A telenovela (Spanish: [telenoˈβela]) is a limited-run serial dramatic programming popular in Latin American television programming. The word combines tele, short for televisión (Spanish) for television, and novela, a Spanish “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.
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.
Due to the similarities between the telenovela and the American soap opera, the telenovela format is also colloquially known as a “Spanish soap opera” in the United States.
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.