Every day, from Monday to Saturday, at 8:55 PM, millions of Brazilians leave everything they are doing and get around a TV set to follow the adventures of a group of Italians who went to Brazil at the end of the 19th century. This is a crowd of more than 47 million people interested in Terra Nostra(Our Land), a historic epic that borrowed more than a little from the blockbuster Titanic, with the initial scenes filmed on a Brazil-bound British ship.
When the novela (soap opera) Terra Nostra, which premiered September 20, is being aired, 65 percent of the TV sets turned on are on Globo. Globo Network has this kind of power and appeal. From the top 30 programs on a recent month, 27 belonged to Globo and only three to SBT (Sistema Brasileiro de Televisão), the second-place network. The first SBT program on the list was the Sunday show Jogo do Milhão (The Million Game), which appeared in 22nd place. Despite the widespread of remote-controlled TVs the remote seems to be lost in most Brazilians residences. Some people, apparently, never bother to change the channel.
Directed by Jayme Monjardim, 43, Terra Nostra intends to show, in 240 chapters to be developed in a 10-month period, 100 years of Italian immigration to Brazil. Monjardim has been criticized in the past for his cinematographic way of filming, considered too slow in an MTV era, but the audience ratings show that the public is liking it. The director is the great-grandson of Francesco Matarazzo, the best example of a successful Italian immigrant, who built an empire.
The novela's author, Benedito Ruy Barbosa, is famous for several acclaimed novelas, including Renascer (To Be Reborn) e O Rei do Gado (The Cattle King). To keep pace with the narrative on the little screen, he has to write 36 pages of the story everyday. After writing O Rei do Gado, Barbosa had decided not to write novelas anymore and retired to his house in Sorocaba, in the interior of São Paulo. It was there that Marluce Dias da Silva, Globo's executive superintendent, went to convince the author to once again cast his spell. One of her enticements: "Imagine anything you want. And we will do it." Barbosa didn't resist long.
The first chapter of the novela shot at England's Southampton harbor aboard the SS Shieldhall used 300 European extras and cost $700 thousand. The story starts in 1896 and ends on present-day Brazil. The first part should take around 100 chapters.
Terra Nostra is a love story. Young Giuliana (gorgeous Ana Paula Arósio) and Matheu (Thiago Lacerda) board a ship in Italy bound for São Paulo. They meet during the trip, fall in love, but lose each other after arriving in Brazil. Matheu ends up at Gumercindo's (Antônio Fagundes) coffee plantation where the owner is a wicked tyrant. Giuliana goes to work with industrialist Francesco (Raul Cortez). But as in any novela, there are many, many more plots, all occurring at the same time.
Ana Paula Arósio, 23, the heroine of Terra Nostra, thanks to the new soap, has just entered the very exclusive club of TV's big stars in Brazil. She is not new to the glamorous world of models and celebrities, though. Her serene beauty has been shown in more than 250 magazine covers, most of them before she became a household name. She first drew national attention by appearing in early 1998 as a prostitute in Hilda Furacão, a Globo miniseries based on Roberto Drummond's book of same name. It is the real-life story of an upper middle-class housewife from Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais, who became a prostitute.
Italy Is Here
Thanks to the novela, everything Italian has become fashionable in Brazil and it is now common for people to intersperse their conversation with Italian tidbits like amore mio, ecco, andiamo, va bene, and caspita, plus the expansive gesturing attributed to Italians. Italian music has been selling much more, people are paying more attention to Italian food, and schools of Italian language are getting more students than ever.
São Paulo, Brazil's most important and cosmopolitan city, has today the third biggest Italian colony in the world (only Buenos Aires and New York are bigger). That's because between 1870 and 1920 around 1.5 million Italian immigrants moved to Brazil, 70 percent of them to São Paulo state. They went to Brazil drawn by the need for workers by the São Paulo coffee farmers, who had to replace the slaves freed in 1888. Since 1850, the traffic of black slaves had been prohibited and starting in 1871 children born from slaves were born free.
Italians were lured by an army of 20,000 Brazilian agents selling to poor Italians the false dream of working for a little and then becoming prosperous farmers. Very few made it big. One of them was Francesco Matarazzo, who arrived in Brazil in 1881, at age 27, and built an empiretoday immersed in debtscomprising 365 companies and employing 30,000 people. The Matarazzo group in the 1970s was in the top 500 world corporations. Terra Nostra pays homage to Matarazzo through Francesco Magliano (interpreted by Raul Cortez), a main character inspired by Francesco Matarazzo.
