Friday, November 2, 2012

Old School Lane's Nickelodeon Tribute: Taina

It's the year 2001. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings, Monsters Inc., and Shrek debuted in theaters. Disney's House of Mouse, Fear Factor, The Weakest Link, and Six Feet Under were released on TV. With the surgence of shows for Hispanics on Nickelodeon such as The Brothers Garcia and Dora the Explorer, Nickelodeon decided to create another one. That show is the TeenNick sitcom called Taina and it debuted on January 14, 2001.

The show was about a Puerto Rican teenage girl named Taina Morales (played by Christina Vidal) attending the Manhattan High School of the Performing Arts so that she can obtain her dream of being an actress and singer. She goes to the school alongside her friends Renee, Lamar, and Daniel. Renee Jones (played by Khaliah Adams) is Taina's wacky best friend. She's attending the school so that she can pursume her dream of being a comedienne. Lamar Johnson (played by Chris Knowings) is attending the school so he can be a journalist. He is the editor of the school newspaper and has a huge crush on Taina. Daniel McDaniel (played by David Oliver Cohen) is attending the school so he can be a musician. He and Lamar are best friends and get themselves in crazy situations together. We also are introduced to Taina's family consisting of her mother (played by Lisa Velez), father (played by Josh Cruze), younger brother (played by Brandon Iglesias in Season 1 and Jacob Urrutia in Season 2), and grandfather (played by Manolo Villaverde), a hangout cafe called Papito's owned by a man named Papito (played by Ruben Rabassa), and Taina's rival Maritza Hogg (played by LaTangela Newsome).

In every episode, Taina, Renee, Lamar, and Daniel get themselves into crazy situations while trying to accomplish their dreams. Also in the mix, there's representing your culture when it comes to Taina and her family. In moments in which Taina would get in trouble or has doubts about her acting and singing ability, her mother and her grandfather give her advice to never forget where she comes from. In one episode when Taina's mother tells her briefly about being a little girl from Puerto Rico coming to America without knowing how to speak English and struggling to adapt, she tells Taina "You're a Latina. You have strong blood."

The show was created by Maria Perez-Brown, one of the co-creators of the Nick Jr. program Gullah Gullah Island and executive producer of The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo and The Big Help. She wanted to create a show that focused on the Puerto Rican culture while at the same time the culture that is outside New York City. She was inspired by a life she would have liked to have when she was a teenager, her "fantasy experiences". She also intended to break a large amount of Spanish stereotypes that was portrayed on TV at the time such as everyone speaking only Spanish and the family members being very stupid. In Taina's case, only the grandfather has a Puerto Rican accent since he is the only one who was born and raised in Puerto Rico and the mother is very smart and liberal. At the time, Taina was a bit risky to be released on TV since the majority of the shows had either a Black or a White cast and the Latinas were casted as minor characters. Perez-Brown decided to do something different and casted Latinas in a very realistic way like The Brothers Garcia did a year before.

''It's about taking the genre, like a comedy, to capture the Latino world,'' Ms. Perez-Brown said. ''It's not just putting Latino faces on television.''

The show was a huge hit among teenage girls. It pulled in a huge amount of ratings for Nickelodeon and Taina became one of the most popular programs on TeenNick. However the show was cancelled after 2 seasons on May 11, 2002. Some actors pursued in other things after Taina while others faded into obscurity.

Christina Vidal has acted in other movies and TV shows such as Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Hotel, Chasing Papi, Girlfriends, ER, Freaky Friday, Monk, House, See No Evil, I Think I Love My Wife, Castle, Magic Man, and Fairly Legal. She's currently an acting coach.

Chris Knowings has been in a few TV shows such as The Nick Cannon Show, Lazytown, and is currently one of the main characters in Sesame Street.

LaTangela Newsome is currently a singer and a member of the City Kids Repertory Group in Manhattan.

Lisa Velez is the lead singer of her band Cult Jam and is still going strong with her music.

It wasn't because the popularity was waning, it was because Nickelodeon was gearing their programs for boys at the time and Taina was gearing more towards girls. So despite the huge ratings it was getting and the huge popularity of the show, Taina had to go. Boy, how the times have changed. Nowadays, the majority of the teen sitcoms on Nickelodeon have female protagonists like iCarly, True Jackson VP, Unfabulous, Zoey 101, and Victorious. In fact, when you think about it, Victorious is similar to Taina: a girl who goes to a performing arts school with her friends getting themselves into crazy situations. However, Taina is so much more superior than Victorious because the characters are more relatable and developed, the setting is more real, and Taina actually had opportunies and chances to become a star. She was involved with being with a band, a R&B group, and being in a TV show. Also, it represents her Puerto Rican culture quite well with her family. Overall, Taina was ahead of its time and would paved the way for the shows following its format of the future programming shows for Nickelodeon. Sure, the guest stars are a bit dated, but other than that, Taina has held up quite well. If Taina would've been released a few years later, then the show would have lasted much longer, but unfortunately it was out at the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you're fans of shows like Victorious, then skip that show and watch Taina instead. I highly recommend checking it out.

That's all for now! Tune in next time as we have a special interview with one of the actors from Taina. Afterwards, we talk about the greatest sci-fi series to ever come out on Nickelodeon Invader Zim.

Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.


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