Tag Archives: television

RPM Miami: US Media’s Spanglish Future?

There was a great feature on BBC Mundo yesterday by Eulimar Núñez about a new bilingual show on Telemundo’s sister station mun2 called RPM Miami (BBC story: “El ‘spanglish’ se expande en la televisión hispana de EE.UU.”).

The show is being promoted as the first bilingual program on US television (with apologies to Dora). The characters are constantly switching back and forth between English and Spanish (“Maybe vamos mañana a cantarte ‘Happy Birthday’. Beso, bye.”), and the program is clearly aimed at Latino youth who were born in the US. Mun2 itself, which is operated by Miami-based Telemundo and owned by NBC Universal, was developed for the Latino youth market by putting together a programming schedule that includes sports coverage, lots of music, and a heavy rotation of English-language shows mixed in with its normal Spanish-language programs.

RPM Miami (full episodes available here) is about a young Iraq War veteran named Alejandro who has returned to South Florida after being discharged.

Cuenta la historia de Alejandro, interpretado por el salvadoreño Adrián Bellani, quien regresa de la guerra de Irak para reunirse con su familia en el sur del estado de Florida y encuentra que su padre está desaparecido.

But a lot has changed while he was gone and Alejandro finds himself drawn into the world of underground street racing when he discovers that his father is missing and that his family is struggling financially.

Now I don’t know if this show will be any good, and I haven’t had a chance to watch the first episode yet…but I do know two things. First, my Spanish professor would hate it. As a first generation, old school Colombian immigrant, nothing gets on his nerves as much as Spanglish (“¡No lo entiendo!”). But my perspective is that it’s only natural for languages to mix in countries like the US, and that this is the way new languages are born. As we all know, Spanish itself evolved from Latin and didn’t fall out of the sky as a fully formed human tongue. Second, if the census numbers released this year tell us anything, it’s that we’re going to see more and more bilingual media in this country soon, whether RPM Miami is a ratings hit or not. So, chau chicos. Nos vemos soon, okay?

Las mujeres de Almodóvar : Chus Lampreave

I was going to start this post off by saying that I’ve been in a real Almodóvar-watching mood recently, but that would be a ridiculous thing to say because I’m always in the mood for watching his films.

More accurately, I’ve been in the mood for rewatching some of my favorite films by him, including Volver, Oscar winner Hable con ella (Talk to Her), and Oscar nominee Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown). And if you haven’t seen any of those, please rush out and do so immediately.

Almodóvar’s films always have a few elements in common: humor, passion, bright colors, Madrid, men who make bad decisions, and women who have to deal with the repercussions of those bad decisions. But it’s not just themes that pop up over and over in his work. Actors also often appear regularly in his productions—he started the careers of Penélope Cruz and Antonio Banderas after all. But one of my favorite character actors who appears in almost every Almodóvar film, including the three I’ve rewatched most recently, is Chus Lampreave.

Lampreave is a veteran Spanish actress whose career dates back to the 1950s, including extensive work in Spanish television, and who usually shows up in an Almodóvar film as some batty landlord or crazed relative. I first saw her in Mujeres al borde 10 years ago; she plays a stubborn Jehovah’s Witness who refuses to lie for the philandering Iván in that movie. I’ve kept a keen eye out for her ever since. And in my opinion, one of her best roles is as tía Paula in Volver.

Lola Dueñas, Penélope Cruz, Yohana Cobo, and Chus Lampreave in "Volver"

Paula is a nutty old aunt to sisters Penélope Cruz and Lola Dueñas (another Almodóvar regular who kills it in everything she does) who lives in a small village in La Mancha—a town whose inhabitants suffer from chronic insanity caused by strong winds. It’s a classic Lampreave role in a Almodóvar picture: old, stubborn woman who is out of her mind. Paula has been talking to the ghost of the sisters’ mother lately. It’s probably just the wind, but of course…you should see the movie yourself! Lampreave’s character isn’t in much of the movie, but for the few scenes she has, she absolutely steals the show. That’s saying a lot when she’s sharing the screen with Penélope Cruz, an actress who garnered an Oscar nomination for her role in the film.

Nuestro superhéroe…¡El Dorado!