Terra Nostra has become more than a hit novela. It is also a line of products. Together with all the new characters, Globo also launched through licensing a series of Terra Nostra goodies, including wines, tomato pastes and sauces. It is not the first time that the media leviathan does thatother past novelas like Tropicaliente and O Rei do Gado also introduced new products to the marketbut, Terra Nostra has brought this concept to a new level of sophistication.
Laços de Família (Family Ties), the Globo novela that will replace Terra Nostra, is scheduled to premiere only on June 5, but newspapers and magazines are already talking about it and discussing its social implications, because soap operas in Brazil are not just entertainment and escapism. They can also be a platform for social reform and an over-the-air classroom. Manoel Carlos, the author of the coming novela, in a recent interview suggested that his story should be called Laços de Família 6 because he believes that the last six novelas he wrote deal with the same theme: the intricate world of family relationships.
As many other soaps on Brazilian TV, Laços will deal with a new polemic subject. Is it morally right to conceive a child to save the life of another child, is the main question raised. Manoel Carlos wanted to approach this issue since reading about news stories in the US and elsewhere about kids who were conceived to serve as donors to a sibling. The author will still develop other controversial themes like the single mother who becomes a prostitute to put her son through school.
The main plot will revolve around Helena, whose daughter Camila, after marrying, develops leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. Helena will be interpreted by 48-year-old movie actress Vera Fischer, a temperamental and talented blonde beauty, who first became famous by being elected Miss Brazil in 1969 and who was just featured in the Brazilian Playboy cover as the muse of the new millennium.
Laços de Família is not a straight forward story. Camila gets married to Edu, just the young doctor with whom Helena also fell in love. When Helena decides to have another kid with Pedro, the father of Camila, hoping to save the daughter who can't find a suitable donor for a transplant, she is about to marry Miguel. To complicate matters, Pedro is already married and has no idea that Camila is his daughter.
The novela, as many others in the past, will also be the launching pad for more than a pretty face trying to start an acting career. This time, at least two models will have a chance: Reinaldo Gianecchini and Paulo Zulu. International and high-class, Laços de Família, to be directed by Ricardo Waddington and Moacyr Góes will have scenes shot in England and Japan. Shooting starts in March.
Manoel Carlos expects to have written 30 chapters of Laços by the time the show premieres. "I hope to give the public good entertainment and to transmit the feeling of solidarity, something that touches me deeply," said the author.
The media has also been talking about even more remote novelas, like the one writer Glória Perez is preparing for 2001. Perez is planning a trip to the United States and Egypt this March. She intends to interview people and gather information for two polemic subjects she wants to discuss: the Islamic world and cloning. She says, "I am going to talk about the Muslin man and his submission to God and traditions. I also want to talk about men who want to act like God creating another human being. I want to raise all the ethical questions of the theme."
The novela is not a Globo and not even a Brazilian invention. TV was introduced in Brazil in 1950, but novelas became a daily event only in 1963, after the advent of the videotape, with 2-5499 Ocupado. The show starred Tarcísio Meira and his wife Gloria Menezes, both still very active, both still married to each other. It was shown at defunct Excelsior network.
In 1964, with O Direito de Nascer (The Right to Be Born) from Tupi networkanother extinct media outletthe novela became a national phenomenon and a habit. This first soap and many more that followed were heavily influenced by radio melodrama and the style of Cuban writer Glória Magadan.
It was with Beto Rockfeller (1968, on TV Tupi), a funny, modern revolutionary text dealing with everyday situations that the novelas got its Brazilian face. Only in 1970 with Irmãos Coragem (Courage Brothers) Globo would start in the genre. That soap also confirmed the position of late writer Janete Clair as the queen of telenovelas. In 1973, with O Bem-Amado (The Well-Beloved), on Globo TVthe first novela in colorthe genre would get much closer to a work of art as a movie or a play.
