Move over 'Narcos' and 'Money Heist': Here are 5 other Spanish language shows on Netflix you have to watch
From ‘The House of Flowers’ to 'Elite', there is a lot to cover. Drama, crime, angst, social commentary, you have something for everyone here
Shows like ‘Money Heist’ and ‘Narcos’ have put Spanish-language television on the global map. Especially on Netflix, a wide variety of well-written, enjoyable, and gorgeous shows have taken the place that was once just occupied by stereotypes of telenovela overacting and storytelling.
Of course, the most popular ones don’t define what the other shows look like at all. Both ‘Narcos’ and ‘Money Heist’ are fast-paced stories with high-octane action, high-stakes drama, and above all deal with a topic as sexy as "crime". But that doesn’t mean the other shows aren’t well worth your time. So, let’s take a look at five Spanish-language shows on Netflix that you should watch if you enjoy stories that are entertaining, performed by actors of enormous caliber, and move away from the hegemonized American tropes and ideas that we have come to associate with popular culture in general.
This list is a very non-exhaustive one. But it should give you an idea of what is out there and what you can look for when you’re actively seeking some good Spanish fun.
‘The House of Flowers’ or ‘La Casa de las Flores’
This Mexican black comedy-drama series created by Manolo Caro depicts a dysfunctional upper-class Mexican family that owns a prestigious floristry shop and a struggling cabaret, both called 'The House of Flowers'. If the premise already sounds fun, it gets better. Over three seasons (so far), the show goes on to satirize the telenovela format and tells a story that has rich characters, hilarious and dark moments, and touches on themes like sexuality, class, race, and generally critique society well. The show stars Verónica Castro, Cecilia Suárez, and Aislinn Derbez among others and all actors have received acclaim for their performances.
‘Dark Desire’ or ‘Oscuro Deseo’
If ‘The House of Flowers’ satirizes it, ‘Dark Desire’ embraces the idea of over-exaggerated storytelling, over-the-top acting, and betrayals at every end format of telenovelas. This Mexican erotic thriller/drama series is a guilty pleasure if there ever was one. The show lacks all kinds of good writing. It oversexualizes its women characters. It forgets motivations and arcs.
But it is every bit as enjoyable as any “so bad that it’s good” show or film. It has a crazy storyline that follows a lovelorn wife of a high-power judge who has a mysterious ex-cop brother. The wife finds a young lover who gets obsessed with her. He then takes to seducing her daughter to get to her. It’s a preposterous story that is only too full of sex, murders, and betrayals. But it is a fun watch. It is one of those things you don’t recommend to others but keep it to yourself and a small circle so that you can laugh at the trite story and pretend that you’re not more invested in the characters than you should ever be.
‘Someone Has to Die’ or ‘Alguien tiene que morir’
Another creation of Manolo Caro, this Spanish limited series, while carries on Caro’s fascination with rich families, tells a heartbreaking story. Set in Francoist Spain in the 50s, it is the story of a young gay man who has to deal with many things, and ultimately unrequited love. In its endless tragedies, one cascading over the other, the show is partly a socio-political history lesson, partly a tale of identity, and partly a grotesque love story. With strong performances from Alejandro Speitzer, Carmen Maura, Cecilia Suárez, and Ernesto Alterio, it’s not a show anyone should miss, least of all someone who is looking for good Spanish-language shows to consume.
Based on the popular ‘Valeria’ saga by Elísabet Benavent, this Spanish show based in Madrid follows the titular character’s life as she struggles to write while suffering from impostor syndrome, trying to not remain broke, and working her way through a marriage that’s as far away from ideal as it can be. ‘Valeria’ may not have been liked by fans of the books who thought the loose adaptation glossed over some of the more important facets of Valeria’s life, but it is nonetheless a good show.
Valeria’s journey through life in posh Madrid is a great study of human character. Her pretense is what makes her life-like. Her make-believe image is what makes her real. Her lies highlight her truth. And it is in these contradictions that the show shines. The show also beautifully portrays the dissatisfactions of modern life -- outside the glitz of the bright lights, the loud parties, the clandestine affairs, and the superficial happiness, everyone leads a double life. One that they project. And one that they truly endure day after day.
What list is complete without some teen drama? ‘Elite’, created by Carlos Montero and Darío Madrona, is set in a fictional high school and revolves around the relationships between three working-class teenage students enrolled at the school through a scholarship and their wealthy classmates.
If you think ‘Riverdale’ and ‘Gossip Girl’ is just an American construct, then you should take a step back and check this show out. And while it may seem like an angsty high school drama at the start, the show has much to offer thanks to some splendid writing. It has a thriller component. It has romance. And it has social commentary. What more can one ask for?