Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
In this year’s first and probably only TCA panel to be conducted in two languages, Cuban-born journalist Cristina Saralegui spoke passionately about leaving her Miami-based Spanish-language show for Univision, El Show de Cristina, after 21 years for a new weekly talk/variety show for Telemundo. The show launches in October in conjunction with National Latino Broadcasting’s The Cristina Channel, a radio network for Sirius XM. Unlike her previous program, the new show, Pa’Lante Con Cristina, which the star will host and executive produce, will make use of translators, subtitles, and whatever it takes to make the show accessible to both Spanish- and English-speaking viewers. “The show will be in Spanglish — in my home, my kids speak both, because I don’t think that you should lose a language,” says Saralegui. Although she made a point of thanking Univision for her 21 years on the air, she blasted its Spanish-only policy when it comes to subtitles, comparing it to the barriers against Latino talent crossing over into the U.S. mainstream. “You do exactly the same thing,” she said of Univision. “Telemundo doesn’t do that. They know better, I’m so happy.”
Her cross-cultural goal? “To have Tom Cruise jumping on my couch, and to introduce my chickens to the (English-speaking) market.” She added that she doesn’t think that a star having a new project to pitch is a good reason to put that star on the air. Her stories, she said, come when a celebrity “has a fight, goes to jail, their mother dies — calls to say: ‘Can I go on your show?’ And I say, ‘You’re on.’ “
With Telemundo senior EVP Joshua Mintz at her side, Saralegui said she was “grateful” to Univision, but it was clear she disagreed with management about the direction of her show. “I left because the upper-echelon management changed … they wanted to give, according to the network, a younger image.” The grandmother of two insisted that this did not mean her age — 63 — but the traditional style of her show. “It’s their network, it’s their job. Basically, they offered me specials. I don’t think you do that to a person like me,” she said. The network, she added, had told her that they wanted to give the show a new look. “I said I’ll think about it, and I’ll get back to you. And boy, did I think about it. And I’m here,” she said.
However, in her own version of age discrimination, Saralegui said that American soaps can’t compete with Spanish-language telenovelas because they lack the latter’s youth appeal and snappy pacing. “It’s too dragged out, you can’t have a soap for 30 years. It bores people,” she said.