Telenovelas, Sitcoms, and Drama: TV Shows That Celebrate the Hispanic Experience
For Hispanic Heritage Month, here are some excellent series to watch!
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15 and lasts through October 15. To celebrate, we want to bring you a (very short, very incomplete!) list of some TV shows to watch that celebrate talented actors, musicians, and stories from Hispanic creators. If you love these shows, or haven’t seen them before, consider attending or scheduling a watch party through the Remarkist app, or head to our Discord to discuss with other fans (and any other content you are watching for Hispanic Heritage Month!) We would love to hear 🗣 from you! (And if you’re looking for a list of movies to watch, here are some of our faves!)
1. Ugly Betty
Based on the Colombian 🇨🇴telenovela, Yo soy Betty, la fea, Ugly Betty was developed for American broadcast in 2010 by Silvio Horta (with Salma Hayek serving as an executive producer). It stars America Ferrera as the title character. Mexican 🇲🇽 American Betty Suarez is an aspiring journalist from Queens, New York, 🗽 but instead of a position at a news outlet, lands herself an assistant job at a prestigious fashion magazine despite her lack of style and polish that most of the employees possess. It’s an uphill battle for Betty to be accepted by her coworkers, while she takes care of her single immigrant father, sister, and nephew at home. A poignant comedy about image and expectations, this show makes you laugh and cry in quick succession.
2. Jane the Virgin
Following in Ugly Betty’s footsteps, Jane the Virgin is based on a Venzuelan 🇻🇪 telanovela, Juana la virgen. A Miami hotel worker, Jane, played by Gina Rodriguez, is in for a surprise when a mixup at her doctor’s office results in artificial insemination. Jane, a virgin, is now pregnant–throwing her, the owner of the hotel (whose child she is now having), his conniving girlfriend, and her current boyfriend into a stunning new reality. While the plot follows telenovela tropes of high drama and somewhat unrealistic scenarios (murder! intrigue!), the show delves deep into issues surrounding parenthood, identity, immigration, family, religion, and self-discovery. (Look for a young Jenna Ortega playing Jane in flashback scenes of the character’s childhood.)
3. With Love (Amazon)
The Diaz siblings, Lily and Jorge (who is played by Ugly Betty alumn Mark Indelicato), are on a mission to find love in this series. Each episode follows the characters on a different holiday throughout the year: New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day 💘, the Fourth of July 🎆, Dios de los Muertos, etc. The characters that come in and out of the Diaz siblings’ lives are grounded and represent many walks of life, and the show’s earnestness is balanced by its relatability. Diverse presentations of queer relationships, gender identity, and race are all present in this light-hearted rom-com series.
4. One Day at a Time (Netflix)
This reboot of a 1975 sitcom features a Latin American family and is beloved by audiences. Set in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Justina Machado plays an Army veteran with PTSD living with her Cuban 🇨🇺 mother (played by Rita Moreno) and her children. While this is a situation comedy, the show delves into deep issues surrounding mental illness, immigration, homophobia, sexism, racism and gender identity in a truthful way that speaks to many viewers. The show received many accolades including multiple Emmy nominations (and a couple of wins for Multi Camera Picture Editing), GLAAD Award nominations and Critic’s Choice Awards nominations. It showed up on multiple “Best of” TV lists in 2017 and 2018.
5. Los Espookys (HBO)
A Spanish-language comedy for HBO created in 2019 by Julio Torres, Ana Fabrega, and Saturday Night Live alumn Fred Armisen. It follows a group of friends who love horror, and parlay their passion into a company where they provide spooky scenarios for hire. Think: birthday parties, tourist attractions, and elaborate haunted houses. There’s a touch of magical realism and it’s set in a made-up Latin American country, but mostly it’s about friends trying to make some money doing something they love. When asked to explain the show, the actors simply comment on the vibe. Costar Bernardo Valasco has said, “It’s like eating a tortilla chip with chocolate and red pepper flakes on top. You’re not sure why, but you want to keep eating it.” Sounds just delightful enough!
6. East Los High (Hulu)
Hulu’s first and only series with an all Latinx cast, East Los High is about the lives of a group of dancers navigating their final year at an east Los Angeles high school. These teens deal with all aspects of typical teen drama, like relationships and sex, but what’s different about this show is that the writers teamed up with social scientists and health workers to try to inject educational lessons about sex and other sensitive topics without being too heavy-handed about it. The show’s executive producer, Katie Elmore Mota, had the idea for the show when she wanted to see more diversity for teens on TV; she talked to Planned Parenthood, the National Domestic Abuse Hotline and other organizations dedicated to public health education to create a show that would speak to the modern teen.
7. Gente-fied (Netflix)
A show about the ever-elusive “American Dream,” Gente-fied is about three Mexican 🇲🇽American cousins who run a family taco shop 🌮 in the midst of gentrification that threatens their Los Angeles neighborhood. The comedy was a hit with audiences; it delves into typical family dynamics, and also topics around immigration and the Latino community experience. Themes of class, identity, and home drive the series. Executive Producer America Ferrera directed a handful of episodes.
8. On My Block (Netflix)
A series with four seasons, On My Block is a critically acclaimed teen comedy for Netflix. It centers on four friends in the inner Los Angeles area neighborhood of Freeridge as they enter high school. The main cast consists of Latinx and Black actors in their first major television roles. The show has been praised for its treatment of issues facing teens. Matt Seitz, reviewing the show for New York Magazine wrote, “One of the many remarkable things about this series is how it folds crime and the awareness of potential violence into everyday life, which is something white sitcoms never do unless it’s a Very Special Episode.”
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