Even though I’ll always remain a fan of the big screen, these days I really enjoy an episode or two of a series in the evening. Cuddle up in a cozy blanket in front of the TV or laptop and plunge into other worlds. For a long time, US productions have dominated the streaming platforms. But the attention for Spanish series increased abruptly with the success of La Casa de Papel. Today there’s quite a number of excellent Spanish productions. Let me introduce you to my Top 10 Spanish series.
The very first Spanish Netflix production was in fact Las Chicas del Cable. The Cable Girls stand up for each other like musketeers and go through amorous and other adventures together. While La Casa de Papel is set in today’s Spain, Las Chicas del Cable takes us back to the 1920s. To a time of awakening, emancipation and rapid technical development. The story takes its course in the headquarters of the Spanish telephone company in Madrid and leads us to the time of the Spanish Civil War. With the elegant characters and the authentic setting, the compelling historical background with its social and political developments, you even forgive the protagonist struggling with her heart’s choice until the final season.
One of the more recent series picks up the thread and takes place in a new phase of awakening. 45 revoluciones is the story of music in the 60s and of the rebellion of youth. Rebellion against the parents’ generation and against the Franco regime. A producer recognizes the signs of the times and founds a new record label. But 45rpm not only denotes the speed of the single vinyl records, it also refers to the tumultuous times. Showing the abysses and crashes of the culture industry and its players. The vintage charm and live music do especially well right now, while the clubs and bars are closed.
Back to the present, to a place where time seems to have come to a stillstand. Hierro is the title of the series and the name of the island where it is set. An investigating judge has been transferred to the most remote of the Canary Islands. And has to deal with a murder case as soon as she arrives. She encounters a wall of silence in a society that has long believed to know the culprit. How the single mother of a disabled child deals with the professional and the associated personal challenges is absolutely worth seeing. And the fantastic landscape shots of the second lead actress, El Hierro, anyway.
Another crime, another island. White Lines is the latest creation of Álex Pina, the man behind La Casa de Papel. The story revolves around the mysterious death of a young British DJ, who moved to Ibiza with a couple of friends. While they tried to live their dream of endless partying hard beats and hard drugs are taking their toll. Twenty years later, the DJ’s now grown-up little sister sets out on these tracks. And gets not only between the fronts of long-standing rivals but also to the abysses of her family history. The rhythm of the music and the shimmering images quickly draw the audience in and make them overlook even the flaws of the plot. By the way, the series was not only filmed on Ibiza but in parts also on Mallorca.
The team of the new season of the TV series La Caza Tramuntana actually investigates on Mallorca. Named after the fictional place of the plot which is easily recognizable as Valldemossa. Authentic images, complex characters and great Mallorca shots quickly cast a spell on you. But patience is required, not only with regard to the storyline. Since La Caza only started two weeks ago and rtve only airs one episode each week and puts it online, binge-watching is not yet an option.
Yet another crime series is set on Mallorca, starring a German-British investigator duo. The odd couple is teamed up by the Chief of Palma Police to solve The Mallorca Files, all kinds of crimes committed on the island. Actually, it’s not so much the plot that matters, but the feel-good action-driven atmosphere and the recognition of familiar places. I always enjoy the cheerful location guessing and the often nonsensical geographical sequences. And I keep an eye out for my neighbors who played along as extras.
A series that doesn’t take itself seriously is El Vecino. Here, the neighbor is the main character. A likable loser who one day accidentally gains unexpected powers. But even as a superhero he is quite a failure. The problems usually only really start when he tries to solve them. And the mystery surrounding the protagonist’s identity quickly makes it clear that there is a trace of superhero in quite different people. Like the blogger girlfriend, or the nerd preparing for his career as a civil servant.
Another series about the lives of young urbanites that captures the zeitgeist is Valeria. The eponymous protagonist struggles with writer’s block and a marriage whose fire is pretty much extinguished. We accompany not only Valeria but also her three best friends through their everyday life in Madrid. A jumble of work, sex, and friendship in search of identity, real love and belonging. Reminiscent of Sex and the City, but almost authentic.
La Casa de las Flores is actually a Mexican series, but part of it is set in Madrid. A family business as colorful as a bouquet of flowers. Greatly cast (Cecilia Suárez, Paco León, et al.), The House of Flowers doesn’t shy away from wry humor and unexpected twists and turns, when the conservative darling daughter suddenly becomes involved in saving a nightclub. Simultaneously keeping an eye on the flower store.
El Embarcadero tells a gripping story in big pictures. Until the end, it remains unclear what really happened at the jetty and how it all lead to an unexpected death. The Pier shows us excerpts of two lives or life plans that do not seem to fit together. Starring Alvaró Morte („The Professor“) in the futile attempt to unite these two lives in one person. What role do the friends really play, what do the people in the village know? Even though the police and the widow are investigating, this is not a crime movie, nor is it a classic thriller. El Embarcadero is more of a love story, also a love story to life.
And then there’s The Kominsky Method. A genuine American series, but one that I like a lot. So I’ve added it as a bonus track, so to speak. And indeed, one of the two main characters even lives temporarily on Mallorca. In any case, Michael Douglas as acting coach Sandy and Alan Arkin as his agent and best friend Norman are in top form. In Little Miss Sunshine and Going in Style, Arkin had already staged the grumpy old man grandiosely, here he brings him to perfection. The dialogues are a class of their own and the two ageing actors don’t shy away from jokes at their own expense.
This selection should get you through the hard time. Let me know which series you would like add to the Best-of streaming list. Which are your Top Spanish Series?