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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Spanish audiences glued to soap
General Franco at the Great Victory Parade, Madrid, 1939
Gen Franco ruled over Spain for almost half a century
A soap opera called Cuentame Como Paso (meaning Tell Me How It Was), has become essential TV viewing for many Spanish families.

A family saga, set in the time of the fascist dictator General Franco, it tells the stories of everyday folk who live under strict rule.

Whilst this may seem like an odd setting for a drama, audiences have lapped it up.

"It's a revelation," a TV critic from El Mundo newspaper told BBC World Service.

"It's so real that we can see it as if we are living through it also."

Freedom

Fans of the nostalgic hit soap have described Cuentame Como Paso as "an education" and "a social phenomenon".

Set in the 1960s, the series follows the fortunes of the Alcantara family - Antonio and Mercedes, their children aged 20, 18 and eight and their grandmother Herminia.

Postcards from Spain
The soap shows how tourism widened Spanish culture
Part of the show's appeal, Ana Porto, TV editor of the El Mundo newspaper told the Arts in Action programme, lies in its ability to bridge the generation gap.

"The big revelation for the young people is now we live a free and modern life."

"But our grandparent lived such different lives. It's incredible to see that they didn't have enough food, they didn't have freedom and they couldn't read whatever they want."

Struggle

Meticulous set re-creations have led critics to herald the series as "a revolution".

"It is so well reproduced," Ms Porto said.

"The houses, the way of life, the way of speaking, everything is so real and people can say that they were there."

Unlike glossy American soaps, this saga also tells of the poverty and boredom that many families faced as they struggled under the dictatorship.

Using digital technology, the makers mixed present day scenes with archive footage.

The resulting drama weaves colour and monochrome footage together to create a sense of history.

"It reflects where we Spaniards come from, our immediate history and what that period was like," director Tito Fernandez said.

"It is important that people know".

Culture

So popular has Cuentame Como Paso become that filming has already begun on another 32 episodes, bringing the drama towards the present day.

According to Jennifer Green of Screen International, further installments of the soap will provide useful lessons in the country's cultural and social history.

"Young people who watch the show say that it is the first time that they have seen certain appliances, clothes or difference aspects of design," she explained.

"It represents how in the late 1960s a burgeoning middle class and growing tourism into Spain, really opened Spaniards up to culture and climates outside of Spain."

The series, she added, was giving popular television programmes a good name as it tackled issues "in a light-hearted way, but also in a serious way".

See also:

18 Nov 00 | Europe
20 Nov 00 | Media reports
18 Jul 02 | Europe
23 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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