|Croatia's "Ne daj se, Nina" (Don't Give Up, Nina) premiered on Serbia's FTV network on October 30, 2007 and was a co-production of FOX Televizija Srbija (FTV), Federalna Televizija (Bosnia-Herzegovina), and RTL Televizije Hrvatska (Croatia) for broadcast in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, and Macedonia. The show starred Lana Gojak as Nina Brlek and Robert Kurbaša as her boss, David Glowatzky, at H-Moda, a prestigious fashion house in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
The story was intended to be told three or four days a week over the course of 52 episodes, but after the first few weeks there was apparently a snag in the deal between FTV and RTL. Despite the fact that the show was doing very well in Serbia, FTV stopped showing it after the November 21, 2007 episode.
After a short hiatus, on January 3, 2008, Croatia's RTL network began broadcasting the series from the beginning. Instead of showing multiple episodes each week, "Nina" would now air one 45-minute episode per week, on Thursday nights at 8:00pm, the same time slot as its sister show in the U.S., "Ugly Betty", with each episode being rerun three days later, on Sundays at 12:20pm.
The RTL schedule was adjusted yet again a short while later, with 30-minute episodes being shown Monday through Friday at 7:30pm. The switch to a 30-minute format changed the planned total of first season episodes from 52 to 110. The final episode of the first season aired in July 2008. They had gotten slightly beyond the point in the story when David and Marko had developed the idea to create a dummy company, with Nina as its president. The story will almost certainly never be completed, primarily because the expense of producing the series without FTV's participation would be too much for RTL to take on alone.
If the show's producers had to pay the same kind of royalties for music as producers in the United States have to pay, then the first episode alone is a good indicator as to why the show might have been expensive to create. Among the songs in the show's first outing were No Doubt's "It's My Life"; Madonna's "Hollywood"; the Scissor Sisters' "Comfortably Numb"; Mika's "Big Girl (You're Beautiful)"which had been changed to "Hey, Betty (You're Beautiful)" in September 2007 to promote the second season of "Ugly Betty"and, at the end of Nina's first episode, K.T. Tunstall's "Suddenly I See", which also played at the end of the first episode of "Ugly Betty".
Nina Brlek is a kind, intelligent, and naive young woman who believes that her appearance has been keeping her from finding employment. She lives on the outskirts of of Croatia's capital, Zagreb, with her parents, Vlado and Mira, and her younger brother, Davor. Nina applies for a job at a fashion house called H-Moda
. The company's director, Victor Glowatzky, plans to retire, leaving his son David in charge. David's nemesis is Petar Vidić, who is the Editor-in-Chief of H-Moda
's magazine, Helena
Petar conspires with Helena editor Monika Marinovic to undermine David at every turn. Petar also happens to be the brother of David's fiancée, Barbara (aka Barbie). The Vidićs' parents, Leon and Margarita, were supposedly killed in a plane crash in 1993, even though the wreckage was never found. In order to keep an eye on David's comings and goings, Barbie decides to hire her friend, the recently divorced Patricija Vuckovic, to be his secretary, despite Patricija's lack of qualifications. Barbie soon discovers a snag in her plan, however, when Nina ends up getting hired by Viktor to be David's assistant. Both women show up for their first day as David's secretary, so Patricija is given a work space out front, so she can greet people and answer phone calls, while Nina will be responsible for organizing David's business commitments.
The company's star designer, Aleks Kralj, and his assistant Ines put on a runway show to present his latest creations. While the show is in progress, Nina goes backstage to find David, but Patricija tricks her into going out onto the catwalk, in front of all of the prestigious guests, including pop star Tony Cetinski. Instead of retreating, Nina decides to cover by pretending to be a model, but she trips and falls. Petar feels certain that this will mean the end of David's short-lived career as the head of H-Moda, but it turns out that the guests thought that Nina's mistake was part of the show and they found it to be an exciting and original approach with which to liven up a traditional fashion show. Nina's flub generates a lot of publicity, which results in customer orders being tripled.
Petar then tries to catch David in a compromising position with a model named Klaudia, but David rejects Klaudia's advances. Another model, David's ex-girlfriend Kristina Maras, then causes him problems with her diva behavior during a photo shoot. Barbie and Patricija try to find out if David is having an affair with Kristina. Barbie suspects that Nina is running interference for David, so she fires her.
At first, Nina has to put up with a lot of verbal abuse from the people around the office, but she soon makes a few friends. Ana Marija, the receptionist, was one of Nina's friends for a while, but eventually she left and was replaced by Koraljka, with whom David's friend Marko Savic would fall in love. Sanja, a married mother of two children, was Viktor's secretary, but it seems that the two had a more intimate relationship outside the office. Martina, the chef at the company's in-house cafe, once helped Nina by intimidating a computer technician who tried to steal files from Nina's hard drive at Petar's behest.
Martina reveals to Nina that the main reason she got her job, besides her qualifications, is because Viktor knew that David would never be distracted by a physical attraction for her [Note: Similarly on "Ugly Betty", Christina McKinney told Betty Suarez about the true reason why Bradford Meade hired her.]. But no matter what the reason was for her hiring, she now has the opportunity to prove herself to David, as well as to everyone else.
