The Best Shows to Watch If You Love Telenovelas
If you speak a little Spanish, you know that "telenovela" translates to "a whole lot to love." Alright, so it actually translates to "television novels," but the point still stands -- if you love watching family drama filled with plot twists, pretty people, and the occasional wedding, then telenovelas pack all the love you need.
Plus, with hundreds of millions of worldwide viewers, telenovelas are a cultural touchstone. And if you want to keep your finger on that Latin pulse, you can't go wrong diving into any of these big hitters.
'Mi Corazón Es Tuyo' (2015)
Every year, the Premios TVyNovelas -- the biggest award show in Mexican television -- honors the best telenovelas in the country. In 2015, "Mi Corazón Es Tuyo" took home the top award for best overall telenovela. That seems like a pretty good place to start your telenovela love-fest.
But get ready for some twisted love, in the best way possible. This one follows a wealthy widower with seven kids who falls for his gorgeous nanny -- who also happens to secretly be a an exotic dancer borrowing money from a bloodthirsty crime boss -- while also falling for a more upper-crust gal and balancing his double life among their double lives.
'La Reina del Sur' (2011)
In telenovelas, everything is big -- the passion, the love, the anger, the joy, and yeah, the acting. And when it premiered in 2011 with the biggest telenovela budget of all time, "La Reina del Sur" went big. In case you thought all telenovelas were love-ins, this one tells the sordid tale of a dirt-poor 23-year-old's ascension to become the single most powerful drug kingpin in Spain. And because most telenovelas -- like their equally addicting Korean drama cousins -- favor compact storytelling, she does all that rising over the course of just one season.
'Ugly Betty' (2006 - 2010)
Why should you watch "Ugly Betty" if you love telenovelas? Because "Ugly Betty" is a telenovela. Or at least, it was -- "Yo Soy Betty, La Fea" started life as a Colombian telenovela, until it hit American soil as "Betty." It also hit German soil. And Chinese. And Greek. And was adapted for 13 other countries on top of that.
The literally worldwide appeal of "Betty" lies in its fish-out-of-water story: As the least fashionable girl imaginable is thrust into fast-paced life at a high-fashion magazine, viewers around the world relate to her struggle to maintain her pluck and integrity, and the unlikely friendships she develops. Ugly never looked so good.
'Rebelde' (2004 - 2006)
Every soap opera diet needs some teen drama, and that's where "Rebelde" comes in. At the Elite Way School, of group of uber-attractive sons and daughters of celebs and politicians team up with three scrappy scholarship students -- who also just happen to be uber-attractive -- to form a band, breaking down social barriers with the power of Mexican pop music. It's a little "Gossip Girl," a little "Jem and the Holograms," and a hearty dash of "Glee" for good measure.
'El Cartel' (2008)
If your telenovela roster needs a testosterone injection, "El Cartel" is there for you. A little less Cinderella and a little more "Scarface," "Cartel" spins the yarn of two friends looking to make a quick buck by rising up the ranks of the drug-running underworld. Turns out, that quick buck leads to a couple million, a war with Pablo Escobar, and a bloody clash with Colombia's Pacific Cartel. Like all good telenovelas, even this muscular miniseries has a moral -- as the friends watch their families and business partners suffer and die as a result of their newfound profession, they learn that crime really doesn't pay.