The first images of Globo were transmitted at 11 AM on April 26, 1965. Nothing fancy. It was then a single station, Rio de Janeiro's channel 4. By 1972, Globo had already acquired stations in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Brasília, and Recife. Color would arrive in 1972. Today, Globo Network comprises 113 stations whose image reaches 99.84 percent of the 5043 Brazilian municipalities.
According to data from Globo posted on the Internet (http://www.redeglobo.com.br), the network detains 74 percent of the audience on prime-time, 69 percent at nighttime, 56 percent in the morning, and 59 percent in the afternoon. In dispute with several other TV networks, including SBT, Record, CNT and Bandeirantes, Globo gets 75 percent of all the advertising money spent on TV in Brazil.
The most traditional Brazilian daily TV news show, Globo's Jornal Nacional, premiered on September 1, 1969. After being broadcast for 31 years, the 30-minute program is fighting today to raise its audiencestill a hefty 42 points, with a 65 percent share of the TV publicthat has been sagging even though it continues well ahead of the competition. Today the program seems to have escaped the stigma of being partial to the government, something more evident during the military dictatorship (1964-1985).
Even after censorship was eliminated by 1977, the Jornal Nacional continued to distort reality in favor of the military dictatorship. One of the most flagrant cases was the initial refusal of the program in 1984 to talk about a campaign for direct elections for the presidency called Diretas-Já (Direct Elections Now). Globo only started covering the subject with some impartiality when it became clear that the military regime was on its last leg.
With the end of the dictatorship, Globo TV network became even more powerful in modeling public opinion. It's not uncommon to call king-maker 95-year-old Roberto Marinho, owner of Globo, the owner of Brazil too. The backing of Marinho and Globo led by its main Jornal Nacional was instrumental in the defeat of the socialist candidate Luís Inácio Lula da Silva from the Workers' Party and the election of Fernando Collor de Mello. In the second debate between Collor and Lula, in 1989, the encounter was edited in a way that many experts believe constituted a manipulation of the political process in favor of Collor.
Once again, when the Collor administration went sour and people started going to the streets to demand the president's impeachment, the Jornal Nacional took a long time to react. Globo always gave bigger emphasis to the official version avoiding to link Collor to corruption when the rest of the media had already plenty of proof of this connection.
In 1994, during the following presidential campaign, many people again questioned the fairness of the reports coming from Jornal Nacional. Former minister of economy Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who ended up being elected president, was heavily favored by Globo. A better balance only was achieved later, forced in part at least by legislation requiring equal time and treatment for all sides.
Jornal Nacional was the first show on Brazilian TV to be broadcast nationally. Today, there is a team of 400 people across the country and the world to help put together the daily 70 hours of tapes that are edited and made into the 20 minutes or so of news. The news show starts at 8:15 PM and traditionally is sandwiched between two novelas. Nowadays it's preceded by Vila Madalena and followed by Terra Nostra.
For reading the newsthe concept of anchorman only recently was incorporated into Brazilian TVfor more than 25 years since the first Jornal Nacional aired, good-looking, mellow-voiced Cid Moreira has guaranteed a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the person with the longest continuous time heading a news show. Moreira was put aside and confined to read rare editorials in 1996, during a complete revamp of the show. Today the program is presented by the journalist couple William Bonner and Fátima Guedes, who not only read the news but also help writing and editing it.
A 30-second ad during the Jornal Nacional costs $70,000, that is the costliest time on Brazilian TV. For many Brazilians, the Jornal Nacional is their only source of news. Due to its visibility, any slippage gets ample repercussion. That's what happened in 1998 when the Jornal dedicated ten minutes to report the birth of Sasha, Xuxa's first daughter. Xuxa, the popular kids program host, is a Globo employee. The hard news headlines, about the largest privatization effort in the country, got less than half that time. The next day, newspapers editorialized about transforming news in mere entertainment and lambasted Globo for its emphasis on gossip instead of hard news.
While the Jornal Nacional was watched by 60 percent of the residences with a TV set in the '80s, by 1993 this number had already fallen to 50 percent. Today the main news show of the Brazilian TV is seen by 41 million people a day, which makes it still Brazil's leading news show. The best efforts of the competition never had more than 20 percent of the audience.