At home, Nina's brother Davor is thrilled that she is working for such a prestigious fashion company, so he asks her if he can visit her at the office. He would like to become an intern for Helena's editorial staff. Nina's friend Nikola isn't as pleased by Nina's new job as Davor is, though, because Nina keeps spending more and more time at the beck and call of her boss [Note: Similarly on "Ugly Betty", Betty's boyfriend Walter wasn't thrilled about her job at Mode]. Eventually, Nina is able to use part of her salary to pay for a photography course that Davor goes to take in Bosnia.
Petar confronts David's mother Sofija and accuses her of showing favoritism to David. Nina prepares a report for David to present at a board meeting, but Patricija gets her hands on it and pretends that it is her own work. Because of her supposed good work on the report, Patricija is then tasked with creating a cost analysis, but she has no idea how to do such a thing. She turns to David's friend Marko for help, but he can only think of seducing Patricija. Nina decides that she will prepare her own cost analysis in order to prove that she was the one who compiled the first report. After working all night with Nikola, Nina rushes to work the next morning, but she falls and injures her knee, which delays her arrival at the office. David is angry that Nina has let him down, so he fires her, but he later learns that she actually did create a document for him, so he goes to Nina's home to apologize and to ask her to come back to work.
Despite constantly being sabotaged by Petar's minions (Patricija, Monika, Anic, Juric, etc.), Nina soon proves her worth to David, and he shows his appreciation by rewarding her with promotions, salary increases, and extra vacation time. He even gives the duties of the company's Financial Director, Juric, to Nina, which just serves to make Barbie and Patricija even more determined to malign and undermine her. Monika publishes an interview with model Kristina Maras, who portrays gives intimate details about her relationship with David and portrays him as a womanizer. David convinces Barbie that Petar must have been behind the interview, so Viktor goes to ask Petar why he would do something like this to harm the company. Petar claims that he was actually just trying to do damage control by publishing a carefully edited version of Kristina's tale, instead of allowing her to take her uncensored story to another publisher.
Patricija tries to make Marko jealous by going to dinner at Tosca with Petar, but the person she succeeds in making jealous is Monika, who happens to be dining at the restaurant with Aleks. When David learns of Patricija's date with Petar, he begins to suspect that Patricija is probably conspiring with Petar. Because of her mounting debts and her desperation for money, Patricija is soon coerced into a sexual relationship with Petar, who wants her to spy on David for him. Petar then directs Patricija to drive a wedge between David and Barbie. Nikola comes to the office to help Nina with a computer problem. When she thanks him for his help, he misconstrues her gratitude and surprises her by kissing her. Nina's mother talks her into going shopping and visiting a beauty salon, but when she shows off her new look at the office the next day she finds that she is even more of an object of ridicule for her colleagues than she was before.
David, Marko, and Nina go to Belgrade to meet with Vanesa Tintor and Dragan Popadic, from a fabric supply company called Mondoteksom, to sign a contract. Nina feels strange about an arrangement that Vanesa and Dragan had made with her beforehand, by which Nina would be financially compensated in exchange for her recommendation to David that he should sign the contract with Mondoteksom. David believes that the contract will be good for H-Moda, but when they all return to Zagreb, Aleks is displeased to learn of the new association with Mondoteksom. Nina's father encourages her to tell David about Vanesa and Dragan's questionable offer of a commission, because it could have the appearance of a bribe.
Nina explains the Mondoteksom commission situation to David, but Petar, not knowing about Nina's confession, tries to get Nina fired by telling David that she had accepted a bribe that was offered in exchange for her recommendation of the Mondoteksom deal. Petar's revelation doesn't get any reaction from David, though, because he had already heard all about the commission from Nina herself.
Nina gets caught in another office situation when Monika opens an internet cafe, called VIP Cafe
, which in direct competition with Martina's food counter. To make matters worse, Monika hires Nikola to run her establishment, pitting two of Nina's friends against each other, and placing Nina in the middle.
Aleks quits in frustration and vows not to come back. He relents, however, when he sees an opportunity to humiliate Nina. He tells her that he'll return to H-Moda
if she will agree to model for him. She reluctantly agrees to do it and she tries her best to lose some weight. At the last minute, she's saved from having to go through with this farce by Marko. [Note:
In "Yo soy Betty, la fea
", as well as in a few of its adaptations, Armando (David) was forced by Hugo (Aleks) to go to a gay bar in drag, but in this case Nina is the one who is coerced into putting herself into a position of ridicule. Nina's humiliation is similar to the one inflicted upon Betty Suarez by Daniel Meade and Philippe Michel in the first episode of "Ugly Betty"
After Barbie and Sofija walk into David's office and overhear him talking to Marko about a fling he'd had in the past with Patricija, Barbie storms out and finds Patricija, who is modelling in Aleks's latest in-house runway show, and slaps her face in front of half the company. Barbie then breaks up with David and he becomes very depressed, despite the fact that he had been unfaithful to her throughout their entire relationship. To take his mind off of his heartache, he goes to an old-age home and volunteers to read Harry Potter books to the elderly. When Barbie learns of this, and of how heartbroken David has been, she reconciles with him and they soon plan to get married. Unfortunately, Nina has started to fall in love with David, but she has kept her feelings to herself and hasn't had the opportunity to confess her love to David before his reconciliation with Barbie. It's probably for the best that she hasn't spoken to David, though, because as fond as he is of Nina, he clearly only thinks of her as a friend.
