Binge Complete

As part of my summer binge, I decided to watch the 189-episode telenovela, Lo Que La Vida Me Robó (What Life Took from Me,) on Netflix. I finally finished watching it. That was one long binge! As a viewer, I enjoyed its riveting and twisting storylines. As a writer, I appreciate the show for its characterizations.

Unlike U.S. soap operas, telenovelas come to a conclusion. Since the end of the main story will be reached, the characters are compelled to change and grow, or so one would hope. I felt this was done particularly well with Lo Que La Vida Me Robó.

Classic love triangle. Who will Montserrat choose?

Classic love triangle. Who will Montserrat choose?

The main story concerns a love triangle between lovely young Montserrat Mendoza and her suitors, Alejandro Almonte and José Luis Álvarez. Montserrat plans to run away with José Luis, a marine stationed at the local naval base. However, her money-grubbing mother, Graciela, forces her into the arms of Alejandro, who just inherited a large fortune.

Sounds fairly typical, but it’s not. At its heart, this is a rags-to-riches-to-rags story. Money is the root of all evil and those with it, or obsessed with becoming rich, find themselves far unhappier than those without it. At one point, one of the characters says he is glad he lost his fortune because it had brought nothing but evil to his life.

As the main protagonist, Montserrat changes over the course of the series, going from a naïve and sheltered girl to a strong, determined woman. She makes mistakes, some of them pretty bad, but she also learns from them rather than repeating them endlessly.

The other main and secondary characters grow and change, some for the better, some for the worse. Avarice and vengeance play a huge part in how the stories progress. Some characters overcome their worst instincts while others cannot or will not.

I was impressed by the depth of the characters and by how their story arcs played out. As an author who is writing a series, I took note of how the characters progressed and how each pitfall and triumph made them change and yet remain the same person.

It can be hard to keep momentum going in a series. Lo Que La Vida Me Robó is an example of how that can be done. Watch it for the excitement and fun of a juicy good drama, but also appreciate the writers for knowing how to tell a story.

Epic Binge

The last days of the 2015 summer binge season are upon us. I love me a good binge and the shows I’ve watched have varied in length from 4 episodes to 12 to 189.

Yes, 189 episodes. Now, that’s an epic binge.

Netflix recently added a tasty batch of telenovelas, Spanish language television shows, with English subtitles. Telenovelas are sometimes referred to as soap operas, but that’s not quite right. They are shown nightly during prime time, and have elements of both soap operas (emotional drama, romance) and serials (action, crime and punishment). Telenovelas don’t ramble on for years. The story and show come to a definite end.

After looking over what’s available on Netflix, I chose to watch Lo Que La Vida Me Robó (What Life Took From Me) because you can’t beat that title. The show takes place in Mexico, in a lovely, seaside resort town called Agua Azul. It tells the story of Montserrat Mendoza, a beautiful young woman caught in a love triangle between two men, rich Alejandro Almonte and poor José Luis Álvarez.

Sounds simple, but it isn’t. There’s a lot in the subtext about social inequality, social justice and corruption. The corruption is on the governmental and personal level. A vast fortune is at stake and it turns good people bad and bad people worse. All the characters, from the kindhearted maid to the evil governor, have been robbed of something by life, and this shapes their personalities and how they move forward.

I started the show in May and still have about 40 episodes left, so this will extend into a fall binge. Lol. An interesting benefit is that my nearly forgotten high school Spanish has  significantly improved.

No, I haven’t watched the show continuously. I’ve broken it up with other binges. I’ve watched some great shows and can recommend the following:

Empire (streaming on Hulu)

The story of a family dynasty set in modern American hip hop culture. After the first few episodes I realized it’s based on The Lion in Winter and shouted out, “Cookie Lyon is Eleanor of Aquitaine!” This increased my enjoyment tenfold.

Orange is the New Black (season 3) (streaming on Netflix)

Still quite good, but wanders seriously away from the source material. If you haven’t read the book, you won’t care.

Hjørdis (streaming on Netflix)

A sweet, funny, wise little Danish show about a schoolteacher named Hjørdis who is trying to combat bullying in her school.

Witnesses (streaming on Netflix)

A French crime drama set in small coastal city. A young woman detective and her older male colleague each face personal demons as they investigate a series of bizarre and escalating murders.

Orphan Black (season 3) (purchased on iTunes)

The clones are back! And I want to add that I’m delighted Tatiana Maslany has been nominated for an Emmy. She is an outstanding actress, playing all those roles in a single show.

Just a quick note to explain, I don’t have cable or satellite TV. I use an antenna for broadcast television and have an Apple TV box for streaming. I have subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu and HBO. Perfect for binging, whatever the season.