Hold onto your hats, there’s a lot to get through in the first episode of Grand Hotel, a glossy scripted series set in Miami’s Riviera Grand Hotel, not the least of which is the myriad of characters served up.
This US drama is actually based on a 2011 Spanish series Gran Hotel, which was set in 1906! Not anymore, it’s now a primetime spicy melodrama thanks to the likes of producer Eva Longoria and the money of ABC. Get ready for a lot of hot tamale Upstairs, Downstairs fraternising between a wealthy hotel clan and their super sexy staff.
At the centre of this tale is the mystery of what happened to chef Sky (Arielle Kebbel) in the opening tease, in what looks like a case of murder during a hurricane. Fast-forward to one month later and we meet owner Santiago Mendoza (Demián Bichir) his second wife Gigi (Roselyn Sanchez) and their collective adult children.
Alicia (Denyse Tontz) has returned from business school ready to be heiress to the company throne, while sexy and disabled brother Javi (Bryan Craig) is busy bedding his latest conquest. Their half-sister Carolina (Feliz Ramirez) is about to wed a wealthy Chinese tycoon, but another half-sister Yoli (Justina Adorno) derails that.
Then there are the employees, headed up by general manager Mateo (Shalim Ortiz), staff manager Helen (Wendy Raquel Robinson), her waiter son Jason (Chris Warren), pregnant housekeeper Ingrid (Anne Winters) and new waiter Danny (Aussie Lincoln Younes). Also in the mix is visiting guest rapper El Rey (Jencarlos Canela) ….have I left anybody out?
In between the glam fashion and the bedsheets, the family is shocked to learn Santiago is seeking to sell the hotel.
“This was mommy’s hotel before it was yours. She wanted us to have it!” insists Alicia.
But Alicia will also be drawn to Danny, whom she mistakes for a guest, in one of the show’s stronger pairings. It has to be said, Younes puts in one of the more charismatic performances -all those years in Summer Bay have held him in excellent stead. Danny is also at the centre of one of the show’s bigger storylines.
Director Ken Olin (former Thirtysomething actor) crowds this opening chapter with plenty of cards, all of which you just know are going to be pulled out with telenovela flair. I found it hard to believe Javi couldn’t remember one character he supposedly slept with, but no matter, we move onto another subplot faster than you can say Speedy Gonzales.
While I was secretly hoping this might be a suped-up version of Hotel (Bette Davis appeared in that pilot) with star turns as guests, this is probably closer to Empire. It’s another rich, dysfunctional family in a tug of war over a company (oh wait, that’s Succession), and it unapologetic for its melodrama approach. Having such a strong Latino cast, will it struggle in Australia? Time will tell.
Check in, check your make-up, and get ready for a salsa before cocktails.
Grand Hotel screens 8:40pm Wednesdays on Nine.