Latino television in the United States has come a long way since Desi Arnaz became the first Latino actor to star in a network television series in 1951. Back then, the idea of portraying an integration of Latino and American culture was a foreign concept, and network executives were reluctant to allow Arnaz to be part of the show. The show, I Love Lucy, of course, was a massive hit, and Arnaz became an originator of a character type, the Latino who is also American.
Now, more than a half century later, Latino culture is much more fully integrated with American culture, and popular Latino television isn't just about Latino characters finding their way into English-language programming. Spanish language programming is diverse, and Latino audiences in America and elsewhere are served by a full range of shows in every conceivable genre, from dramas and comedies to reality and competitive programs.
The rise of Spanish-language programming in primarily English-speaking North America was helped along by Telemundo, an American TV network founded in 1954 by the owner of WKAQ-TV in Puerto Rico. In the 1970s and 80s, WKAQ produced a number of popular soap operas, and toward the end of the century, the network acquired affiliate stations on both the east and west coasts of the United States. In the late 1980s, the network collaborated with CNN to produce Spanish-language versions of that network's newscasts, and in 1994 Telemundo began producing its own short-lived 24-hour news service.
In 2002, Telemundo was purchased by NBC is now owned by NBCUniversal, and along with its major competitor, Univision, it provides a full menu of Spanish-language programming for Latino audiences, a state of affairs that indicates remarkable changes since the days when Lucille Ball had to fight to convince CBS to allow Arnaz on the air.