I ordered this series because I'm learning Brazilian Portuguese and movies and TV shows are a great way to build my listening skills. Hearing nothing but Portuguese for an hour or two helps with pronunciation and vocabulary, too, but mainly, it's hearing common phrases over and over again until they become familiar enough that you can understand them without subtitles.
The reviews for this series were positive and the price was very reasonable for 13 episodes that are each about 45 minutes long.
I had no problems viewing the discs, though they were really hard to remove from the case. The audio is excellent (I chose 5-channel Portuguese, but there is also 2-channel Portuguese and a Spanish dubbed track). Subtitles are available in English or Spanish, but not Portuguese.
The video quality is very inconsistent. I think that the transfer to DVD was not done very well, but it could be the original source, though the series was shot in 2008. The problem seems more apparent with longer shots, when the image has very obvious horizontal lines (like on an non-HD TV, except worse). Strangely, close-ups look quite sharp in comparison, and since most of the series consists of close and mid-range shots, it's only the scenic long shots that are affected by the problem. The video problems in the final episode were distracting, with noticeable shifts or jerks in the image, but by that time I was hooked on the story and did my best to ignore it.
As for the series itself, I was totally drawn into it and watched the entire season in a couple of days. Be patient with it, because by the second or third episode it looks as if they have introduced way too many characters and story lines, and then they appear to drop them. However, the characters do reappear, and there are enough twists and turns in the storyline to keep your interest throughout.
Although the story is centered around Alice, the other characters are just as interesting and they are allowed to develop enough so that Alice becomes the catalyst around whom their stories are told, more than the driving force of the plot.
Alice herself changes from a shy girl from the hinterlands, to a more outgoing and assertive urban woman. In the process, she loses some of the traits that made her the most endearing at the beginning, but it's a gradual change, and it wasn't until the last few episodes that I really became impatient and annoyed with her (as do the other characters in the series). However, she never really means to do any harm, and as one character remarks, even when she has hurt people, they do not stop liking her. My guess is that most viewers will forgive her, too.
The series is filled with strong, independent, and complex women, and not all of them are young. The depiction of several of the older women in the series is unusually realistic and unlike most of what we see on American TV, they are not treated as caricatures, or "cute old ladies." In general, the men are more stereotypical, but they too are complex in their own way. One of the strengths of the series is that each character has his or her share of faults, and the viewer comes to accept the good and bad in each character.
Many Brazilian films seem to be about the problems with crime, drugs, and the huge income disparity, with lots of stories about life in the favelas. While these are all important subjects and are worth viewing, it's a nice change of pace to see a series that focuses on the everyday life of a group of middle class Brazilians.
One caveat for viewers who are uncomfortable with nudity or sex scenes: there is a fair amount in this series, so if it offends you, you should probably steer clear. It's nothing more than you'd see on HBO in the US, but it's definitely more explicit than you would see on broadcast network TV here. There's also a lot of cigarette smoking, drinking, and some recreational drug use, but it doesn't dominate the series.
I enjoyed the series a lot more than I had thought I would, and in spite of issues with the video transfer, I highly recommend it.