Café con aroma de mujer ("Coffee with the scent of a woman"), the previous most successful soap and a classic of The '90s, set in Colombian coffee plantations.
- Anjo mau / Angel malo: Another telenovela which has a Gold Digger Anti Heroine, but now set in Brazil (or Chile, if we see its remake).
- Zorro: La espada y la rosa ("The Sword and the Rose"). Yes, there was a Zorro telenovela (loosely inspired by Isabel Allende's Hotter and Sexier version).
- Dónde está Elisa? ("Where Is Elisa?") is a Chilean night telenovela (a new telenovela format in which the series is aired around 10 PM so it can be Darker and Edgier/Hotter and Sexier than the standard) about what happens when the daughter of a powerful family disappears. Includes actress Paola Volpato's incredibly scary Yandere Consuelo, bringer of a HUGE twist: Elisa was not only was kidnapped by a lover who is also her uncle as well as Consuelo's husband, but she actually gets shot to death.
- Los títeres ("The Marionettes"). Classic Chilean telenovela from The '80s in which a Greek girl named Artemisa Mykonos gets thoroughly broken and humiliated by her evil cousin Adriana and her friends in The '60s, and returns twenty years later as a Broken Bird — both to have revenge on Adriana and to face her own ghosts. Famous due to the incredibly well-done script (written by Chilean playwright Sergio Vodanovic), the Shocking Swerve of an end that the Big Bad lost her mind when her plans failed, and then mentally reverted to a childish mindset , and the enormously creepy OP sequence.
- Nada personal ("Nothing Personal"). Made in The '90s. Noteworthy only because it was the first Mexican soap to try and deal with then-current national politics.
- El maleficio ("The Curse"). A Mexican production from the Eighties. This one is notable for its STRONG supernatural elements.
- Cartas de Amor (Love Letters): A Colombian telenovela, recognizable for its comedy and salsa-based soundtrack. Sweet Polly Oliver Cupido is called to a small Barrio to help people with their love lives but ends falling in love with local ladykiller and owner of "El buen catre" (the good bed), Manuel Tirado, who doesn't love any woman but struggles with his attration towards Cupido.
- La casa de las floras (The House of Flowers), a Netflix original.
- Machos is a 2003 Chilean telenovela about the Mercader family, a patriarchy of only men with seven sons and a father who's the Villain Protagonist of the telenovela. It's considerated one of the best Chilean teleseries of all time and was emitted in Latin America, USA, Central Europe, Spain and even Israel. As other telenovelas, it has a Mexican remake made in 2005.
- Betty en NY: An American-produced series based off of Yo Soy Betty La Fea. Betty moves to NYC, where she joins a fashion company as the president's personal secretary.