Sometimes a cultural artifact is so peculiar that there doesn’t yet exist an adequate vocabulary to describe it. That was certainly the case with HBO’s “Los Espouches,” a program whose narrative so effectively escaped Hollywood convention that even its writers had a hard time coming up with an elevator pitch. was.
on an interviewthe tonight showIn September, co-creator Ana Fabrega pitched it as “a show about a group of friends who have a business where they do all kinds of stunts for people who need it.” Fellow co-producer, comedian Julio Torres explained npr The friends live in “a made-up Latin American country” and “create a false, supernatural and scary experience.” What is it a question of when faced with the inevitable “Late Night with Seth Myers,” Comedian Fred Armisen, who first did the groundwork for the series with HBO, fumbled a bit, then said it was about dudes who “are hired to fool people and scare people.”
It’s all a bit like Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” is a play about governance. Not technically wrong, but hardly the full picture.
Watching “Los Espuccios” was like slipping down a rabbit hole of Latin American grotesque: a premeditated fusion of deadpan absurdity, slapstick comedy, telenovela plot twists, and goth aesthetics, infused with the surreal and the supernatural. The show was so stubbornly declassified that it appears HBO didn’t know what to do with it. on Friday, time limit reported that “Los Espuccis” was canceled after two seasons.
That’s too bad. Because the show was singular in the stories it told and the way it told them — actively undermining every Hollywood trope about Latinos. Instead of hackneyed plots about gangbangers and maids, “Los Espuccios” delivered stories inspired by the Latin American passion for the paranormal — and it did it with panache.
A character struggles with a parasitic demon; The second rewrote “Don Quixote” word for word. A subplot focuses on the brainwashed anchor of a show in the style of “alarma TV”, the sensationalist news programs typical of Spanish-language television (where stories of serious crimes and impossible monsters are related in grim seriousness by beautiful women in skimpy clothes. ). And let’s not forget the US ambassador, envisioned as a blonde party girl who worked at the Barbie-pink embassy and hoped to one day become ambassador in Miami so she could have “awkward meetings with conservative Latinos” .
Imagine “Scooby-Doo,” written by Jorge Luis Borges and directed by Pedro Almodovar, and you can begin to guess the vibe.
It was impossible to describe “Los Espuquies” because it had no equivalent. The show wasn’t trying to portray straight-up orgy, nor did it fit neatly into the sitcom mold (either US or Latin American). Instead, it seemed content to live in a Hades in the middle.
Its closest American cousins might be FX’s vampire comedy “What We Do in the Shadows,” which wraps supernatural themes around a mockumentary structure, and Netflix’s “Wednesday,” which is weird with a largely Latino cast. -reboots the horror Addams Family franchise.
“Espookys,” however, was not an American comedy with a Latino vibe. The show’s architecture draws directly from conventions of Latin American storytelling, including vernacular literature and rural folklore. The characters live in an unnamed place where magic is an undeniable part of everyday life, where it influences the culture as much as anything that comes from America, where humor dies in the face of violence and death.
There were four Espooki who lived in this fantastic universe: Reynaldo (played by Bernardo Velasco), a born chico dark (aka Goth) who is obsessed with horror movies and a bloated lapdog named Fruity; Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), a former dental assistant who is the most practical (at least impractical?) of the bunch, turns her eyes on masculinity and makes sure everyone gets paid; Andres (Torres in a series of deep saturated blue ensembles), the glamorous, aloof heir to a chocolate fortune; and the dingbat Tati (Fabergé) who is constantly trying on new personas while holding several impossible jobs – such as manually turning the second hand on a broken tower clock.
Renaldo’s was to appear regularly as LA-based Tio Tico, famous in the family as a car-parking prodigy.
Together, Los Espuquies ply their highly unusual trade: creating “experiences” for a range of corrupt, paranoid and self-interested clients, which may involve faking eclipses or visiting cemeteries. Or, maybe, creating a crazed rabbit-alien named Bibi (embodied by Renaldo) who hatches from a giant egg and acts an internal haemorrhage, teaching a class of unruly kids a valuable lesson. (The humor was dark, but the show was never scary, and their infractions were always comical DIYs.)
Often, the best moments were in the throwing lines. One of the running gags in the second season was Reinaldo suffering from bouts of insomnia after seeing apparitions of a brutally murdered contestant of a beauty pageant. Hoping a peaceful night’s sleep will solve the problem, his friend Andres reaches for a tackle box full of pills. “This is the one if your shadow survives,” he says, admiring a capsule. “This is what happens when you get a headache after gazing at too many crow’s-eyes at once. And it’s gold.
Likewise, the subplots were extremely nonsensical. In a flashback, a young Ursula goes before a judge at the Real Academia Española (similar to Spain’s version of the Oxford English Dictionary) to argue about the role of the double L—like the “ll” of llama—in the Spanish alphabet. In. The room she goes into is, aesthetically, straight out of the Spanish Inquisition. In another, Andres is rejected by her parents and becomes a model in a staircase showroom – but is quickly hired by a millionaire who offers her an alternative to his two children (and a lover for herself). Takes home as a parent. Imagine the cinematic language of a ’70s hustler flick meets a telenovela plot about an evil stepmother.
If all of this sounds strange, you haven’t spent much time in the strangest recesses of the Latin American imagination. A few weeks ago, during a night of endless scrolling on Instagram, I came across a post from the Mexican daily Milenio, which featured Platanito, a famous TV clown, for making an off-color joke about a murdered woman. Apologies were made – while she was out. in full clown makeup,
“Los Espuquies” was not a great show. At times, the gags felt more like a pile of one-liners than a cohesive story about the characters.
Dopey Tio Tico felt like a character that was airlifted from another show (and possibly another era). And Tati lacked self-awareness so much that, at times, she came across as a poorly functioning robot. In the 70s Mexican TV comedy, “El Chavo del Ocho”—to which “Los Espuquies” owes some of its slapstick sensibility—the titular Chavo was an orphan who lived in a barrel (and was raised by a middle-aged was played by) actor, Roberto Gómez Bolaños). Chavo was an angry-headed nerd, but he also punctured the self-importance of others in a way that cost him a bit of power. It would be great if Goofy Tati, one of the more fantastically weird characters on television, could be given more agency to articulate truths that others may or may not see.
But in its two short seasons, the show accomplished a lot. “Los Espuccis” embodied Latinos without being constrained by Hollywood’s hazy vision of Latino life. Filmed largely in Spanish, it didn’t have a lick of expository dialogue. If you didn’t get the jokes about the Spanish alphabet, too bad. Nor did it suffer from well-established story lines about immigration. In the first season, Tío Tico finalizes a film deal for the crew in LA, but most of them decline to join him because they are too busy with projects at home.
“Los Espuccis” gave us a world in which Latinos existed only in relation to themselves, not as satellites orbiting the United States—and it felt revelatory.
The second season, which launched in September (after a considerable pandemic delay), saw a sharp increase in writing, with plots wilder and more literary. Which makes the cancellation sting all the more. I was hoping that the third season might bring more narrative polish. (I was also looking forward to finding out what Tati carries in her mysterious little bag.)
“Los Espuquies” broke the narrative mold. We’re hoping that its ultra-brief existence will inspire more creators to break it down again in more different ways. I’m here for programming that dips into the supernatural — and especially for more Latino storytelling that refuses to stay within the lines.