The premise of HBO’s new Spanish six-part comedy series Los Espookys should be enough to reel in hordes of viewers. Horror-obsessed Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco) and his motley crew of pals start a “horror group” providing an equally bonkers selection of clients with horror-on-demand… and hilarity ensues.
The most recognisable name and face in the show belongs to Fred Armisen of Saturday Night Live (SNL) fame. Armisen plays Tico, a valet with almost supernatural car-parking abilities, and Renaldo’s LA-based uncle whose work brings him in contact with Hollywood bigwigs… and with them, the occasional opportunity for the Los Espookys crew.
Their first gig comes in the wake of a horror-themed quinceañera Renaldo oversees for a relative, and it comes from a priest, who wants to fake an exorcism to bolster his popularity now that a new, handsome and inexplicably glossy-lipped young priest is stealing the limelight. Yeah, like we said, bonkers.
Then there’s the rest of the Los Espooky’s crew: dental technician and prosthetics wizz Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti), the blue-haired droll and sartorially spectacular heir to a chocolate fortune (Julio Torres), and the seemingly air-headed Tati (Ana Fabrega) who can’t hold down her various odd jobs that include breaking in other people’s shoes, manually operating the second-hand on a giant clock, and flogging “Hierbelife” products.
But it’s not just the protagonists who are a little peculiar – the supporting cast all get painted with the same Scooby Doo-tinged brush, from a ditsy American Ambassador who’s obsessed with pink, to an occult TV show host who has mysterious beach flashbacks and who’s sure to be further developed in Season 2 (which HBO’s confirmed will come, likely next year).
If you need any more reminding that episodic television’s in the midst of its golden age, Los Espookys ought to do it.
Primarily in Spanish with English subtitles, Los Espookys succeeds because despite bouts of magic realism and some loose plotting, it manages to be consistently earnest, charming and laugh-out-loud funny. The frequently awkward – and decidedly DIY – costumes peppered throughout the season help, too. And even when the inexplicable happens, rather than feeling like too much is being asked of the viewer’s suspension of disbelief, the effect is to make the show even more likeable.
Fabrega, Torres and Armisen handle writing duties, and produce some incredible lines that the cast must’ve struggled to get through straight-faced. Producer Lorne Michaels’ impressive pedigree also goes someway to explaining Los Espookys’s aesthetic and occasionally surrealist tendencies. Aside from producing SNL, the list of shows and movies Michaels has had a hand in include the Wayne’s World films, Mean Girls, Coneheads, and a slew of American late-night shows like Jimmy Kimmel.
Los Espookys is both an homage to B-grade horror movies and a parody of them, and it’s a perfect, bite-sized show for anyone who enjoyed the likes of Be Kind Rewind. Even though we’re never told exactly where in Latin America it’s set (or when), deft nods to social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube, its celebration of outsiders, and the writers’ gentle sending up of mainstream celebrity culture position it as thoroughly contemporary.
It’s also hard to imagine something like Los Espookys getting signed off before the age of streaming, where the landgrab for paying subscribers sees networks throwing money at oddball concepts with unprecedented enthusiasm in the hopes that some of it will win over new viewers. If you need any more reminding that episodic television’s in the midst of its golden age, Los Espookys ought to do it.