Juan Carrasco in ‘Venga Juan’ lives in the same luxury development as Carlos Baute, although, he insists on greeting him as “Chayanne” every time they pass each other. The teenage Bob Pop from ‘Maricón perdido’ is instead a neighbor of los Pecos, faking their autographs in front of the duo’s fans. If we had to look for parallels between the two series, perhaps at a first glance, the coincidences would end there, but the truth is that both share a similar spirit: the total break with the imaginary rules of comedy. Because can we really refer to it as comedy when, embarrassed by how overweight his daughter is Juan pretends that the girl is an orphan, coming from “probably obese” Romanian parents? Or the loneliness and squalor transmitted by the sauna scenes, regardless of how much time has buffered them in the memory of Bob Pop? Both ‘Maricón perdido’ and ‘Venga Juan’ have broken the mold of the genre and, no matter how many neologisms you throw at them, (dramedy, etc.), no label can encompass an originality to which both series have arrived albeit taking different paths.
‘Vote for Juan’, the first season of Carrasco’s adventures, was based on a cartoonish tradition inspired by series such as ‘The Office’ or closer still, ‘Shame’. A vulgar jackass of a politician defined by his flaws, with storylines and, above all, attitudes that, although fleeing opportunism with nods and winks to the present, achieved top-rate status. Thanks to an astonishing Javier Cámara, viewers identified their hidden “I” in the protagonist, that side we all have but rarely dare to show, at least consciously. The absurd plots, the characters, the gags … Everything worked and, even still, Diego San José and his crew decided to risk an even more perilous journey, taking the series towards unchartered and choppy waters that were already hinted at in ‘Vamos Juan’ and which now culminates in the third installment, ‘Venga Juan’. Less and less tried and tested and as such, predictable jokes, taking the comedy pace down a couple of notches and relying more on an internal pace, in which the central storyline is sprinkled throughout, episodes with independent personality, like Istanbul, the Argentine embassy or the meeting at the house of a corrupt builder. Small capsules of genius that serve to delve into characters for whom greater depth seemed impossible. Where once we heard echoes of ‘Airplane’, we now hear Shakespeare. Comedy? Maybe both traditions can naturally coexist side by side.
‘Maricón perdido’ on the other hand, and to the extent that the narrator becomes the main character, might connect to the mockumentary fictionalized version of himself, genre, plied with references to Larry David and ‘Louie’, and which in Spain has led to such prominent titles as the pioneering ‘¿Qué fue de Jorge Sanz?’ or Berto Romero’s Mira lo que has hecho, who also happens to executive producer on the show. But, unlike its predecessors, the initial ingredients in this case don’t appear all that suitable to parody or caricature. School bullying, abuse, homophobia, rape… In what would have been considered fertile ground for tragedy, Bob Pop has produced a luminous and apparently light-hearted work, drawing on a wealth of narrative resources to do so: alternating timelines, a mixture of reality and fiction, fantasy as a refuge, traumas that become literature, or the narrator who, transformed into a character, begins to fly solo, regardless of the decisions taken by its creator. Rarely have we seen such a natural outpouring of creativity so devoid of gloating and above all, a perspective so at peace with itself that shrinks from the temptation to settle old scores.
In a few weeks’ time, and to nobody’s surprise, ‘Venga Juan’, ‘Maricón perdido’ and other titles such as ‘Perfect Life’ will all be competing for the Best Comedy Series award at the Premios Feroz. But then, probably no one would even bat an eye if they were competing in the drama, or even dramedy category either, or in any other category we choose to invent. Because, insofar as Spanish TV dramas go, the molds have been well and truly shattered, where the only limits now are those set by the talent of their creators.