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Spain’s ‘Scenes’ a runaway hit

Retro TV show shocking analysts

MADRID — Spain has a TV summer sleeper.

Analysts are rubbing their eyes in disbelief at the series — “Escenas de matrimonio” (Marriage Scenes) — and its stats.

“Scenes” is a throwback to the ’60s, anachronistically vitriolic, like a 40-minute mother-in-law joke but turning on married life.

Its 20-second comic sketches feature three couples: early-30s Miguel and Sonia, a bubble-headed babelicious exec; early-40s and overweight Marina, married to Roberto; and a pair of pensioners, Avelino and Pepa, who still entertain illusions of grandeur.

The men are feckless: Their better halves are frustrated, bitter halves. The put-downs can be mortifying.

“You’re more use to me dead than alive: You’d leave me a pension, you’d leave me a bed and you’d leave me in peace,” Pepa tells Avelino.

But, launched Aug. 1 on Telecinco, Spain’s dominant broadcaster, “Scenes” is an out-of-the-gate hit, winning its primetime slot six times in two weeks. On Aug. 13, it scored a series high of 23.7%, way above Telecinco’s 19.6% average.

Analysts are trying to figure out why.

In its sketch format, “Scenes” rides the wave of Telecinco’s regular season primetime access “Camera Cafe,” agile comic vignettes nailing office life.

“Scenes” also airs in a cushy timeslot, just before Telecinco’s all-conquering 10 p.m. dramas.

Summer is, of course, Spain’s silly season. “Scenes”‘ 2.44 million viewers are hardly mega numbers.

And the stats may only tell half the story.

Most Spaniards go on vacation in early August. But ratings company Sofres doesn’t measure second homes, hotels or restaurants.

“Scenes” took 26.4% among 16-54s, Telecinco reports. But analysts suspect that it plays well with over 54s.

“Older Spaniards don’t go on holiday or go out so much, despite summer,” says Eduardo Garcia Matilla, president of audience research company Multimedia Corp. “‘Scenes’ is retro, hard-core, older-skewing programming.”

Spain’s biggest broadcasters used to target the whole family, “but Spanish TV audiences are evolving fast,” says Garcia Matilla. “They’re aging up and fragmenting. And there are more single households.”

As auds fragment, “Scenes” looks like an early example of semi-niche programming.

However cob-webbed, the marriage gripefest’s a trendsetter.

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