Question: What do you think of MyNetwork's format of airing two telenovelas, with new episodes every night (Fashion House and Desire for the first 13 weeks)? I would never watch these two particular serials because they look dreadful, but I'm wondering if the format could be successful if done well. Traditional wisdom is that people aren't devoted enough to keep up with serialized dramas, an argument I have never believed — after all, who's watching all those soap operas? But I think Americans tend to be out of the house in the evenings more perhaps than people in nations where telenovelas are wildly popular. Still, in the age of TiVo and the Internet, I wonder if it could catch on. I would welcome a show that had a new episode every night if it was really good. I hate having to wait a week between installments sometimes. What do you think are the chances that we would see a quality telenovela-like serial on any of the networks or cable channels in the future?
Answer: You're right that the essential problem with MyNetwork TV isn't the overall telenovela concept but the shoddy execution. Still, it's hard for me to imagine a nightly serial catching fire in this new golden age of TV drama, unless the story (or, less likely, the cast) is just out of sight. There are so many compelling, lavishly produced shows in prime time right now (even if you do have to wait a week, or longer, between new episodes), that the alternative of a cheaply produced nightly soap just doesn't sound that tempting to me, and I'm not even a soap snob by nature. In other countries, I'm not sure what the competition is for these telenovelas, which seem to have saturated certain cultures. Given the rich variety of our choices on the networks and cable, I'm still skeptical that the telenovela will be anything but a niche curiosity. The real test might come if CBS follows through on its promise to deliver a telenovela during the off-season next summer. With that network's resources and promotion, and with a less crowded field (though the summers get busier by the year), we might be able to see how one of these things could actually fly — if they do in fact produce something worth watching.