Rich and powerful to the point of arrogance, when it cannot beat the competition, Globo simply buys it. It has happened time and again. Just last year, the TV powerhouse that is also known as Platinum Venus, went into a shopping spree taking from the competing networks its brightest stars. It bought Jô Soares, who had a very successful interview show on SBT (Sistema Brasileiro de Televisão), plus Sérgio Groisman, Ana Maria Braga, and Luciano Huck, all with programs that shook Globo's leadership. And the network also bought Cazé, the best show host of MTV Brazil.
Some of the acquisitions may never get their own program. Globo is not worried about that though. As old Hollywood, Globo has always maintained a cast of the best national actors under an exclusivity contract that does not allow them to work for the competition. The network pays to maintain these stars inactive for months or even years only to make sure they will not show up on any other channel.
Comedian Dercy Gonçalves recently left the network to star a program at SBT, grumbling that for years she was maintained under contract but was not allowed to work. Officially, her humor does not meet Globo's quality standard, even though successful humor shows in the network, like Sai de Baixo (Get Off from Under Me), appeals to the same scatological, bigoted and foulmouthed type of comedy used by Dercy.
It's natural that leading ladies and leading men from Globo's novelas have similar status as Hollywood stars on the population'smostly the youngsters'imagination. The latest creation of this Rio's myth factory is Thiago Lacerda, 22, the actor who plays Matheu in Terra Nostra. The hysteria of fansgenerally 15-to-20-year-old girlsleads Lacerda to use the help of police and firefighters, who at times give him a lift to escape the fans' enthusiasm. Since Terra Nostra started, Lacerda has already acted in more than 20 commercials and he gets more invitations to participatefor a fee naturallyin pageants and balls than he can handle.
Always trying to hold to a kind of monopoly if not of the Brazilian TV, at least of the audience's top spot in all of its shows, Globo has created what it calls the microseries. It's a story in chapters, but less lengthy than the more traditional miniseries. One such microseries is A Invenção do Brasil, a tribute to the 500 years of Brazil. The show is the tale of Itaparica, a Tupinambá chief, interpreted by Tonico Pereira, living in the Brazilian coast when the Portuguese arrive in the country in 1500.
Far from the image of the good savage, Itaparica is a profiteer who is ready to sell everything for the right price. Father of Moema (Deborah Secco) and Paraguassu (Camila Pitanga), the chief wants to hook his daughters with rich men. Borrowing from history books, Paraguassu marries Diogo Álvares Correia who was named Caramuru (son of the thunder) by the Tupinambá Indians, when he made to the shore after a shipwreck.
A Muralha (The Big Wall) miniseries, which premiered on January 4, is using real Indians as extras. They will not only help the scenes look more authentic, they are teaching the actors to be better Indians. Actress Maria Maya, 18, for example, spent close to three weeks in Rio's Tijuca Forest practicing for her Moatira role. During this time she learned how to fish and how to say the basic words to survive in the jungle, all in Tupi language, naturally.
She took her role so seriously that when a real Indian, who was helping her, took her clothes off in front a group of tourists she did the same. "That was great," he commented later, "because people thought that I was also an Indian." And added: "Nudity is the Indians' soul." Maya also tanned her body artificially, shaved her eyebrows, and was naked in almost every scene she appeared on.
Maya talks with special tenderness about the sex scenes between Moatira and father Miguel, a man of God who had come to catechize the Indians. "Both seem like two kids having sex. And for Moatira, a priest is something that does not exist, he is just a man like any other.
With A Muralha Globo started the celebrations to commemorate the 500 years of Brazil. Although the saga based on a novel by Dinah Silveira de Queiroz about the colonization of Brazil during the 18th century is being called a miniseries, it should last 49 chapters. In the adaptation by Maria Adelaide do Amaral, the story was sent back one century and some new characters were created, like Dom Jerônimo Taveira, an inquisitor, interpreted by Tarcísio Meira.
Meira, is the eternal leading man of Brazilian soap. And he is taking as a gift the fact that to celebrate his 40 years on TV, for the fist time he will be playing a villain. The $7-million serial seems to be paying off. A Muralha premiered with 44 points in the Ibope when Globo was not expecting more than 25. Among all the other shows only Terra Nostra, the house's main novela, does this kind of business.
Daniel Filho, director of Central Globo de Criação (Globo Central of Creation) believes that to make a novela is less risky than a miniseries like A Muralha: "We have it all shot. If the public doesn't like it, there is no way to fix it. The long novela though can be altered according to the public's preference.
