Ever wonder why telenovelas are so damned bad? I mean that’s not to say that the serpentine plot lines full of intrigue, suspense, and surprise aren’t engrossing, but there’s no denying that the actors often resemble wooden blocks, the camera work looks like a low-budget ’80s sitcom, and the music — well, let’s not even get into the music. Of course, we all know that telenovelas are cranked out like frankfurters on the television equivalent of an industrial assembly line, but what does all that actually look like on the ground?
Thankfully, a television host by the name of Chelsea Handler is here to give us a privileged, up-close look at telenovela production in Mexico for her new Netflix talk show aptly titled Chelsea. Seemingly taking a page out of Viceland’s playbook, Chelsea is Netflix’s answer to the witty, host-driven, globetrotting talk shows that explore all those weird and quirky social phenomena that millennials just eat up. The series’ official trailer shows Chelsea getting slapped by cedar branches in a Russian bathhouse, giving piggyback rides to a geisha, roasting meat with polygamists, and most importantly, downing tequila shots with Diego Luna.
In a new episode, Chelsea actually suits up and acts in a real Mexican telenovela as she explores the genre’s cultural significance and history in Latin America. In a short teaser (up top) we see how the director literally barks each line to the actors, inciting them to repeat exactly as he says them, only to have a line reader remind them through an earpiece when cameras area actually rolling. It sort of explains why no one actually appears to be acting in telenovelas — with some famous exceptions — and leaves no doubt as to why Netflix should be producing more content for Latin America.
New episodes of Chelsea are available on Netflix every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. We assume there’s no time slot because, well, it’s Netflix.