Wednesday, January 27, 2010

TeleVISION: The Good, The Bad & the Ugly

TeleVISION:  The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Debut of Weekly TeleVISION Column by Julio Martinez 

TeleVision, which has been a recurring feature in Latin Heat during the last six years, is now a regular weekly presence, highlighting the Latino presence on primetime television. The column will offer gadfly critiques for what's not working, as well as enthusiastic hurrahs for what is. The column will also highlight emerging talent and established stars as Latinos continue to forge a solid presence in the medium it so enthusiastically supports. 

THE GOOD: Nickelodeon has been a pioneer in launching Latino themed programming designed for the multi-ethnic television consumer, beginning with the landmark animated series Dora the Explorer (2000), followed by the SiTV-produced sitcom, The Brothers Garcia (2004). At the recent bi-annual gathering of the Television Critics Association, the cable network�s Executive Vice President of Development and Original Programming, Marjorie Cohn, announced mid-season launches for two new music-based series with high Latino involvement. 

"Today, I'm going to talk about two new series, Victorious and Big Time Rush, Cohn proclaimed. "Both series were developed as a result of our partnership with Sony Music." Victorious was created by the prolific Dan Schneider, our hit maker extraordinaire and one of the most successful producers in kid's TV history (iCarly, Zoey 101, Drake and Josh and The Amanda Show, etc.). 

Victorious (premiering March 27) stars 16 year old Victoria Justice who has literally grown up with at Nickelodeon. She first joined as part of the Zoey 101 cast. She was featured in last year's TV movie Spectacular! and has appeared in guest roles on Nick series, most notably the iCarly [the movie] iFight Shelby Marx, a special that drew almost 8 million viewers.

It is also significant that Justice is a Latina playing a Latina, aspiring singer/actress Tori Vega, a teenager who unexpectedly finds herself chosen to attend an elite performing arts school in Los Angeles. "I am half Puerto Rican and half English and Irish and French and a bunch of other stuff," Justice affirmed. "My character, Tori, is bilingual. "I am not as fluid she is but I'm getting there."

Nickelodeon's Cohn was equally enthusiastic about Big Time Rush (premieres January 30). "It comes from another successful producer that we've had a long relationship with, Scott Fellows," said Cohn. "It is a comedy about four hockey-playing best friends from Minnesota, who get discovered by a record producer during a national search."

They are given the opportunity of a lifetime when they move to L.A. to be part of the glamorous pop music scene. The series will feature original songs performed by the four series regulars under the guidance of Sony Music, with music by some of today's most successful songwriters and producers including Desmond Child, Matthew Gerrard, Charlie Midnight, Eman and Kevin Rudolf.

The boys in the band, who were actually chosen during an extensive nationwide search, include Kendall Schmidt, James Maslow, Logan Henderson and our Latino of record, Carlos Pena. "We've recorded 12 songs so far," said Pena. "It's kind of a rare experience that we get to do everything at once, you know, because sometimes you get to do just the recording side or just the acting side, but we get to do everything, which I know is just incredible."

Pena feels strongly attached to his Latino roots even though he was born in Columbia, Missouri. "Three years ago, I tried out for Making Menudo, which was an MTV project. They were trying to reinvent the band, Menudo. It was very interesting. I got down to the final seven, and I went out and did the whole song and dance thing. I wasn't cast but it really got me pumped up to do this show." 

THE BAD...Despite the Nickelodeon good news, the cable networks did not prove to be a welcoming outlet for Latinos. Of the twenty-one new programs introduced at the TCA, only the SyFi Channel's Caprica and the HBO 10-part mini series, The Pacific, featured a Latino in a series regular role. Esai Morales stars in Caprica (premiering January 29) and Jon Seda portrays real-life Italian-American World War II hero, U.S. Marine Sgt. Jon Basilone in The Pacific (premiering mid-March (TBA). 

THE UGLY...The news is out. The landmark ABC hit comedy, Ugly Betty, is not being renewed after it airs its fourth season closer in April. No formal announcement has been made by ABC execs but the deal is done. The series had dropped in ratings this season but it certainly didn't help that ABC kept moving the telenovela remake, starring America Ferrera, Tony Plana, Ana Ortiz and Mark Indelicato all over the TV grid. It's too bad that Exec Producer Salma Hayek wasn't available for more guest appearances. That certainly would have helped. 

Latin Heat welcomes breaking news, especially if you have landed a role on the little screen. Tele Vision begins its "New Faces" spotlight, beginning next week. Good fortune to us all.

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