Television has a huge influence on almost all facets of Brazilian
culture and society. Televised programs are usually a favorite conversation
topic at work, home, or school. Television is also a very important
information resource for Brazilians of every socio-economic level.
People of all socio-economical backgrounds refer to the latest news
broadcasted in the daily newscast “Jornal Nacional",
or talk about the intricacies of the telenovela's plots. The expansion
of the audience also increased the demand for telenovelas. The rise
of telenovelas was the result of the romantic, melodramatic themes'
public appeal, in combination with lower production costs. TV executives
realized that telenovelas were cheaper to produce than the more
elaborate production of the teleteatros (Straubhaar, 1982; Reis,
The soap companies, not diverging from the American experience,
introduced the daily soap opera, or the “telenovela diária”,
in Brazil. Because TV stations were dependent upon the advertising
sponsors, soap companies had the power to dictate the format of
the programs, and the melodramatic tendencies such as their style
(Ortiz et al., 1991).
The first daily soap opera to air in Brazil was "2-5499 Ocupado"
("2-5499 Busy"), on July 1963, on the seven p.m. time
slot. The story was adapted from an Argentine production, by Dulce
Santucci, who had only written for radio before (Mattelart&
Mattelart, 1990). "2-5499 Ocupado" was the story of a
convicted woman (Glória Menezes), working as a telephone
operator in the prison where she was serving her sentence. On the
other side of the line, happens to be a man (Tarcísio Meira)
that falls in love with her through her voice, without realizing
her real situation (Fernandes, 1994). A husband and wife team in
real life, Tarcísio and Glória are icons of Brazilian
novelas. They starred as the leading couple in many telenovela productions.
"2-5499" was sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive and even though
it was not a huge success at the time, it blazed the trail for other
telenovelas, which would become the most successful type of TV programming
in Brazil (Fernandes, 1994).
The melodramatic formula, inherited from the early newspaper serials
(feuilletons), marked the initial phase of telenovela productions.
During this time, imports from Argentina, Cuba, and Mexico dominated
the market (Vink, 1988, Mattelart & Mattelart, 1990). The dramas
were filled with stories of forbidden love, family relationships,
and unknown paternity/maternity conflicts. These well-known themes
of love and family struggles attracted the audience, which in turn
started to form the habit of watching their daily soaps. The adaptation
of foreign scripts was initially limited to translations; however,
the originals started to be injected with Brazilian themes, making
it easier for the audience to identify with the stories (Ortiz et
al., 1991). The first successful telenovela was an adaptation of
an Argentine script, written by Ivani Ribeiro, who exercised her
creative freedom to modify the story to Brazilian taste (Fernandes,
While some authors had the preoccupation to make sure their stories
had a local flavor, Cuban scriptwriter Gloria Magadán had
a different opinion of what a successful telenovela should be. Gloria
Magadán was in charge of telenovela productions for the Brazilian
television station TV Globo until 1969. She favored melodramatic
stories that were set in exotic countries, like Morocco, Spain,
Japan or Russia (Mattelart & Mattelart, 1990). Magadán
remained loyal to the Cuban tradition of radio and telenovelas to
remove the plot as far away as possible from national references.
However, her influence in the creation of Brazilian telenovelas
cannot be dismissed. She started a series of innovative practices,
including testing the audience using surveys, to assess the acceptance
of the plots, a practice that was carried over through the years