CANNES — Adrián Suar, Latin America’s most extraordinary hyphenate, sits in Cannes’ Palais des Festivals, the Croisette behind him, ready to talk up his latest pioneering move in the Latin American TV entertainment scene.
That’s no minor detail. As Fox pushes ever more into a digital cord-cutting world, Suar’s show, “The Host,” currently rates as the No 1 original production from Fox Networks Group Latin America on the new Fox + app.
Suar’s at Cannes, because, in a world of ever more global localization, the idea could also export as a format to other countries too.
“The Host” is just the latest move in a remarkably broad career.
For the Argentine public, Suar’s one of the most recognizable faces of a hugely popular line in Argentine comedy of manners: 2008’s “A Boyfriend For My Wife,” “Just Like Me” in 2010, 2012’s “2 + 2” and last year’s “I Married a Dumbass,” produced by his company Pol-ka and the Disney-backed Patagonik. Often nailing the inadequacies of Argentine manhood – good at romance, disappointing after marriage – these helped break in Argentine movies in Argentina as a creditable alternative to Hollywood blockbuster entertainment. All four were the highest-grossing Argentine movies of their year.
For those in the business, however, Suar is director of programming of Artear-El Trece, the flagship free-to-air channel of media conglom Clarín Group, and one of Argentina’s top TV networks.
In more multi-tasking, he’s also the owner with Artear of production house Pol-ka Producciones. Launched in 1994, it is one of the few historical (semi-) independent TV production houses in Latin America, co-producer of some of its finest series – 2017¡s “The Bronze Garden” with HBO Latin America, for instance – and now partnering Netflix for series “Puerta 7”.
Suar’s latest move, however, takes him into uncharted territory: the 13-part one hour series “The Host,” produced by Fox Networks Group Latin America and Pol-ka.
In it, Suar plays a lovelorn hotel manager, abandoned by his wife on their honeymoon, who invites world-famous singers to perform. His recovery from romantic debacle gives the series its broadest narrative arc.
Suar built his reputation in free-to-air. “The difference is that if it’s free-to-air it always more popular, contemplates being seen by the biggest number of viewers; if it’s pay, you can target a niche, though in this case, “The Host” is for everybody, but has certain singularities,” Suar said.
What’s so singular is its mix of genres, Suar recognized at Cannes. It’s a scripted fictional drama, part musical performance, and part (sometimes unscripted) comedy sketches.
“It’s like a carousel, where things happen in the hotel, one scenario opens, then closes, then returns”. But that for Suar, who originated the series, was its main attraction.
“The first suggestion was a general entertainment program, or a talk-show, but that’s not really my wheelhouse, so I brought it nearer to what I like: O.K., interviews, but fictional ones.” he commented.
“The Host” also partakes of Argentina’s grand tradition of layering fiction and reality.
The hotel guests may be famous, but they don’t play themselves. Some of the musicians who come are friends of Suar’s in reality but not in the fiction, and vice versa. Famed Argentine comedian Martín Bossi has a role as the hotel’s artistic director, but he also pops up impersonating, say, soccer legend Leo Messi, who Suar’s character bumps into in the hotel sauna, Bossi pulling off the soccer legend’s endearing chronic timidity to a tee.
“Rather like mixing sushi with Peruvian gastronomy, people might like it but will always ask what it is,” Suar commented at Cannes.
People certainly do like it.
“A good show is not only one that performed well on its premiere,” said Edgar Spielmann, EVP & COO Andean & Pacific Region, digital consumer and production. It’s one, he adds, that “brings recurring viewing on our pay TV channels but most important that seduces our millions of users on our Fox App via non-linear consumption across several seasons.”
“The Host” is such a good show in the making. Including all Fox Networks Group shows, it comes close second in Argentina to “The Walking Dead,” Spielmann said at Mipcom.
“Our main focus now is on shows that could be used on our app for binge watching that perform well in a specific market but can also be watched in all the other markets,” he added.
“The Host” also underscores other driving trends at Fox Networks Group Latin America, a driving force behind new generation TV in the region. It marks diversification from FNG Latin America’s original scripted focus, though that remains strong. FNG Latin America is now shooting Season 2 of Gael García Bernal’s “Here on Earth,” which world premiered in competition at Canneseries, just won best series at the Zurich Festival, is nominated for Latin America’s Fenix Awards.
As TV drives into localization, it’s also “a format with a lot of potential. It’s like when you get a new toy with lots of buttons. It will be what you want, depending on the button you press and what order.”
“You want to make it more of a musical? O.K. Or you could make it as a talk show or a comedy. We would enjoy these discussions. Is it a format? Yes! But what genre? It’s not classified,” he added, explaining “The Host’s” flexibility as a format.