We thought Hulu’s Mike, a dramatized biographical series on Mike Tyson, didn’t go deeply enough into its subject’s complicated background when we saw it. But is it preferable if a series takes the other course? A new television show on Vicente Fernández, a legendary singer from Mexico, spans over 30 hours and over 36 episodes. Is that enough or too much?
El Rey, Vicente Fernández :- Stream It Or Skip It
Opening Shot: a scene of individuals entering a bullring. Mexico’s Plaza de Toros, “September 15, 1984.”
The Gist: Vicente Fernandez (Jaime Camil) falls inside the stadium when his cab arrived, gripping his side and sporting a cut on his head. He appears to be too ill to perform, but his wife Maria (Marcela Guirado), whom he refers to as “Chiquita,” knows differently. He dons his mariachi mask and performs his songs as if nothing had happened to him. But he also experiences hallucinations in which he is riding a horse and sees the same mustachioed man that he has known since he was little.
In 1966, Sebastian Dante’s character “Chente” is a young man who is in León, Guanajuato, for the first leg of what he believes would be a lengthy tour that will enable him and his brother-in-law to purchase a gas station. Palermo El Gordo, the tour manager (Carlos Corona), encourages him, but it appears that the other tour members are a little envious. Chente tries to avoid problems and alcohol so he doesn’t lose the money he’s attempting to save on gambling. He has no idea that Palermo is concealing the information from him to keep him on the trip.
Then, we go back in time to 1950 in Jalisco. Chente (Kaled Acab) is a brave ten-year-old who wagers with his relatives, particularly with Gustavo, who is his favorite (Juan Pablo Hermida). But when he goes in search of his father Ramón (Enoc Leao), who is being assaulted by the thugs working for the neighborhood loan shark, everything changes. Ramón engages in heavy drinking, gambling, and heated arguments with Chente’s mother Paula (Marissa Saavedra).
Ramón is supportive of Chente when he is sober, and he even agrees to let him drop out of school and pursue singing full-time. Ramón also promises to accompany Chente to a new job he is starting in Guadalajara. Up until a disaster, everything appears to be going well, especially when Tavo assists him in courting young Chiquita (Ishkra Zaval).
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? When compared to Mike, a biographical television series, El Rey, Vicente Fernández is much, much, much longer.
Our Take: Vicente Fernández had a career that lasted over 60 years, and up until his passing in December of last year, he was one of Mexico’s most beloved singers. Consequently, a biography of him would probably be lengthy. However, El Rey, Vicente Fernández consists of 36 episodes. That is closer to the length of a telenovela than a biographical series.
This indicates that the narrative of Chente will be told slowly by the creators, Dago Garcia and Jhonny Alexander Ortiz. That is what the first episode, which mostly switches back and forth between 1950 and 1966, shows. Given that Camil (Jane The Virgin) is the show’s leading man, we may expect to see various periods. However, he is only mentioned briefly in these situations, often in brief ones that contrast him with his younger self. But it appears that we won’t see much of Camil until around episode 13, considering how the show will focus on his upbringing and the beginning of his career.
This in-depth look at Fernández’s life may be just what his followers have been yearning for. However, for those who are unfamiliar with his life and work, it would be worthwhile to skip some of the episodes or just read a biography of him. And that’s not because the program is in any way subpar; rather, Camil, Dante, and Acab provide strong performances as the numerous actors that portray Chente, giving the program a realistic appearance and feel. However, it proceeds slowly, and if a viewer doesn’t already know something about Fernández and his career, there isn’t enough emotional tension to keep them interested for such a long run of episodes.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: Chente, who is devastated after learning about his brother-in-law, is visited by a record label executive who claims to have an offer for him that might completely alter the course of his family’s life.
Sleeper Star: Every Chente character must have a wonderful voice, but Kaled Acab’s portrayal of Chente as a little boy pleased us.
Most Pilot-y Line: Palermo chooses to withhold the information about Chente’s brother-in-law from his star to continue traveling after learning about it. Instead, he criticizes Chente for not interacting with the other tour participants enough. “I already want to party after the concert,” Chente replies. The odd translation may be all there is, but it doesn’t sound like a very natural line of speech.
Our Call: If you enjoy Vicente Fernández, stream it; if not, skip it. Vicente Fernández’s El Rey is a visually appealing series with some respectable acting. However, the time investment required will turn away the majority of those who haven’t heard of Fernández before.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) is a tech, parenting, cuisine, and entertainment writer who also admits to being a TV junkie. His articles have also appeared elsewhere, including in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, and Fast Company.