Sunday, July 09, 2006

Betty La Fea (Betty the Ugly) Mas Bella Update IX

Not really a giant update on the show at this point. Now that the hero Fernando believes that Lety has a romance that might endanger her loyalty (and her willingness to turn his company back over to him when it can be re-bought), it shouldn't be too hard for those who didn't see the original "Betty La Fea" to figure out where the show will go next. It's pretty fea, but it will all work out in the end, about 4 months from now. In the meantime, I wanted to say a quick word or two about the entertainment value of the advertising on the show.

I don't know where you might be watching this, but I've watched telenovelas in three different states now and get a kick out of the local commercials. You know, the ones the local Univision or Telemundo station cuts into the regular commercial slots. Invariably you'll get a car ad or insurance/real estate or the local soccer (futbol) club, but the ones that are most interesting to me are the attorney ones. First, they seem prevalent, which I guess gives us some insight into Hispanic life in the US that we Anglos don't face on as regular a basis. Second, they are almost always hilarious. Why? Because they rarely are done well. When I was in MD, there were several featuring these nebbishy-looking bald guys doing really bad Spanish. You know, the kind like when you're actually in Mexico and know about four words. "Yo ten-go nee-goe-she-oos pour two," they say with a completely straight face. "Yo . . . soy . . . tu . . . amigo." Man. Would you hire a guy like this? Over the years and in other locations the amateur value of these ads has gone down, but it's still a hoot watching white guys like me trying to be Hispanic. Kind of like in the 60s when my uncle who coached my baseball team would walk around saying "groovy." Lately I like watching the guys with the bi-background, who can really speak the language pretty well and get down in the barrio, with names like James Smith Rodriguez. You just have to wonder.

The second type of advertising I get a kick out of is the product placement within the telenovela itself. When I was watching "La Madrastra" last year, I got worn out with all the offers of Coca-Cola all the characters made to each other, at home, the office, wherever. And I'm addicted to Coke (note the capital C). So far in "La Fea Mas Bella," we've had out-and-out ads for Garnier hair care and Porsche that were fitted directly into the dialogue. The most obvious and actually kind of startling have been the ads for Pepto Bismol. One character eats too much at lunch--Booom!!! another offers the Pepto, with its wonderful pink coating. This was not really a good deal for any Mexican restaurant with potential customers watching that night. Another may be pregnant. Out comes the Pepto, with cryptic results. I know that placement is done on non-Hispanic US shows, but not with ad copy coming directly out of the characters' mouths. It's actually bold and will certainly wake you up if you're threatening to doze, like when a character in a play starts talking directly to you in the audience, particularly if you're snoring.

It reminds me of the early US tv, with the ads being done by characters on the show, the variety shows and sitcoms. And, as I've watched the telenovelas and "Sabado Gigante" (not enough clicks on the link on the left yet--where are the readers?), I've realized just how much Univision is '50s and '60s US television. Soaps, broad variety, sports, pop music with local dancers, etc. Anyone wanting to know what it was like for early Baby Boomers to watch tv when they were growing up could do no better than to view the menu offered by Univision each week. Maybe that's why I like it so much, even with only partial comprehension (which was actually true when I was 6, too). Nostalgia. Although the Code of Television Broadcasters in those days would have blown cathoid tubes over what is on even on Saturday morning kid shows. In any case, it may make for an interesting drinking game. I'm too old to play anymore, but I'll report any good ones if you want to let us know. For now, I have to go. Stomach's a little queasy. Maybe I need . . . .