Telenovelas VS Soap Operas

What is a Soap Opera?

A Soap Opera is a series of drama that is either broadcasted through the TV or Radio. A soap opera normally involves storylines dealing with the lives of individual characters and they normally involve around emotional relationships. Soap operas are more popular all around, especially in the United States, as well as in the United Kingdom, Australia and other countries around Europe.

What is a Telenovela?

A Telenovela is also a series of drama that is only broadcasted through television, and it mainly focuses on the relationship between romantic couples. They are all produced and aired in Latin American countries such as in; Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and in Spain.

Both Soap Operas and Telenovelas share some characteristic although they are different from each other. Here is are some examples to show how they are different:



There are many differences between telenovelas and soap operas, for example, telenovelas have a number of episodes per season, therefore the plot must have a beginning, middle, and end. Whereas a soap has no conclusion, no ending and they can air for a long time. One example of this would be; El señor de Los Cielos. This telenovela has had 4 seasons so far with an overall of 342 episode, which means that the first season had 72 episodes, the second 84, the third 104 and finally the fourth 80 episodes, which also shows that each season has been aired each year from 2013 until 2016. Whereas a soap opera such as EastEnders has been aired since 1985.

Most Telenovelas normally have from around 180 to 200 hundred episodes which may vary depending on the successful ratings of the Telenovela. One example of this is would be; La Hija De Mariachi.


There are two versions of La Hija De Mariachi, but both versions share the same plot, script, and actors. The reason for this is because the telenovela was so successful in Colombia and that they decided to record 24 more episodes, whereas in the US and Chilean version did not have that much success so, therefore, had only 124 episodes.

 Air Times

Telenovelas and Soap Operas have different air times. For example, Telenovelas are aired from Monday to Fridays at the same time every day for up to 6 months depending on how many episodes it has. Whereas Soap operas are aired during daytime hours, when viewers may be at work.

Click on the picture below to see the stars of  Telemundo talk about “all you need to know about Telenovelas” on




Top 10 Telenovelas You Should Watch!

  1. El Señor de Los Cielos (The lord of the skies)


El señor de Los Cielos (The lord of the skies) is a fictional story inspired by true events. It is based on the Drug lord Amado Fuentes and his journey to becoming the biggest drug lord in Mexico back in the 1990s.

Created by: Luis Zelkowic
Genre: Action Drama
Written by: Juan Camilo Ferrand, Andrés Lopez (original novel)
Directed by Danny Gavidia, Walter Doehner, Jose Luis Garcia Agraz, Carlos Villegas
Country of origin: United States
Original language: Spanish/English
Number of seasons: 4
Original Release: April 15, 2013- Present


2. El Cartel de Los Sapos (The Cartel of Snitches)


El cartel de Los Sapos (The Cartel of Snitches) is based on the novel by a former drug dealer Andrés López López. The series is based on his experience on being in the Cali Cartel, also known as the Norte del Valle Cartel.

Also, know as El Cartel
Genre: Action Drama
Written by: Juan Camilo Ferrand, Andrés Lopez (original novel)
Directed by: Luis Alberto Restrepo
Country of origin: Colombia
Original language: Spanish
Number of seasons: 2
Original Release: June 4 2008-October 21 2008


3. La Reina del Sur (The Queen of the South)


La Reina del Sur (The Queen of the South) is based on a novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte. It is about the rise of a young woman from Mexico, Teresa Mendoza who became the most powerful drug trafficker in Spain.

Genre: Drama
Created by: Nicolas Casrañares
Based on: La Reina del Sur by Arturo Perez Perez
Written by: Valentina Parraga, Juan Marcos Blanco, Roberto Stopello
Directed by: Mauricio Cruz, Walter Doehner
Country of origin: Spain, United States, Colombia and Mexico
Original languages: Spanish
Number of episodes: 63


4. Las Muñecas de la Mafia (The Mafia Dolls)


Las Muñecas de la Mafia is based on a book by Juan Camilo Ferrand and Andres Lopez. It follows the story of five friends; Brenda, Olivia, Violeta, Renata and Pamela and how they became involved with Drug Lord in Colombia.

Genre: Drama
Country of origin: Colombia
Languages: Spanish
Number of episodes: 58
Original release: May 3, 2010- July 12, 2010


5. La Hija del Mariachi


La Hija del Mariachi is a fictional love story about a wealthy man who is running from the law ends up one night at Plaza Garibaldi, a mariachi bar where he meets Rosario Guerrero and ends up falling in love.


6. La niña (The girl)


La Niña is also based on real life events as it follows the story of a young girl who was captured by the guerrilla when she was only 8 years old and was forced to leave home. Throughout the years with the Guerrilla she experienced the horror of war, but soon manages to escape from them, and embark on a journey to return to society where she faces many challenges in the process of becoming someone important to the community by speaking out on behalf all of the children who are captured by the Guerrilla.

