You’ll Like It If You Already Like: Devious Maids, Ugly Betty, Revenge…
Likely timeslot: sunday at 8 or 9, or wednesday at 10
I got excited by this Grand Hotel project, based on the spanish hit series, like 10 minutes when Roselyn Sanchez and then Demian Bichir were cast in the two most prominent roles of the ensemble. Roselyn Sanchez was just hilarious in Devious Maids & Demian Bichir is a really good actor with a wide range of acting. That was reassuring. And then they kept on casting young actors and actresses mostly based on their looks, I suppose. Which is fine if you’re doing a daytime soap, I guess. But not when you want to make a great primetime soap, with a strong comedic aspect, which will obviously be compared to Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty or Devious Maids. And those became iconic thanks to their solid writing and their skilled cast, not just because the women were sexy in their dresses and the men hot with their abs out. So maybe they’re really beautiful AND talented, BUT this script is weak and I don’t think they will be able to save it.
Look, I’m a sucker for good soaps. I was raised by Amanda Woodward on Melrose Place! So what I’m gonna tell you is not coming from someone who doesn’t like the genre and doesn’t unsterdand it. I really do. But ABC just can’t put this on their schedule and hope for a miracle. It’s just not gonna work. If they didn’t keep Devious Maids for themselves back in the days and sent it to Lifetime, it was for a (good) reason. There was like zero chance it worked for them. I was frustrated at the time but ultimately I got it. And actually, we can’t even say it really worked for Lifetime either, as great as it was. Ratings for the first season were okay but then it fell quickly. Grand Hotel is really lazy, rarely funny and it lacks so many things to make it appealing, starting by characters you can care about, that I don’t see how ABC could even consider a series order. But hey, maybe it’s just me… Of course, there’s the international appeal because Gran Hotel was a success all over the world but I suspect it was for the most part because it was a period soap set in 1906. Like a lighter Downton Abbey of some sort. But here, and I get why ABC did it, it’s set in the present days. The upstairs/downstairs aspect has disappeared and it’s mostly about the family that owns the hotel, the people who work for them and the guests are not that important overall. Making it more like a traditional family soap kinda makes sense so the american audience will feel more comfortable with it, but it looses its charm along the way and nothing really makes it distinctive. I didn’t like the new Dynasty‘s pilot either. But then it got better. So who knows? But it doesn’t work for The CW. Why would this for ABC?
Gonzalo Cardena, the owner of the hotel -who decided to sell it- is decribed as “one of those people who can talk to anyone and make them feel like fast friends; he has built himself up from nothing and will do anything to keep what he has”. Well, that’s a waste of Demian Bichir. Of course, he’s worth better than that but most of all, his character doesn’t come out as charming to me; it’s just an uninteresting and coward man. It would have been fun if he were a really bad guy, even a cliché of a bad guy, but so far in this pilot he’s just nothing much. Then there’s Gigi Cardena, his second wife “impossibly stylish with a flair for excess, unapologetically fabulous but never frivolous, smart, cunning and fiercely loyal to her twin daughters”. Well, this is a dreamy description but the reality is far less exciting. I’m pretty sure Roselyn Sanchez can improve the writing by her comic genius, but the problem is: Gigi’s not a fun bitch; she’s not even a very bad bitch. She’s just a bitch. Like a bitch in a bad ABC Family/Freeform drama. A WASTE! The only character that I like is Mrs P., the no-nonsense staff manager, tough on the outside -with great lines- and lovely on the inside. That’s a character you want to follow. All the others are just bland. Not nasty enough to be fun, not nice enough to be loveable. They’re just right in the middle of nowhere.
Are the twists good at least? Nope! You just go from one cliché story to another, and you know exactly how it’s gonna end the moment one of the character appears. Not gonna spoil it just in case ABC picks it up, but let’s just say Danny, the gorgeous new waiter at The Riviera, can’t hide very long why he’s really here, what are his ulterior motives. Devious Maids did similar stories not that long ago with more flavour and cleverness. There’s a wedding happening during this pilot. They had what they needed to make it explosive, crazy… It just falls flat. We had so many weddings in soaps, some very epic, they had to top that at least. They didn’t even try. It’s just one disappointment after another. And I can’t wait to watch the opening sequence happening during a hurricane! I’m pretty sure ABC Studios special effects team will do it justice…
You really need to be a virgin in the soap opera/telenovela world to appreciate Grand Hotel. When you’ve already seen really great ones, it’s just one bad more, and we had many through the years, oh boy! And if you’ve watched something like Jane The Virgin, that plays with the genre to make it more unique and fresher, you can only find this pilot very pale in comparison. If ABC has to choose between Grand Hotel and False Profits, there’s no doubt the latter is a far more interesting option! It has depth and a feel-good vibe, something Grand Hotel lacks among many other things.