Marluce Dias da Silva, Globo's executive superintendent, showed advertisers meeting in São Paulo what her network has in store for them. Using a chapter of the Suave Veneno (Mild Poison) novela as an example, da Silva demonstrated how a person can click on an icon during the show, opening a window with information on the characters and the plot, but also options to buy what's being shown on the screen.
A click on the item "purchase" opens new windows revealing prices of clothes and accessories shown in the scene. Want to buy? There's nothing else to do, besides clicking "yes". At this phase, credit information and address will already be stored at Globo's main computer.
Da Silva, the strong woman at Globo and the real boss on the day-to-day functioning of the network, believes that Globo should invest in popular programs that have quality. For decades now, Globo has cultivated its self-proclaimed "Globo standard of quality." Defending Globo against those who accuse the network of lowering its level with the hiring of presenters who had made success elsewhere with prurient or camp shows, Marluce says that she is inspired by the author of Hamlet: "History has shown that only this kind of shows can be lasting. I usually take Shakespeare as a model." Uniting popular and quality can be tricky, she admits, adding: "We also need to work with the surprise factor, with enchantment."
Globo's executive superintendent seems to be well aware of her responsibility. After having read that 38 million Coca-Cola bottles are taken every day in the world she found out that some soap operas produced by Globo are seen daily by 130 million people around the world, from China and Russia to the United States. Marluce has assumed the command of Globo at the end of 1997 substituting José Bonifácio de Oliveira Sobrinho, better known as Boni, who is credited with the exceptional growth of the network and its so-called Globo standard of quality.
The superintendent and the network's directors haven't been sleeping that well for several months now, worried about the low rates of novelas. Andando nas Nuvens (Walking on Clouds), a recent novela, was supposed to get a 55 rate from Ibope (the Brazilian Nielsen) but averaged only 39. And the novela had been introduced to fight a decline in ratings. For Dênis Carvalho, the director of the novela, the main explanation is the country's situation with record unemployment and little hope of things getting better soon: "People are more interested in watching programs showing scenes of robberies and kidnappings than the romanticism with humor of my novela."
Andando nas Nuvens was a glamorization of Rio, whose image has been tattered in recent years by news of crimes and street kids. For starters, most of the characters lived or worked in the Urca neighborhood, one of the few areas in Rio were there is still plenty of green and where old houses have been preserved.
Globo has just premiered Esplendor (Splendor), a new soap. The show is being called summer novela. This has nothing to do with the content though, but with the format. The idea is to produce a short novela, with 72 chapters, instead of the standard 200 or more chapters that sometimes seem to drag on forever. Esplendor replaces Força de um Desejo (Might of a Desire), a well-written story that didn't please the public. Globo wanted it to get 35 Ibope points (roughly 35 million viewers), but it was getting around 24, even less than its predecessor at the same time slot, which was getting 28 points.
The first and only TV show on the years-long Yankee soap-opera style is Globo's Malhação (Working Out). The program has been aired since April 22, 1995. The idea is to show the adventures and development of a group of teens. The afternoon show has already had its share of controversy. Malhação was not even one month on the air when a judge fined the network for showing a 12-year old (Bruno de Lucca) in heavy petting with actress Juliana Martins.
More than a dozen directors and some 500 actors have already passed through the exercise academy. The show was live for sometime with people participating through the program homepage (http://www.malhacao.com.br) and during three years the soap used to develop a plot that would last five days and bring several guests.
The Good and the Ugly
Globo's standard of quality has its own fair share of mondo cane. The decades-old prime-time Sunday variety show Fantástico, for example, mixes shamelessly, breaking news, music clips, 60-minute-style accusatory pieces and plain exploitation stuff. These ingredients have made the program an unbeatable winner at its time slot. Having premiered on August 5, 1973, the Fantástico, also known as "Life's Show", still commands 32 points and a 46 percent share of TV sets turned on Sunday nights.
Globo has always been strong in humoristic programs. In the wake of the very successful Casseta & Planeta: Urgente! show, the broadcasting powerhouse is preparing a similar program made only by women. Their authors are well known due to Grelo Falante, a national humor magazine they edit. The risqué title of the publication plays with Grilo Falante (Talking Cricket, the way Walt Disney's Jiminy Cricket is known in Brazil) and the word grelo, which is slang for clitoris.
