Los Espookys Season 1 (HBO)
Written by Fred Armisen, Ana Fabrega, & Julio Torres
Directed by Fernando Frias
There is nothing else like Los Espookys on television. From the opening of the first episode, a fast-paced series of scenes that introduces us to Renaldo at his sister’s quinceanera which he decorated in an all horror/goth theme to moment we see Andres’ shock of tightly cropped blue hair appear on screen we know that our protagonists will be odd, to say the least. The most normal of the Los Espookys crew is Ursula who is technically genius, yet she’s saddled with her little sister Tati, who is competing with Andres to become the most esoteric character to appear on television since Agent Cooper. This is a fully realized and specific world, like ours but slightly askew.
Renaldo is a horror buff whose talents bring him to the attention of people wanting to pull off elaborate tricks or scams. He brings his friends together to form Los Espookys, and they take on a wide array of jobs from faking an exorcism to making a U.S. ambassador appear to be sucked into a cursed mirror. While the first few episodes deal in our characters creating fake spooks in the latter half, the season brings us demons, evil twins, and telling the future by throwing buttons on a coffee table. These moments of the fantastic are met with nonplussed glances by our characters who quickly accept these revelations as just part of life.
The aesthetics of the series feel slightly familiar, but you never get the sense that anything is being ripped off. There are shades of Wes Anderson and something surreal like Cary Fukunaga’s Maniac. The creators are likely fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the Z-tier shlock that gets mocked on that series. The humor here never punches down; the creators love these quirky, sloppy, and odd horror tropes and movies, so they poke fun at them in a very loving way. This is a show made by people who genuinely enjoy creating this world and filling it to the brim with details.
While Fred Armisen held the door open, the main creators of the show are comedians Ana Fabrega and Julio Torres, who play Tati and Andres respectively. Their style of comedy is unexpected with storylines that touch on the every day but then take wild left turns into absurdity. Tati gets caught up in the pyramid scheme Heirbalite, a spoof on the real multilevel marketing scheme Herbalife that is a consistent presence in Latin American domestic life. Of course, the show escalates the reality so that, when Tati owes tens of thousands in the product, the company rep shows up and holds her at knifepoint until Ursula can get the money. Tati ends up in a long-distance relationship with a royal prince, her evidence being a hand-drawn illustration of a prince on her phone.
Los Espookys is the kind of comedy that isn’t made with constant reflections on appealing to a broad audience. The people making this show made a tv series they would want to watch and would make them laugh. These types of programs appeal to me most because I can feel the joy put into them. If Los Espookys were not to get a second season, the people who made it would still love the show, and it would always be a great six episodes of inventive comedic television. There are jokes here you might not get without some knowledge of Latin culture, particular telenovelas, but they can be funny on multiple levels of understanding. Broad humor, specific reference, and creativity make Los Espookys that every weirdo should sit down and watch.