Monika manipulates Petar into making her Editor-in-Chief of Helena. In an unlikely turn of events, she and her VIP Cafe employee Nikola fall in love with each other. Nina, wanting to improve her appearance, asks Patricija to help her. Patricija has been involved with a wealthy older man named Zarko, but she is obviously only with him for his money. David's mother, Sofija, starts to drive Barbie crazy with wedding preparations, so Barbie and David then plan to sneak off to Italy to elope. Nina is then put in the untenable position of having to make the wedding arrangements. Ultimately, though, David and Barbie decide that they'd rather be married in their own city, with their friends and family present.
... [This is where the story ended at the time of cancellation] ...
In the beginning, "Ne daj se, Nina" followed the story line of "Yo soy Betty, la fea" very closely, but some elements were original to this series, while many others were borrowed from "Ugly Betty." Among the new elements:
- The character of Nina's brother, Davor, was a new creation. Up to the time of Nina's debut, none of the other internationl Bettys had ever had a brother, although the Philippine, Polish, and Brazilian Bettys would each later have a younger brother on "I Love Betty la Fea", "BrzydUla", and "Bela, a Feia", respectively. The fashion-obsessed Davor was partially based on Betty Suarez's nephew Justin, from "Ugly Betty".
- Another new creation was Petar Vidić's co-conspiritor, Monika, who appeared to be a villainess with the potential of being a counterpart to Wilhelmina Slater on "Ugly Betty" or Daniela on "I Love Betty la Fea". Monika's friendship with Aleks Kralj was reminiscent of that between Amanda Tanen and Marc St. James on "Ugly Betty". Monika also had similarities to Sophie on "Verliebt in Berlin" and Verônica on "Bela, a Feia".
- Among the plot elements that were clearly borrowed from "Ugly Betty":
- In the first episode, Viktor noticed Nina's appearance, learned of her qualifications, and thought that she could be the perfect assistant for his son, David. This paralleled how Bradford Meade had decided that Betty Suarez should be hired to work for Mode magazine's new Editor-in-Chief, his son, Daniel. The boss's father played no part in the hiring of the heroine in any of the other adaptations, except for Betty Pengson on "I Love Betty la Fea".
- In the third episode, Nina's stuffed pig was kidnapped, which also happened to Betty Suarez's stuffed bunny in the second episode of "Ugly Betty".
- When gay designer Aleks's mother came to town for a visit, Nina pretended to be his girlfriend, just as Betty Suarez had done for Marc St. James. The situation was more complicated on "Ne Daj se, Nina", because Aleks's ex, Ricardo, showed up at H-Moda to win him back, so Monika pretended that Ricardo was her boyfriend. Aleks, his mother, Monika, and Ricardo were all invited to have dinner with Nina's family and during their meal, Nikola showed up and almost ruined everything because he couldn't figure out what was going on.
- Although she started out as Nina's nemesis, Patricija later evolved into a "frenemy". This paralleled the evolution of the relationship between Betty Suarez and Amanda Tanen.
- David Glowatzky had a brother brother, Danijelu, who was their father's favorite and who was presumed dead, just as Daniel Meade's brother Alex had been, before Alex returned as a post-op transsexual named Alexis.
- The role of Nina was offered to Ivana Roščić, but she turned it down.
- Like most of the international "Betty" adaptations, "Ne Daj se, Nina" also used product placement to generate extra revenue. Some examples of embedded advertising incorprated into "Ne Daj se, Nina":
- Ferrero Rocher's distinctive candies could be seen in most episodes, stacked into a conical pyramid on the reception desk
- Tic Tac, Nutella, and Kinder Bueno could be seen on display at Monika's VIP Cafe
- In August 2010, RTL began showing reruns of "Ne Daj se, Nina" weeknights at 7:10pm, with marathon blocks of the previous week's episodes being shown on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
- The theme song was performed by Tony Cetinski, who also made a guest appearance.
- Most of the other international adaptations were set in a fashion house, but "Yo soy Bea" and "Ugly Betty" were set at the offices of a glossy style magazine.* Helena d.d. (the parent company of H-Moda, the fashion house where Nina worked) encompassed both worlds because it also happened to have its own fashion magazine, which was called Helena.
|© Tony Lagarto|
I'd like to extend my special thanks to eileen, whom I'd "met" online at the "Ne Daj Se Nina" forum at the telenovelaslatinas.com message board, for providing me with information and video clips.