I could pay my mortgage with the money I’d make if got $1 for every cheap attempt at diversity made in television. One of my favorite blatant attempts at courting a specific demographic is from my childhood when the Hanna-Barbera television program Super Friends added the Latino character El Dorado to the show.

Super Friends was basically an all-star team of superheroes from DC Comics banded together to fight crime, evil scientists, etc. It included Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman at its core, and some version of the show ran on Saturday morning television between 1973-1986 (the title changed a few times along the way, and the superhero line up varied as well).

In order to spice up (ha! ha!) the formula the geniuses at Hanna-Barbera decided to add a character of their own making in 1981 that had never appeared in any DC Comics publications—the mysterious El Dorado. Now there are several wonderfully awful things about this character:

1. He spoke a heavily accented form of English and punctuated most of his lines with “sí,” “amigo,” rápido,” or “muy bien.” Similarly, I have a habit of injecting words like “yes” and “friend” into sentences when I’m speaking Spanish with someone. It’s only natural.

2. He seemed to appear only when the Super Friends needed help in a Latin American country or they were dealing with some piece of Latin American culture…say a stolen Mayan artifact from Metropolis’ anthropology museum. However, El Dorado himself seemed fairly ignorant of Latin American culture and history. Often he would say something like, “this is a mysterious artifact of my people,” when explaining to the rest of the gang what something was.

3. His powers were ambiguous and never clearly defined. And the ones that were apparent sucked. His most used skill was transporting himself through space, along with anything else wrapped inside of his cape. We knew he was teleporting because little speckles of light appeared where his body once was. He also had some sort of ability to create illusions. I mean, I’d love to be able to create illusions myself, but when you compare that with Superman’s strength and X-ray vision, it’s pretty weak.

4. His name. El Dorado? Give me a break.

Here’s his first appearance on the show. You’ll quickly see what I mean about the lack of cultural understanding—keep an ear out for the phrase “these are the mysterious ruins of my people.”

Despite the shallow character development (or perhaps because of it), El Dorado has become a bit of a cult favorite, even though he has never appeared in any DC Comics. Later this year, Mattel is releasing an El Dorado figure in its DC Universe Classics line of toys. And like the original animated character, he has NO nipples! ¡Muy bien, amigo!

Dancing Bears and Acrobats? Not in this Hugo Chávez Show

Loving Hugo Chávez’ bit from Auto-Tune the News #9 made me go back and watch an old episode of PBS’ Frontline I first saw last year. “The Hugo Chávez Show” documents Chávez’ rise from the military ranks and idealism of the Bolivarian movement to become President of Venezuela, all the while dancing like frenemies with the media. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in South America, international politics, or media history. Here’s a preview…

The program, which can be viewed in its entirety here in either English or Spanish, pays particular attention to Chávez’ weekly television program Aló Presidente. AP is an unusual show in many ways. First of all, it has no definite ending time. Chávez basically just talks and talks for however long he wants—usually around five hours. Mostly it is unscripted, so you never know when President Chávez is going to switch topics, a fact that has his cabinet on pins and needles throughout the program. Often Chávez will call on one of them out of nowhere—they’re all expected to attend each taping in its entirety—and grill them about the finer points of the Venezuelan state. Give the wrong answer and you might find yourself out of a cabinet post the next day. The location of the show also often changes. So you might as easily get Chávez preaching from a stage as singing in the streets of Caracas or taking a helicopter tour of a construction site.

(Chávez breaks into song.)

All this continues to be relevant for the Americas. Take the most recent flare up over the Falkland Islands, which the Argentines call las islas Malvinas. If you haven’t heard (which wouldn’t be surprising if, like me, you live in the sexy pork obsessed United States), a British oil company has started drilling operations near the islands recently. This lit up the Argentine government. While the islands are considered part of the United Kingdom by many governments and the vast majority of the islands’ inhabitants, Argentina has made claim to them ever since its independence from Spain. This led to a brief but nasty war in 1982 between Britain and Argentina that still simmers. Meanwhile, fellow South American Hugo Chávez is obvious about his feelings on the topic and uses his television program as a pulpit: Give them back, Queeny; the empire is over. Situations like this make me glad I don’t work in international relations.