Likable but not especially funny, Telenovela stars Eva Longoria as the star of a popular telenovela series. If the initial joke that launches the sitcom is that Longoria’s Ana Sofia doesn’t speak Spanish, the show quickly moves beyond that to get its laughs from the talented cast.
Longoria, who plays Ana Sofia as an essentially nice person with a healthy ego, surrounds herself with characters that are equally sympathetic but range up and down along the scale of show-biz vanity. These include her ex-husband, Xavier, played by Jencarlos Canela, and Diana Maria Riva as wardrobe mistress Mimi, who’s also Ana Sofia’s best friend. Zachary Levi pops up periodically as a network executive.
Each half-hour — tonight’s launch consists of two back-to-back episodes — divides its time between filming the Spanish-language soap opera and showing us backstage antics. The best aspect of this is that it gives Longoria and her co-stars plenty of opportunities to play broad comedy with some deft slapstick.
No one is going to accuse Telenovela of trying for dry wit — this is a big, juicy, over-the-top network sitcom — an even more exaggerated soap-opera spoof than the very funny 1991 film Soapdish. The punchlines on Telenovela are not subtle. To make sure we understand that one of Ana Sofia’s co-stars is a dumb blonde, the latter explains why she’s happy she’s not the star of the show-within-the-show, which would require memorizing a lot more lines: “Are you kidding? I have trouble remembering to wear underwear.”
Longoria and most of the cast are charming; if you’re looking for well-performed, lightweight entertainment, here it is.
After tonight’s preview episodes at 10 p.m., Telenovela returns Jan. 4 at its regular 8:30 p.m. time period, Mondays on NBC.