DDescription of the premise of Los Espookys, HBO’s craziest sitcom and their first primarily Spanish-language original series, is quite simple. A ragtag group of friends start a business staging fake supernatural events for people who pay them. In the first episode, which aired three years ago, the team is hired by an elderly priest who is falling out of favor with his congregation to a younger minister with great hair and glossy lips. He asks Los Espookys to stage an exorcism to improve his reputation.
That’s the premise of the show. Its sensitivity, however, is harder to pin down. The series, which returns this week for a heavily delayed second season on Sky Atlantic and NOW, is comedy that exists in an elusive space. Not just because the Latin American country it’s set in is unnamed, but because that’s where the surreal and the everyday lie side by side. Though the means the group uses to don their creepy goggles is an endearingly low budget — a rented costume, some SFX makeup, a smoke machine working overtime — their everyday lives are steeped in real-world oddities. For example, one of them regularly communicates with a water demon possessed by the 2010 Colin Firth film The king’s speech. In season two, the same character asks the moon (portrayed by Oscar nominee Yalitza Aparicio in a silver sequined jumpsuit) to shine brighter for a minute so he can find his lost earring. If one of their customers is trapped in an alternate reality after stepping through a mirror, the question is not why there is an alternate reality, but why they bought the wrong magic mirror. Moments like this are taken at face value by the audience. Maybe they are real. Maybe they aren’t. Who cares? You have fun.
And that’s what Los Espookys it’s all about: having fun. Which makes sense since it has Saturday night live in his DNA. Created by SNL Stars Fred Armisen and Julio Torres, as well as comedian Ana Fabrega (all writers and co-stars), the show is an antidote to self-seriousness. It’s illogical, whimsical, serious. Given that SNL-approved cast, respectable platform on HBO, 100 percent Rotten Tomatoes Rating and celebrity cameos (Isabella Rossellini makes an appearance in season two), it’s any wonder Los Espookys still flies under the radar. The fact that it’s in Spanish will have something to do with it – but it’s a shame because Los Espookys is one of the finest and most memorable comforts television has had to offer in the past decade.
Dissimilar protagonists may be in vogue, but the focus is on the characters Los Espookys are totally charming. It’s a motley crew consisting of the cool and collected Ursula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), her zany sister Tati (Fabrega), and the group’s founder, Renaldo (Bernado Velasco), whose leather jackets and chain jewelry belie a soft interior. Even Andres, the moody and melodramatic heir to a chocolate fortune played by Torres, is a snob you can’t resist. Talk about Los Espookys, Armisen said he wants to create a show with a fundamentally optimistic outlook. “I just don’t like conflict on TV,” he said The New York Times.
Then instead of conflict there is silliness. Tati plays Shakira in the season two opening scene. The group was hired by a besmirched artist whose sculpture of the Colombian singer drew criticism for not resembling her. Tatis Shakira – who doesn’t look anything like her either, apart from the low-rise pants and gorgeous mane – tells an audience of art critics: “Wow, I can’t believe how accurately you captured my likeness. As you can see, one of my eyes is actually bigger than the other… So please don’t be mad at this woman who made this statue as she is the only one who actually looks like me. I have to go now. I’ll be late for the World Cup. Waka-Waka!” Not exactly a supernatural encounter, but there are no rules Los Espookys.
Another thing that speaks for the show is originality. Everything looks, feels and sounds the same at the moment. Take the logline of any future release and I’ll predict a few keywords: thriller, dark, twisty, buried secret. Maybe there is a detective. It’s TV soup: a minestrone made from easily digestible ingredients that goes down easily and leaves zero impression. Scroll through the Emmy winners from earlier this week (successor, severance pay, Squid Game, white lotus, Yellow jackets, Chop, Abbott Elementary School, barry, ozark) and you’ll see how much the audience appreciates an honest, fresh idea. and Los Espookys should be on this list. It’s original – and not in the capital “O”, which has lost all meaning thanks to the ubiquitous Netflix original (…adaptations of best-selling novels). Jemaine Clement’s Vampire Comedy What we do in the shadows is a worthy point of comparison, but while the two shows share an offbeat humor, their rhythms are worlds apart.
Los Espookys is also visually exciting. Every shot is as worthy of a screenshot as every shot in a Wes Anderson film. The cinematography does not strive for naturalism and the color palette is bold and deliberate. From Andrés’ sky-blue hair to the bubblegum-pink headquarters of Airhead-American Ambassador Melania (Greta Titelman), to whom our protagonists turn in search of US visas (when they leave one night in a storm, a few green cards fly out of her purse : “They hit the ground, now they’ve gone bad!”), Los Espookys is pleasing to the eye.
The duration of the show is also important. There’s been a lot of talk about brevity lately, with streamers regularly pumping out hours-long episodes for a nine-episode series that could have been – and in many cases should have been – a 90-minute film. In contrast, all Los Espookys Rate clocks in at 25 minutes. Each bite is short, sweet and leaves you wanting more. It’s a new feeling these days. In a TV landscape that is increasingly characterized by middle ground mulch, Los Espookys dares to be different – and is all the better for it.
Los Espookys Season 2 is available to watch on Sky Atlantic and NOW from September 16th
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/features/los-espookys-is-the-best-show-you-re-not-watching-b2167070.html Los Espookys is the best show you won’t see