Genre: Drama
Created by: Juana Uribe
Written by: Yamile Daza, Diego Osorio, Ricardo Aponte, Leonardo Sardi
Directed by: Camilo Vego and Rodrigo Triana
Country of Origin: Colombia
Language: Spanish
Number of episodes: 86

Original release: April 26th, 2016- September 16th, 2016


7. El Capo


El Capo is based on a fictional drug Lord character named Pedro Pablo Leon Jaramillo, who manages to maintain a low profile while leading a drug cartel in Colombia. He does this by keeping his family and friends in the dark, which has allowed him to become successful in the business, as they do not know that he is a dangerous but powerful drug Lord.

Written by: Gustavo Bolívar M.
Directed by : Riccardo Gabrielli R., Lilo Vilaplana
Genre: Drama
Country of Origin: Colombia
Language: Spanish
Number of seasons: 3
Number of Episodes: 223


8. A Mano Limpia 


A Mano Limpia is a Colombian Telenovela produced by RCN Television. It is about a young man named Manuel Guerra, also know as El Leon (Lion), who comes back to his old neighborhood after spending five years in prison for accidently killing someone in a street fight. Manuel Guerra comes back as changed man and determined to win back the trust of his family and his neighborhood and in the process of doing so, he falls in love.


Directed by: Luis Orjuera
Genre: Drama
Country of Origin: Colombia
Language: Spanish
Number of seasons: 2
Number of Episodes: 186


9.  Corazon Indomable (Wild at Heart) 


Corazon Indomable (Wild at Heart) is a Mexican telenovela produced by Televisa. It is a fictional story about a young woman who lives in the countryside with her grandfather and deaf sister who falls in love with the owner of the ranch near where she lives.

Created by: Inés Rodena
Written by: Carlos Romero, Tere Medina, Julio Garibay
Directed by: Víctor Fouilloux, Victor Rodriguez
Country of origin: Mexico
Original languages: Spanish, English
Number of episodes:161
Original release: February 25 – October 6, 2013


10.  Mama Tambien 


Mama Tambien is a Colombian telenovela about a group of adolescents from a different social class who have one thing in common, the difficult reality of unplanned pregnancy. Together they must face the difficult challenge of becoming teen parents.

Country of origin: Colombia
Original languages: Spanish
Number of episodes:150



Top 5 Genres in Telenovelas


Here is a list of all the Romantic Telenovelas that were so popular within the latin audience:

  • Tierra de Reyes (2014)
  • Soy Tu Dueña (2010)
  • Alla te Espero (2012)
  • Destilando Amor (2007)
  • Pasion de Gavilanes (2004)
  • Pura Sangre (2016)


One thing that all of these telenovelas have in common is that they all have a Happy Ending, which is one of the reasons why the audience watch it, especially the female audience. People tend to like a happy ending where the couple in the storyline end up getting married at the end. Also what they like about this genre is that they know how it will end but they still watch it as it is a way of being entertained.




Here is a list of all the comedian Telenovelas that were so popular within the latin audience:

  • Betty la Fea (2001)
  • Los Reyes (2005)
  • Pobre Ricos (2013)
  • Una Familia Con Suerte (2011)
  • Made in Cartagena (2012)
  • El Man es German (2010)


One of the reasons why people tend to watch telenovelas within this particular genre is because it is suitable for audiences of all ages. It helps bring the family together. Also, it has been said that it helps reduce a level of stress. For example, if you come home from work and sit down to watch a funny episode of their favorite telenovela you will instantly feel better as you forget all of your worries.

One of most successful telenovela of this genre: Comedy is “Yo Soy Betty La Fea (I am Ugly Betty)”, which was produced by RCN a Colombian Network. It was so successful that the United States produced its own version of the telenovela Ugly Betty.


3.Teen Drama

Here is a list of all the Teen Drama Telenovelas aimed at teenagers:

  • Rebelde (2006)
  • A Mano Limpia (2010)
  • Mama Tambien (2013)

One of the things that I like most about teen dramas Telenovelas is the way that they portray the lives of high school teenagers in Latin America and their issues coming-of-age topics that most teenager watching them can relate too.


For example, Rebelde (Rebel) is a telenovela about a group of teenagers who attend a prestigious private boarding high school in Mexico City where they have to face many challenges while forming a pop band. The series was so successful among teenagers that the actual band named RBD went touring internationally.



Here is a list of all the Historical Telenovelas that were so popular within the latin audience:

  • La Pola (2010)
  • La Ronca de Oro (2014)
  • Hermanitas Calle (2016)
  • Esclava Blanca (2016)
  • La Niña (2016)

Another genre of Telenovelas that is so popular withing the audiences are the Historical Telenovelas, which are set in the past, such as in the colonial period. One of the reasons why people tend to watch these types of telenovelas are because it is a way of getting educated and learn about the important events that happened in the past.


One example of a historical telenovela is  La Esclava Blanca (The white slave) which is about slavery. La Esclava Blanca is telenovela that shows the era of slavery in Colombia back in the 19th century. It tells the story of a white slave named Victoria who was raised by slaves who she considers them to be her family after her biological family died in a house fire. After witnessing how her family is treated she seeks justice and manages to free her family from slavery.



