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Here's The New Thing To Watch On Netflix Right Now

"Gentefied" stands out as the show to watch this week.
Karrie Martin and Julissa Calderon in "Gentefied"
Karrie Martin and Julissa Calderon in "Gentefied"

The Netflix Highlight: “Gentefied,” Season 1

What’s up: Netflix’s “Gentefied” is a social commentary comedy about a Mexican-American family and their friends living in contemporary East Los Angeles. The family wants to continue operating its decades-spanning restaurant, but rising rents and other forms of gentrification put the business at risk.

How it starts: The camera focuses on one of the main characters in slow-motion, as he rides his bike while wearing wraparound shades, a gold chain and a flat-brim hat. He pulls the bike to a stop in front of an older woman and says, “Hey!”

He swings a backpack off his shoulder, and the camera shows the older woman looking concerned about what he’s going to pull out. It ends up being books.

“You got a copy of ‘The Five Love Languages’ in yet?” The librarian takes the books from his hand and shakes her head. “Shit,” he responds. “Alright, I’ll be back.”

The main cast includes Joaquín Cosio, Annie Gonzalez, Joseph Julian Soria and Carlos Santos.

“Gentefied,” Season 1, runs 10 episodes of roughly 30 minutes each.

Karrie Martin and Carlos Santos in "Gentefied"
Karrie Martin and Carlos Santos in "Gentefied"

Sum-up: “Gentefied” gets its name from a pun on the Spanish word “gente,” which translates to “people” or “family,” and the struggle of participating in the cruel capitalist march of gentrification.

The show was created by Marvin Lemus and Linda Yvette Chávez, first-generation writers based in Chicago. Their scripts excel in many categories, especially character building and comedic dialogue. Within the first few minutes of the first episode, the characters already feel fully realized, with conversations often centering on loving pinprick insults the characters fling at each other. Many comedies let the insults land and have the victims respond with unrelated dialogue (think “Veep” or “Succession”), but here they push back in defense with equally funny jokes.

This style makes the show incredibly fun while it gnaws on important questions with no black-and-white answers. It’s a winning formula.

Heads up: The episodes have a narrative clunkiness. The show wants to tackle big questions about contemporary America, but often tries to take on too many at once. This means a given B plot has little time to live up to that goal. “Gentefied” is at its best when the characters are slinging jokey insults at each other that relate to the political themes of the show, instead of when it slams on the brakes to create weighty moments that have little to do with the central plot.

Joseph Julian Soria, Joaquin Cosio and Carlos Santos in "Gentefied"
Joseph Julian Soria, Joaquin Cosio and Carlos Santos in "Gentefied"

Close-up: One of show’s first plots focuses on the grandfather, the family’s patriarch, drinking in frustration over his business and subsequently getting arrested when he throws a beer bottle through a new development’s window. His loyal grandson struggles to come up with the bail money and has to run around the city collecting a little money here and there. He ultimately has to part ways with his breaking down, but beloved truck in exchange for some money and ends up having to ride a bicycle.

This dramatic setup comes to comedic fruition when the grandson finally bails his grandfather out, but has only a bike to bring him home. The grandson pedals while the grandfather stands on the back pegs, wearing a cowboy hat and looking a bit embarrassed about the situation.

Annie Gonzalez and Joseph Julian Soria in "Gentefied."
Annie Gonzalez and Joseph Julian Soria in "Gentefied."

History: CityLab had an article in 2017 about gentrification tensions in East Los Angeles. The piece begins with a story about a gallery that opened and quickly shut after protests from the community.

Comparable stories: The Mexican-American and East Los Angeles focus have similarities to the Starz show “Vida.” The narrative of a character trying to get a fine-dining job outside his familial community is like the Showtime show “The Chi.”

The comedy comes from charismatic, youthful characters shooting playful insults at each other ― which makes it similar to citycentric HBO comedies like “High Maintenance” and “Looking.”

The characters and money: Given the focus on gentrification and the changing American dream, money is the subtext of almost all of the plot.

One of the series’ central tensions comes from two cousins arguing over different methods for saving the family business. One has a business degree and suggests firing someone and other “free market” ideas. The other resents this, believing that taking a personal pay cut and hard work will turn things around.

Bonus: “Gentefied” started as a digital web series back in 2017. You can watch the trailer for that series here:

Trailer:

A Couple Of Netflix News Stories From This Week

1. Netflix announced that later this year it will release a new movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by Adam McKay. The satirical film is called “Don’t Look Up” and focuses on two astronomers trying to warn the world about an incoming asteroid.

2. “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” debuted on Netflix last year, but had its television premiere on AMC this week. To that end, AMC released a new “Breaking Bad Short” that stars Jesse Plemons as Todd talking on the phone and making a snow globe. The snow globe appears in “El Camino.” Watch:

And here are the shows and movies that joined Netflix recently:

Feb. 17

  • “The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia” (Netflix Family)

Feb. 19

  • “Chef Show” (Volume 3, Netflix Original)

Feb. 20

  • “Spectros” (Netflix Original)

Feb. 21

  • “A Haunted House”
  • “Babies” (Netflix Documentary)
  • “Gentefied” (Netflix Original)
  • “Glitch Techs” (Netflix Family)
  • “Puerta 7” (Netflix Original)
  • “System Crasher” (Netflix Film)

Feb. 22

  • “Girl on the Third Floor”