By Mark Taylor

Those who’ve watched the BBC’s comedy programme The Fast Show, which consists of rapid fire comedy sketches hence the name, will be familiar with the sketches about Channel Nuevo”. For those who haven’t seen it, “Channel Nuevo” is a series of sketches about a non-specific TV channel, set somewhere hot and sunny (South or Central America, or even Spain perhaps) and involves low productions values, scantily clad women, peculiar devices for sale, weather reports that are always “scorchio!” (hot!), and regular breaks to salute El Presidente! This sketch often comes to mind for me when watching Brazilian TV, at least it did when I first started watching.

Of course it’s a comedic stereotype, although pretty much all the Brazilian TV channels are not surprisingly struggling with low production values. But it’s not uncommon to see scantily clad women (usually in the background of a less scantily clad male presenter), and it’s also common to see various items (some a little strange) being sold at various hours on some channels. No saluting El Presidente though, at least not any more.

So aside from the stereotypes how is Brazilian TV characterised and how does it differ from TV in other countries? To start with, in Brazil there are several major television networks, such as Globo. Globo essentially has two channels, one traditional and one for news. The remaining channels can be a peculiar mix, such as those related to Evangelical Christianity, or others such as the Rural Channel where it seems to be 24/7 cow auctions.

Like any country, Brazil has its popular programmes, but these can be markedly different from other countries. One popular style of programme runs an entire afternoon during the weekend, and are designed as entertainment for all the family e.g. “Faustão” or “Caldeirão do Huck” (Huck’s Cauldron). The programmes are headed up by very well paid and famous celebrities, and are often a mix of quizzes, celebrity interviews, and popular music. Another peculiar favorite is a late night programme called “Ratinho” (Little Rat) referring again to the nickname of the male presenter who heads up the programme. It’s a mix of surreal and slapstick comedy, jokes, sometimes mixed up with political comment coming from Ratinho, usually to lascivious applause from the audience. One programme that is recommended, and an unusual and intelligent departure from some of the former, is Fantastico, if your Portuguese is up to it. Showing Sunday evening on Globo’s channel, it’s a news magazine programme covering both national and international items which are presented in relatively quick succession with often incisive reporting and interesting stories, more so than most if not all similar programmes I remember from the UK. The news programmes here as well are generally quite good, and aside from the national news are often internationally focused.

A group of programmes that aren’t markedly different, and would be hard to miss after just a few hours of channel surfing, are the “Novelas”, namely soap operas. These couldn’t be absent from a discussion of Brazilian TV. These are produced in an almost factory-like regularity from the likes of Globo, and like Mexican soap operas are famed around the world (for soap opera fans of course). A large number of Brazilians will be sitting in front of their TV at the appointed time, 5 days a week for some of the more popular soap operas, to try and catch up on the latest goings on. Soap operas can be lavish affairs, and are increasingly lavish often in the first few episodes. The recent soap opera “Senhora do Destino” featured an opening recreation of 60s Brazil, including sets, cars etc. all done to great effect. Then the story moved to present day and it became somewhat more normal and similar to its predecessors. There’s a cadre of celebrity actors and actresses who will move from one soap opera to the next, often reprising similar types of roles.

So if your Portuguese is up to it, and you want to while away a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, then you might want to tune into Caldeirão do Huck or Faustão. If you are missing your country of origin’s soap opera(s), then perhaps you can cure the absence with a dose of say Belissima. For some decent comedy try Casseta Planeta, or if you want something a little more intellectual then try tuning into Fantastico.

I should add that my experience is based on the typical viewing of a lower to middle class Brazilian family, namely my in-laws that I stayed with for over a year. I’m sure experiences will vary, and there are many channels out there to be surfed and explored.

What programmes do you enjoy watching on TV in Brazil? Send me an email and I’ll add your comment to the article.

Reader’s Comments:

…you forgot, in your article about Brazilian TV, to mention Jo Soares, TV Globo, every night from Monday to Friday, one of the best talk shows on Brazilian TV, well, at least, I think so.
— Mailha

Hi, Mark, liked your article. One correction about ‘The Fast Show’ – it’s called ‘Chanel 9’ (‘pronounced ‘shanel nain’). It’s more likely to be set in a southern European country than a Latin American one, as it is frighteningly similar to Spain’s TVE and Italy’s RAI.

I’ve watched bits of Record TV on satellite in the UK, and it’s nice to be able to see telenovelas in the original Portuguese (growing up in Southeast Asia I’ve seen them dubbed in Chinese, Malay and Indonesian!)

I haven’t been to Brazil yet, but know that it ain’t like Portugal, where people will offer to speak in English if you can’t understand them. That said, at least Brazilians actually pronounce vowels, which makes listening comprehension so much easier.


— Ken

Previous articles by Mark Taylor:

Brazil: Ubatuba
Brazil: Professional Children
Brazil: We deliver… everything!
Brazil: Terrao Itlia
Brazil: A Layman’s Carnival Guide
Brazil: Portunglish or Engluguese?
Brazil: Feira Food
Brazil: Bilhete Unico flexibility increases
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: U2 Ticket Chaos
Brazil: Finding Work
Brazil: Termites
Brazil: Queues, Queues, Queues
Brazil: Let’s Go Fly a Kite!
Brazil… the Film That Is
Brazil: The Bus to Nowhere
Brazil: Piracy
Brazil: Gestures
Brazil: Proclamation of the Republic
Brazilian Film Review
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Finados (Day of the Dead)
Interjections, exclamations and onomatopoeia in Brazilian Portuguese
Brazil: Halloween
Brazil says “No” to banning firearms
Brazil Humour: Phone Etiquette
Brazil’s Gun Referendum
Brazil: Scams
Brazil: Moby Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 5
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 4
Brazil: Avril Lavigne at Pacaembu
Moby in Brazil
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 3
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 2
Brazilian Film Review
Brazil: Keeping in touch via the Internet – Part 1
Brazil: First season of Lost repeated on AXN

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