Thursday, June 11, 2015

Streaming follow-up: fans of Spain's gorgeous GRAN HOTEL finally get a third-season finale!

If comments on this blog are any indication, that delectable and beautiful soap opera via Span-ish television, GRAND HOTEL, has got to be one of the more popular foreign TV offerings currently avail-able on Netflix streaming. Fans have been begging the famous "content distributor" to give them that final season for nearly a year now. At last, here it is -- in 24 episodes of 44 minutes each.

When Season Two ended with the shock and jolt that left many of us with our mouths hanging open, some of us imagined that this indeed was indeed the end of the series -- in which the characters, many of whom were very bad people, got what they deserved. Still, we wondered, what about all the others? Now we know.

The series, based on an idea by a man and woman whom I would guess are the Spanish equivalent of what we over here in the USA call showrunners -- Ramón Campos (above, right) and Gema R. Neira (above, left), both of whom produced and collaborated on the writing of most, maybe all, of the episodes -- takes place in and around the titular grand hotel (filmed at the famous Palacio de la Magdalena) in the lush and verdant seaside locations of Santander in Cantabria, Spain.

Both outdoors and indoors, the series is a visual knockout, what with the gorgeous exterior shots and the highly detailed interiors -- oh, the flatware and china, the exquisite decor and costumes -- Gran Hotel proves a non-stop feast for the eyes. Comparisons have and will continue to be made to Downton Abbey, and they are certainly apt. But for my money this Spanish series beats out the British one, bigtime. Even if, I must admit, the third season does have its longueurs now and again. In order to reach its finale via those 24 episodes, a certain amount of padding is present.

Still, if you become as heavily involved with all these many, many characters as did I (and clearly many other viewers), it may be difficult not to become absolutely wrapped up in the often silly but always enjoyable plotting. This final season offers up the Alarcon's spoiled-rotten ladies' man son (Eloy Azorín, above, left) suddenly smitten with a nurse named Laura who has come to care for the wounded after season two's sudden "mishap." As played by Marta Hazas (above, right), this character proves a wealth of surprise, fun and, well, you'll find out....

Of course we have more of the Inspector Ayala (Pep Anton Muñoz, above, left) and his not-so-swift assistant (Antonio Reyes, above, right), both of whom manage to become even more fun as the series progresses, along with our ever-kept-apart lovebirds, Alicia and Julio (Amaia Salamanca and Yon González (on poster, top, and in the photo just below it), who remain as engaging as ever, though Ms Salamanca seems to have grown older and less lustrous, given all her poor character has had to put up with over 66 episodes.

Gran Hotel has become one of my favorite shows, due, I think, to the Spanish-ness of it all. I found it even more of a soap-opera than Downton Abbey, yet I liked it much better. These are some of the most memorable characters you'll spend this much time with -- so specific and interesting, despite the fact that they -- some of them, at least, like Doña Teresa, played by the very fine Adriana Ozores, shown center, above, in one of her more provocative moments -- get away with murder and somehow we still care about them. (This is one of the series' more troubling and interesting accomplishments.)

Then there's the whole "randy priest" thing involving our lying, murdering and adulterous Sofia (Luz Valdenebro, at ), along with the surprise of Javier finally learning to commit to his nutty wife (and the fact that he can only get an erection with her, of all things!).

And then, especially, there is Belén (played with enormous steel and force by Marta Larralde, shown center, above) -- who for some reason, despite her truly nasty deeds and utterly heartless demeanor, I'll remember best and with real fondness from the episodes in which she gives birth to and then loses her offspring -- a time in which she was most human, caring, vulnerable and sad.

Is there a villain in TV history you can hate more thoroughly yet find so damned sexy and alluring as that key character, Diego, played with such relish and smarts by Pedro Alonso (above, left)?  I doubt it.

This season, there are several new and very enjoyable characters, led by Alicia's dear friend Maite (played with delicious verve and flair by Megan Montaner, above) and the hotel's new and unusual maître d' (essayed by that fine and duly famous Spanish actor Lluís Homar, below).

With all its silliness and faults -- maybe even because of them -- I believe this to be an extraordinary series, like nothing else I can recall seeing. Its take on power, money and the coming of the Spanish middle class, and its joining, toward the end, of the wealthy to the poor (via "Duke" Alfredo and Doña Angela and her crew) I found most moving and progressive. Podemos would surely approve.

Gran Hotel, can be seen now via Netflix streaming or on DVD and Blu-ray. Do check it out. (That's the lovelorn, lovable and ever-naive Andrès, above, a waiter-turned-heir who is played by the uber-lovable actor, Llorenç González.) 

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