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TV Review: HBO’s ‘Los Espookys’

The new comedy from Fred Armisen, Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega is a surreal delight.

Julio Torres and Bernando Velasco, Los
HBO

Some of the best TV shows are the ones that are just about impossible to describe. Shows that are wild and weird, pushing the confines of what TV has been and “should” be, TV that proudly plants its freak flag in your face and dares you to question it. For all that — plus the important fact that it’s very, very funny — “Los Espookys” had my full attention from the jump.

The new comedy follows a group of horror enthusiasts who turn their passion into a collaborative profession, taking commissions for spooky events like faking a sea monster sighting or enacting a “basic inheritance scare” (i.e. trapping unwitting people in a mansion, dangling the promise of a fortune in front of them, and seeing who can withstand their attempts to scare them away). Goth obsessive Renaldo (Bernardo Velasco) leads the charge with his pure devotion to all things creepy; ethereal chocolate fortune heir Andrés (co-creator Julio Torres) dreams big and talks bigger; frank dental assistant Úrsula (Cassandra Ciangherotti) provides the reality checks neither of them will. Whenever their schemes require someone to act as anything from a body double to a possessed child to the aforementioned sea monster, Úrsula’s sister Tati (co-creator Ana Fabrega) steps in with a giant, oblivious smile. (In a notable departure from most HBO comedies, “Los Espookys” not only takes place in an amorphous Latin American country, but is spoken almost entirely in Spanish with English subtitles.)

For as bizarre as its premise is, it’s still far more straightforward than the show itself. “Los Espookys” was originally conceived by co-creator Fred Armisen (who occasionally pops up as Renaldo’s doting valet uncle), but the series owes its singular strangeness to Torres and Fabrega, who wrote every episode. Their humor — which some might know from Torres’ signature “Saturday Night Live” sketches like “Wells for Boys” and Fabrega’s deadpan appearances on shows like “At Home With Amy Sedaris” — is sly and smart. Their jokes can be pointed, as in the case of most anything involving vapid American ambassador Melanie (Greta Titelman); they can be lovingly ridiculous, as with most anything involving Andrés, his power hungry boyfriend (José Pablo Minor), or his mysterious origin story that he drops into casual conversation at every opportunity. (There may be no character on television more memorable than the blue shadow demon that lives in Andrés consciousness and wants nothing more than to see Academy Award-winning film “The King’s Speech.”) Fabrega and Torres infuse every scene with so many rich and unexpected punchlines that there’s truly no knowing where it might end up, making “Los Espookys” a comedic rarity.

With its purposefully odd rhythms and blunt turns, “Los Espookys” won’t be for everyone — but it doesn’t have to be. Just as Renaldo found people who revere the art of the bizarre as much as he does, I have a feeling “Los Espookys” will find its audience that appreciates the same.

“Los Espookys” premieres Friday, June 14 on HBO.

TV Review: HBO’s ‘Los Espookys’

  • Production: Executive producers: Fred Armisen, Ana Fabrega, Julio Torres, Lorne Michaels, Andrew Singer, Alice Mathias, Nate Young.
  • Crew:
  • Cast: Ana Fabrega, Julio Torres, Cassandra Ciangherotti, Bernardo Velasco, José Pablo Minor, Fred Armisen.
  • Music By: