A month after Puerto Rico's most popular TV show SuperXclusivo crumbled under allegations of homophobia, WAPA TV, the network that aired the gossip show, has launched a brand new program in the same time slot to replace it, called "Lo Sé Todo" (I Know Everything).
The network hopes it can separate the new show, which premiered on Monday evening, from the controversy and boycott that brought an end to La Comay -- the polarizing puppet, voiced by TV-personality "Kobbo" Santarrosa.
"We're on another level. It's over, the controversy is over, we're in a new era, starting a new chapter, and we want to focus on the future, not on our past," said Frankie Jay, one of five announced cast members on the new show, speaking in Spanish. He says his castmates -- including Rocky "The Kid," Jessica Serrano, Carlos "Topy" Mamery, and Sylvia Hernandez -- are doing their best to create an entirely different show from "SuperXclusivo."
Jay and co-host Rocky "The Kid" are longtime radio personalities on the island and Sylvia Hernandez and Jessica Serrano are both former investigators for "SupeXclusivo." The fifth cast member is former broadcasting executive "Topy" Mamery, who manages the career of his wife, singer Yolandita Monge. Both Mamery and Monge, who together co-host the Idol Puerto Rico singing competition, were outspoken critics of "SuperXclusivo" and Santarrosa.
"A year ago, this would've been a crazy concept," Mamery told El Nuevo Diaabout the fact that he now occupies the timeslot of Santarrosa. "I didn't come to substitute the show ["SuperXclusivo"] nor Santarrosa. This is an evolution that we're seeing in television."
But some can't help but see the similarities between "Lo Sé Todo," which was in production for about a month, and its forbearer. Many of the cast members met on the set of the old show, and the new show shares the same producer, Maximiliano Paglia, as its predecessor. Even some of the dramatic sound effects seem like they may have been recycled.
The new show is also a gossip and news entity with an "investigative" element, much like SuperXclusivo. On their first show, cast members conducted drug tests with Puerto Rican politicians and spent over six minutes revealing the test results while tense music heightened the suspense (Spoiler alert: they all passed.)
Still, WAPA TV hopes "Lo Sé Todo" will strike a new tone and even attract a different kind of audience by showcasing a lively ensemble cast and integrating social media elements and reactions into the production process.
President of WAPA TV, Jose E. Ramos, says the company is "pleased with the results."
"We want to emphasize that 'Lo Se Todo' is not an extension of 'SuperXclusivo.' Though we've maintained some of the positive elements we know our audience likes, 'Lo Se Todo' is completely new, original and unique," he wrote in an email. "The chemistry, content and overall on-air look surpassed our expectations for the first show. It beat all competition in the key advertising demographic of Adults 18-49, and the audience grew in the second half hour."
Despite WAPA TV's excitement with the show, to date, social media has been notably unsupportive of the idea. The majority of comments on their first episode clips and Facebook page are either critical of the new show, or contain pleas for WAPA TV to bring back La Comay. But Jay says he doesn't let hateful comments get him down.
"I've been in media for 37 years and I really don't care what people who come with ill intentions to criticize us have to say," Jay said in Spanish. "My job is to try to get better in my job every day, and that's why we have such a great team, to do exactly that."
After losing the ad dollars from dozens of corporations during the La Comay scandal last month, WAPA TV's president says the new team is working hard to prove the show can be a leader in the Puerto Rican market.
"Of course all advertisers want to see performance, but we're very excited about the show's potential and are confident it will perform well as it continues to develop. We're also looking forward to bringing in new advertisers who were reluctant to advertise with 'SuperXclusivo' when it was on the air," he wrote in an email.
Ramos also noted that his network had learned some lessons with the end of La Comay, and hopes to not repeat the same mistakes.
"Because of things that had been said in the past on 'SuperXclusivo,' WAPA now enforces a strict tolerance policy for all of its programs," he wrote, "for which management and production receive special training and education."