SAO PAULO (AP) - Brazil's national electricity grid braced for possible power outages Friday night during the television broadcast of the final chapter of a smash soap opera that enthralled Latin America's biggest country for months.
The Electric Energy System Operator said that unless energy generating and distributing companies prepared themselves, the country could suffer power outages at the end of "Avenida Brasil" - the story of a young woman's vengeance on her nouveau-riche stepmother who abandoned her in a landfill.
A spokesman said officials feared sudden surges in electricity consumption from millions of viewers switching on living room lights, raiding refrigerators and turning on microwave ovens after the end of the 100-minute episode. The spokesman spoke anonymously in accordance with the agency's policies.
"Telenovelas," prime-time soap operas with average runs of 200 episodes, are hugely popular in Brazil, where the plot lines often become front page news and where discussions of the heroes and villains are a major topic of conversation.
Aware of the immense popularity of "Avenida Brasil," President Dilma Rousseff postponed a Friday political rally endorsing the governing Worker's Party mayoral candidate in Sao Paulo. The rally had been set to be held at the same time as the soap opera's final chapter.
"I haven't missed a single episode of 'Avenida Brasil' since it began, and there is no way I will miss the last chapter," said secretary Elizabeth Sarti as she sipped a cup of coffee at a Starbucks. "Me and my husband have invited a group of friends for dinner and for the finale."
The show's enormous success was due to the fact that instead of focusing on the wealthy, it centered on Brazil's burgeoning middle class, which has grown by 40 million people in the last decade. Its main protagonists came from the middle class, while a handful of upper-class characters were relegated to the background.
"It is by far the best telenovela I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot," said Ricardo Fonseca de Martins, a computer analyst. "Its story of revenge, love affairs and of people who rose from poverty is what keeps me glued to the TV set every night."
For Renato Meirelles, CEO of Data Popular, a marketing firm specializing in the middle and lower classes, "Avenida Brasil" tapped into a previously untapped market.
"Here in Brazil, there's a real problem in understanding how the lower middle class thinks," he said. "This lower class doesn't hold up the elite as a model. The reference for these people is not the rich, but rather the neighbor who succeeded."