The Grelo Falante girls have already made some pilots of their ambiguously-named show, Garotas de Programa (Show Girls or Call Girls) but they are looking for a program with a rhythm that pleases Globo's brass. While Casseta & Planeta provokes plenty of laughs with its extremely politically incorrect show, its female counterparts still have to prove they can be funny over the airwaves. They are supposed to create their own territory, making fun of behavioral foibles and not invade Casseta's turf, which has used the so-called "lie journalism".
If everything works out, the Grelo Falante troupe will get a weekly show to follow the best watched program of Globo, the 8:55 PM novela. The Grelo Falante magazine was created two years ago by screenwriter Cláudia Vale with the help of Lucília de Assis, Cláudia Fontoura, Susana Abranches e Carmem Fronzel. The satiric magazine lampoons mainly women's publications and its diet of pieces to catch and keep men.
The Brazilian Constitution ratified in 1988, the country's seventh and latest charter, establishes in chapter 5, article 221, that TV broadcasters should respect ethical values, promote national and regional cultures, and give preference to educational, artistic, cultural, and informative programs. A federal decree from 1963 and still in force also determines that TV stations, a concession from the state, dedicate at least five hours weekly to educational programs.
A recent study, however, shows that these determinations are being heeded only by the educative channels. Most of the channels dedicate less than one hour a week to educational programs. An analysis of the programming show that the airwaves are filled mostly by entertainment shows, which take 18.4 percent of the time. Informative programs come in second, with 13.8 percent of the time, followed by films (10,6 percent), religious shows (8.2 percent), novelas and miniseries (7.3 percent), cartoons (7.1 percent), children shows (5.6 percent), sports (3.9 percent), and cultural programs(3.5 percent).
Show Goes On
For the ninth year in a row, Valéria Valenssa, has taken all her clothes off and dressed herself only in colorful paint stripes, to symbolize Carnaval at Globo and in great part Carnaval in Brazil. Naked and sambaing, she becomes then the nationally acclaimed Globeleza. Valenssa appears in mini promos spread throughout Globo's daily schedule swinging her vibrant nudity.
Hans Donner, the man in charge of special effects at Globo and the creator of Globeleza, loved his creation so much that he married her. Valenssa this year is also paying a tribute to the 500th anniversary of the Discovery of Brazil. The scene starts with the camera focused in her eyes where you can see a reflection of the arrival of the Portuguese tall ships. In the spots she appears with Indian paintings in the beginning and transforms herself in the end into a woman of the future.
After turning American Mr. Man unknown in the USinto a household name in Brazil, Fantástico, Globo's Sunday variety show, is now promoting a priest, Oscar González Quevedo. Mr. M had given himself the unsavory mission of revealing how magicians' tricks are performed. Padre Quevedo, a 69-year old Spanish Jesuit, who has not lost his thick accent after 41 years in Brazil, also adopted a mission: unmask all those who claim to have paranormal or supernatural powers. Quevedo is the founder of CLAP (Centro Latino-Americano de ParapsicologiaLatin American Center of Parapsychology).
"I am going to unmask the so-called paranormal frauds," the parapsychologist priest promises. His antics are drawing millions of viewers to Globo from 10:35 PM to 10:45, the time he appears on the screen. But he has also been lambasted by some critics for dealing with patent bogus cases like the one of an illiterate man who claimed to be possessed by the devil. In his first show Quevedo showed that broken lamps and glasses in a residence were not caused by spirits but by a woman who lived in the house and was able to trick everybody.
After novela Terra Nostra and the perennial market leader Jornal Nacional, the third most watched TV program in Brazil is Linha Direta (Direct Line), another Globo offering. The weekly show airs on Thursdays around 10 PM. In Brazil, most TV shows don't have a precise time, just an approximate one, which allows programmers to stretch or shorten the show depending on data from instant Ibope (Brazilian Nielsen) ratings from that network and the competition alike.
Linha Direta, with its mix of journalism and fiction, has been on the air since May 1999. It started as a response to more popular shows, like Ratinho on SBT, threatening Globo total dominance of the airwaves. Even the same ingredients are used: violence, police raids, and reconstitution of crime scenes. The show has been severely criticized for showing blood and bodies with bullets and knife perforations. Today the dose of realism has been lowered to more palatable levels.
