Monday, July 1, 2019

Los Espookys is Offbeat, Genius & Hilarious

Los Espookys is the show that I didn’t know I needed and absolutely love. I’ve laughed to the point of having a white outs, and find it fascinating that these wacky characters are all too similar to weird people I know in real life. The situations they put themselves are surreal and I imagine humorless home haunters rolling their eyes at the implausibility of the effects they create, but that’s not the point.

A reluctant entrepreneur Reynaldo (Bernado Velasco), teams with his friends, the droll tech whiz Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherrotti) and the orphan chocolate prince Andrés (Julio Torres) to use their horror proclivity for pay. Whether boosting the demon-fighting allure of a parish priest being replaced by a younger, handsome, and glossy-lipped priest, or an heiress who wants to ensure her family’s fortune doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, Los Espookys are called to set up scenes of terror to fool the superstitiously-inclined dummies while managing their escalating personal problems.

I’d like to call out Ana Fabrega who plays the quirky, soap-licking Tati who goes from an illustrious job of fan-spinning to possessed girl. She’s also one of the two writers of this show (along with Julio Torres). Those familiar with the irreverent At Home with Amy Sedaris will recognize her as Esther who lives with the lady in the woods. Fabrega has impeccable comic timing as well as a gift of highly expressive face acting. Face acting, of course, is the rare skill to communicate boatloads of character with zero spoken dialogue and one look. Just ask Norma Desmond. Julio Torres who plays Andrés has written some of the more unusual skits on Saturday Night Live and is also a standup comic with an unusual show. His HBO special, My Favorite Shapes, airs August 10.

Between Torres and Fabrega, they have birthed something truly unique with Los Espookys. The show is created in the kindred spirit of shows like 30 Rock (this show is also executive produced by Lorne Michaels) and Arrested Development where quick line deliveries, absurd situations, and extremely clever wit swirl into comedy gold. It’s mostly in Spanish, and yes, there are subtitles but don’t be afraid. I will admit that as a bilingual, the show seems somewhat funnier in Spanish. I'm not sure if its the colloquialism or sensibility of Latin America, but the jokes land harder in my native Mexican tongue. Of course most of the humor is universal, like Andrés' vapid Instagram boy toy Juan Carlos, a hypnotized news anchor who seeks the truth because the public demands it, or the telenovela-like mysterious dame dressed in red and running around a mansion looking perplexed. Guest stars like Fred Armisen as Tico, and Carol Kane add to the crossover appeal.

With only six 30-minute episodes, this will be a very quick binge when it hopefully makes its way out of HBO and onto other streaming platforms, which I hope it does for the sake of a second season. Los Espookys is a tough sell of horror, comedy and Spanish that may limit its broader appeal stateside but I admire HBO’s commitment to diversity. Putting Mexicans at the forefront of the show, setting the show in Mexico, and having the actors actually speak Spanish (because that's what it should be) is exactly the kind of representation needed on American TV.


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