I’ve always loved soap operas — I got hooked on “The Doctors” when I was in high school, and watched it almost every afternoon. I moved on from there to “The Young and the Restless.” Once I went to college, and then on to the working world, I wasn’t able to follow my stories that closely, and I mostly got out of the habit, though we did sometimes use tapes of soap operas to teach English when I worked in Madrid back in the 80’s.

The owners of "Cafe el Asturiano," the most enduring characters in "Amar en Tiempos Revueltos"

In Spain, soaps are part of the “sobremesa” programming that’s shown after lunch. (I guess the idea is that housewives need entertainment while they’re doing the washing up, or something.) A lot of the soaps that air — they rotate the series that are shown — are produced in Latin America; however, the one that’s been running the longest, and that gets the best ratings, is produced by Spanish television.

Called “Amar en Tiempos Revueltos” (“To Love in Unsettled Times”), it’s set in post-Civil War Madrid. The series started with the beginning of the war, and is currently in 1953. Despite its typical soap opera plots (incest, adultery, illegitimate children, etc.), it’s more interesting than your average soap because it’s so well-researched, and so authentic. It’s also reasonably balanced in its portrayal of characters on both sides of the political divide, something about which there’s still a lot of sensitivity in Spain, even now.

Last summer, when I was visiting Mr. Pants for our first long stretch together, I discovered the series and watched it almost every day after lunch. Needless to say, I got hooked, just as I had back in high school. But here’s where technology has truly made our lives better — instead of being tied to the TV set at a specific time, now I can stream the series from RTVE’s website. That means I can watch it from the States, and whenever I want to. Not much chance of getting “unhooked” this time, I’m afraid! So I just chalk it up to language practice and cultural improvement. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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