Sin Televisión No Hay Paraíso: The Joy of Telenovelas

By Riley Lynch

[Editor’s note: This article was written in July 2009.  Therefore its schedule is no longer current.]

It could be my Spanish. But it seems like the dubbed version of Flight of the Conchords (HBO, ch. 17) falls short of the Kiwi-accented original. And after a few hours of modern dance on Cuban state television (Cubavisión, ch. 61), I start to feel frankly counter-revolutionary. So it was with unexpected delight that, flipping through the channels one evening, I stumbled upon what has quickly become my favorite telenovela.

Sin Senos No Hay Paraíso (“Without Breasts, There Is No Paradise”) tells the story of Catalina, a teenage colombiana of humble origin, envious of the fact that her amigas have high-rolling narco-trafficker boyfriends. Enter her newfound BFF Yésica, who offers up sisterly advice about what Catalina is really missing in her life: Breast augmentation surgery.

Based on a novel by Colombian journalist Gustavo Bolívar Moreno and a previous telenovela, both known as Sin Tetas No Hay Paraíso (Do you really need the translation?), the series chronicles Catalina’s descent into a lurid underworld of temptation, exploitation, and ultimately, judgment. As in the epics of Cecil B. DeMille, the moral is saved for the final reel.

Despite winning the attention of a staggering 63% share of Colombian couch potatoes by the time the final episode aired — numbers on par with the Super Bowl in the United States — the telenovela has been the target of fierce criticism in its country of origin. Citizens of Pereira, where the story is set, marched to protest the perpetuation of stereotypes about its residents.

I understand how it could ruffle the feathers of proud colombianos. At the same time, I feel there is something refreshingly honest, almost heroic, about the undisguised and unapologetic materialism of the premise. Consider how many television programs made in the U.S., from The Beverly Hillbillies to Beverly Hills, 90210, really boil down to a celebration of sex and consumerism. While other shows pretend to be about something else, Sin Senos is keeping it real.

Sin Senos No Hay Paraíso airs weekdays at 9pm on TeleviSiete (ch. 8 in Xela) but will end in July. Can’t get enough of Colombian telenovelas? To the chagrin of Colombia’s board of tourism (Slogan: “El riesgo es que te quieres quedar” — “the only risk is wanting to stay”), Telemundo (ch. 7) is also airing the narco-drama, El Cartel.I can’t vouch for the show itself, but its theme song, a ranchera ballad called “Raton y Queso,” is memorable.

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