In the early 1970s, Miguel Sabido created a new genre for the Mexican television conglomerate Televisa. It was the entertainment-education soap opera, a cross between the traditional Latin American melodrama and an educational program promoting social development. Between 1975 and 1981, Televisa broadcast six Sabido-designed entertainment soap operas in Mexico, and since 1984 Sabido’s approach to their creation, content, and effectiveness has directly influenced similar efforts elsewhere in the Third World. Heidi Noel Nariman, the international information manager at Televisa, presents here the intellectual foundation of Sabido’s ideas, the means by which others have evaluated those ideas, and the lessons learned from his entertainment-education strategy. The volume only briefly sketches the plots of the six programs and describes only in very general terms their genesis, casting, production, and broadcast history.

Sabido accepts the same production techniques used in conventional soap operas, but he transforms them into subtle vehicles for reformist educational messages, such as adult literacy and family planning, guided by quite different communication and behavior theories. Basically, he applies five theoretical doctrines: Claude Shannon’s mathematical theory of communication, Eric Bentley’s dramatic theory, Carl Jung’s archetypes, Albert Bandura’s ideas on social learning, and Paul MacLean’s concept of the triune brain. In addition to these specialized theories, Sabido is guided by more pragmatic and immediate concerns that are essential for creating a successful television program: the nature of the message to be conveyed, the role of television in society, the available public infrastructure for realizing the advocated social goals, television’s existing infrastructure, the formal requirements of a soap opera, the expected composition of the audience, the composition and commitment of the production team, the artistic and technical vision of the producer, the script-development process, and the need for effective epilogues.

How effective were the six programs? According to data assembled by Televisa’s research department, the positive commercial, behavioral, and macrosocial effects of entertainment-educational soap operas can be demonstrated and are considerable. These programs can compete with traditional soaps, and in the same time slots. The audience perceives the incorporated reformist information, and many viewers positively alter their behavior.

Latin American serial television fiction has begun to receive serious scholarly attention. Nariman’s volume is a useful addition to this emerging literature and the first in-depth look at entertainment-education soap operas. It will also provide a handy guide for many television producers in the Third World who have heard of Sabido’s theories and opus and who may well wish to emulate him.