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'I Love Jenni' on Mun2 carries on after Jenni Rivera's death

The reality show's third season will be divided between the singer's life before her death and her family's experiences after the jet crash.

April 13, 2013|By Yvonne Villarreal, Los Angeles Times
  • Rosie Rivera, left, the sister of the late singer Jenni Rivera, and Janney "Chiquis" Marin, Jenni Rivera's daughter, are both in mun2's reality show, "I Love Jenni."
Rosie Rivera, left, the sister of the late singer Jenni Rivera, and Janney… (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles…)

When it came to mass recognition in the United States, the late Latin music star Jenni Rivera used to say she wasn't Coca-Cola, and maybe she wasn't Pepsi either. But she wasn't going to let anyone tell her she wasn't at least akin to Fanta.

The sentiment — more colorfully expressed in Rivera's words according to friend and manager Pete Salgado during a recent interview in Studio City — may partly explain why the Mexican regional superstar floated under the radar of most non-Spanish-language outlets before her death last year. More loosely, it's the sort of fun-loving, unfiltered confidence the Long Beach native revealed in her cable reality series "I Love Jenni," which aired on Mun2 (pronounced moon dos), Telemundo's Los Angeles-based bilingual cable network.

The series offered a peek inside the 43-year-old Rivera's chaotic lifestyle as a mother and in-charge music star who sold more than 20 million albums worldwide. Now four months after the banda and norteña singer's plane crashed, Mun2 will roll out Sunday the third and last season of the series that helped put the decade-old network on the map.

PHOTOS: Jenni Rivera - Reactions to the tragic crash

"It's like we get to hang out with her a little while more," said Salgado, who is also an executive producer of the show.

The television show isn't the only medium poised to say farewell to the beloved singing star, whose birth name was Dolores Janney Rivera. Her memoir, "Unbreakable," is set to publish in Spanish and English in July.

Also, an English-language album the singer had been working on is expected to be released by the end of the year, an exhibition called "Jenni Rivera, La Gran Señora" will be on display at the Grammy Museum in downtown L.A starting in May, and there's been talk about a biopic as well.

Rivera's death raised an immediate question for the series — should it continue at all? Production, which wasn't supposed to wrap until March, had just started when her plane plunged 28,000 feet in 30 seconds over Mexico on Dec. 9.

First, the family had to decide. Rosie Rivera, Jenni's sister and a growing presence on the series, addressed Jenni's five children, who range in age from 12 to 27, in late December about the show's future. A decision was reached within 10 minutes.

"I spelled it out: I said you guys let me know. I'm not going to force you guys to do anything you don't want to do," recalled Rosie, who also served as co-host to Jenni's radio show, "Contacto Directo Con Jenni Rivera." "It was immediate. There was no pondering, 'Oh, it's going to be too hard' or 'I can't do it.' They were like, 'We're going to do this for mom.'"

PHOTOS: Jenni Rivera dies in plane crash

In January, Jenni Rivera Enterprises Inc., the late singer's corporation, was one of four companies named in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court by the families of the four members of Rivera's entourage who were also killed in the plane crash. The cause of the luxury jet crash still has not been determined and may not be known for a year, according to authorities.

The family had no comment on the lawsuit, and their attorney added no decision has been made about whether they will pursue legal action against Starwood Management, the Las Vegas-based company that owned the jet.

This last season of "I Love Jenni" will unfold in chronological order, according to the network, and will be divided between the singer's life before the crash and her family's experiences after the tragedy.

A good part of this season originally was supposed to feature material from Rivera's experiences developing a new comedy for ABC, in which she would star as a struggling single mom. The pilot, from Robert L. Boyett ("Full House") and Robert Horn ("Designing Women"), was to begin casting in February.

Also, with Rivera gone, the confessional interviews with the star about events already filmed — a hallmark of the show — would have to be dropped.

An appreciation: Jenni Rivera was a rare voice

"It was really hard looking back at some of the footage we had of her," said Shari Scorca, an executive producer on the show. "You realize she's not going to be there anymore. She's not there to let us in anymore."

Rivera, whose life had made for tabloid fodder in the Spanish media, hadn't always wanted to take part in the reality fishbowl frenzy. A few Spanish-language networks had made offers to Rivera about reality series, but the outspoken singer was hesitant.

"She wanted creative control," Salgado said. "That was really important to Jenni, especially because TV was a new venture for her. I remember people thought she was out of her mind because Mun2 is such a small cable network. But they were the ones who let her have a say."

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