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A telenovela is a limited-run television serial novel drama popular in Latin America. The word combines tele, short for televisión or televisão (Spanish and Portuguese words for television), and novela, a word that Latin literary studies associate with medium-span romances and a Spanish or Portuguese word for "novel". Telenovelas are a distinct genre different from soap operas, for telenovelas have an ending and come to an end after a long run (generally less than one year). The telenovela combines drama with the 19th century feuilleton and the Latin American radionovela. The medium has been used repeatedly to transmit sociocultural messages by incorporating them into storylines.[1]

Patricio Wills, head of development at Telemundo, jokingly described the basic format of telenovelas thus:

The plot is always the same. In the first three minutes of the first episode the viewer already knows the novela will end with that same couple kissing each other. A telenovela is all about a couple who wants to kiss and a scriptwriter who stands in their way for 150 episodes.[2]

Recent telenovelas have evolved in the structure of their plots and in the themes they address. Couples who kiss each other in the first minutes of the first episode sometimes stay together for many episodes before the scriptwriter splits them up. Moreover, previously taboo themes like urban violence, racism, and homosexuality have begun to appear in the newest telenovelas.

While most English language soap operas can continue indefinitely, almost all telenovelas run for a predetermined duration. They are usually shown five or six days a week and run for an average of 120 episodes.[3]


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