Here is a list of all the Narconovelas Telenovelas that were so popular within the latin audience:

  • El cartel de Los Sapos (2008)
  • La Reina del Sur (2011)
  • Las Muñecas de la Mafia (2010)
  • El Señor de Los Cielos (2013)
  • Pablo Escobar (2012)

Why are audiences captivated by Narconovelas?
One of the reasons why the audience enjoys watching Narconovelas is because the audience are attracted to the real life events that happened during that era where drug manufacturing was happening the most so, therefore, they are intrigued to see where the storyline will take them, which creates an adrenaline rush for the audience, as they are left guessing what is going to happen in the next episode. For example, the audience are intrigued to see if the bad guy will get caught or who will die next etc.


According to Nelson Martinez, an executive producer for El Cappo states that: “Colombia has always been the audiovisual mecca on this continent. Our dramas stand out from other producers in Latin America. It’s amazing how an anti-hero like a narco-trafficker captivates audiences – he is at once complex yet human and that’s why people fall in love with him.”




Top 4 Things That Happens on Every Telenovela

1. Love Triangle 

In almost every telenovela, there is always a love triangle involved. A love triangle normally involves three people romantically linked, whether two guys are after one girl or the other way around. One example of a telenovela that involves a love triangle is Dos Mujeres, un Camino (Two women, one path).


Dos Mujeres, un Camino is a Mexican Telenovela produced by Televisa in 1993. The telenovela is about a truck driver named Jhonny who falls in love with a waitress while traveling and together they start a romantic relationship, but she does not know that he is a married man.

2. A poor girl gets rich 

Another typical plot that tends to happen in Telenovelas is that a poor girl ends up getting rich at the end of the story. This can either happen because she ends up marrying a rich guy or her parents are rich and she does not know it as she was taken away from home when she was just a baby. Either way, the girl always has a happy ending. One example of a telenovela where the girl becomes rich is Corazon Indomable (Wild at Heart).


Corazon Indomable ( Wild at Heart) is about a young girl who after the death of her grandfather moves into the capital city of Mexico with her deaf sister and starts working as a maid in a mansion where her father lives, although she does not know this and neither does he.


3. The rich guy falls in Love with the poor girl 

One thing that Mexican Telenovelas tend to portray a lot is the social class exploitation, where the rich guy falls in love with the poor girl eg; the maid.


Destilando Amor (Distilling Love) is typical Mexican Telenovela where the rich guy falls in love with the ‘poor’ girl.

4. There is always a Villain 

In every telenovela, there must alway be a Villain in order to keep the audience hooked. One example of the best Villain in Mexican Telenovelas is Cuna de Lobos (Cradle of Wolves).


Cuna de Lobos (Cradle of Wolves) is about a horrible woman who’s desired is to keep her family wealth by committing a series of crimes including abduction and murder, in order to stay in power.


Netflix- Narcos


Narcos is a series created by Netflix, which tells the story of one of the biggest drug lords in Colombia, Pablo Escobar.  Overall the series has had 2 seasons so far. Season 1 starts from the beginning of Pablo Escobar life and how he become a drug lord back in the 1970s. It shows the main events that happened during the period that Pablo Escobar was in power. Although the story is told from the perspective of an American DEA Agent Steve Murphy who was working in Colombia.


As a Native Spanish speaker, one thing that I do not like about the Netflix series Narcos is the different accents that each character has, which therefore does not make the series authentic and realistic. For example, the actor Warner Moura, who plays the Colombian drug lord is, in fact, Brazilian which therefore doesn’t really portray  Pablo Escobar very well, as the accent is very important as he had the Paisa accent .  Furthermore, Paulina Gaitán the actor who played Pablo’s wife is, in fact, Mexican and therefore had the Mexican accent.  To a non-native speaker, the accents may not be a huge deal to them as they do not know how to distinguish the different Colombian accents as they only read the subtitles on screen.

Another thing that I dislike about the series is how they portrayed Pablo Escobar in a negative way. It is true that Pablo was one of the biggest and most dangerous drug lords there ever was in Colombia and caused a lot of damage, but he also helped a lot of innocent people who lived in poverty. One of the reasons why Pablo helped his community was because he was born into a poor household and therefore did not have the opportunity to finish his education which is why he went into the business of manufacturing and smuggling drugs.
People often do not talk about the good side of Pablo Escobar as he is always portrayed in a bad way. Pablo was always willing to help his people by sharing his money and wealth with his community, by providing shelter and jobs for those who needed it. In his hometown, Pablo was often referred to as “The Godfather’ by the people. During his lifetime Pablo managed to construct housing project for people to live in. He also funded the Colombian soccer team and leagues, build churches, schools, and hospitals across the country, which showed how much he did for his country.


Although the Netflix version of Narcos does not show this side of Pablo Escobar, as it is only shown from the perspective side of the American DEA Agent Steve Murphy. According to, Pablo Escobar’s son states that the Netflix show Narcos is insulting as it has historical errors in the actual events that happened.