Linha Direta is getting first-rate treatment, including a budget of $150,000 per show, more than double of the average price of a novela episode. In addition to the presentation of events that might include car crashes, car chases and explosions, the program includes comments by psychoanalysts, sociologists and other experts. Viewer participation is big, with 20,000 of them calling every week with denunciations and suggestions for topics. Thanks to this, dozens of criminals have already been jailed and two were killed in an ambush prepared by the police.
Globo might sometimes push the envelope, but not too much. Ten years ago, the novela Vale Tudo introduced Laís and Cecília, a couple of lesbians. The character didn't please the audience and soon Cecília was killed. Then again Leila and Rafaela appeared as lesbians in Torre de Babel. The public didn't like it and the novela author killed both of them when a shopping mall exploded.
Since the appearance of Xuxa in 1986she still has a weekly show on the weekendchildren programs on commercial TV seem to resume themselves to a sexy pretty young blonde playing and singing with the kids. Angel Mix on Globo, with blonde Angélica, is just the latest reincarnation of that type of show, which seems to be on its last leg.
Despite being leader of audience in the morning, Globo is not happy with the ratings Angel Mix are bringing. They fluctuate between 8 and 11 points. "Children evolved," says Roberto Oliveira, special projects director. "They demand more and are less passive. We need programs that match this new reality". "Globo TV has been imitated a lot. Everything became the same. We have to find a new personality," adds Ulysses Cruz, artistic coordinator for children's programs.
Along these lines, the sexy image of Angélica has been toned down. She has been wearing more long pants and less skimpy shorts. Themes like ecology will be presented and there is even a promise to bring more racial balance to these shows where Brazil appears as a European country where many people are blond with blue eyes when the reality is a nation in which half of its population is black.
Globo has been using the term edutainment for the new kids' shows they are planning. Until the end of the year the TV network intends to create five new shows in this area, including A Turma da Mônica (Monica's Gang) based on the popular cartoon characters created by Brazilian Maurício de Souza. A Turma da Mônica intends to introduce a series of new black characters to mingle with the famous white one like Mônica herself, Magali, Cebolinha, Cascão, Franjinha, and Chico Bento. Today, the only black character in that comic strip is Pelezinho.
Also being planned and a new version of Sítio do Pica-pau Amarelo (Yellow Woodpecker's Ranch), based on a classic child story by Monteiro LobatoBrazil's most loved child authorwith famous characters Narizinho, Pedrinho, Emília, Dona Benta, Tia Anastácia, and Visconde de Sabugosa.
On Your TV
Since the beginning of September people in the US can follow in real time everything Globo network shows in Brazil. Almost everything, since some movies and a few foreign productions could not be included in the package due to copyright. According to Globo, the launching of TV Globo Internacional was a big success, exceeding all expectations.
As pointed by Orlando Marques, director of Globo's International Division, "To reach 5,000 subscriber, it took BBC, for example, three months." In comparison, in two weeks, Globo had already signed up 5.780 people. The monthly subscription costs $19.99. The service is offered by Kelly Broadcasting Systems. After 100 days in the air, there were already 10,000 subscribers.
While official numbers talk about 600,000 Brazilians living in the US, Globo believes that the real numberwhen undocumented Brazilians are includedmight reach 1.2 million people. Other estimates suggest that the Brazilian population here is close to 3 million. For years Brazilians interested in following what was happening on TV Globo used to buy or rent tapes that were made in Brazil and marketed in New York. That could cost $30 or more a month.
Globo TV is just the most visible face of the Globo empire that among other assets has radio stations, daily newspapers (O Globo, Extra), a weekly magazine with almost 1 million copies (Época) besides several other general interest publication, a cable service (Globosat), a record company (Som Livre). The company has also plans to produce up to six films a year through the just-created Globo Filmes.
Globo is even building its own Disneyland, it's the Globopark that will be developed in Rio in conjunction with the state of Rio de Janeiro. The theme park, which should open its gates in 2003, is a $250 million project with capacity to receive 25,000 people a day. Its seven thematic areas will be inspired by Globo's programs, including humor, children and news shows. The most popular novelas, like Roque Santeiro and Selva de Pedra, will have a special place, naturally.