Drama lovers, this one’s for you.
One of the few shows people recommend to me over and over again—even those who don’t speak Spanish!—is the Antena 3 series Gran Hotel.
“It’s like a Spanish Downton Abbey” they tell me, before adding with a sheepish expression, “It’s so addictive. Just try it. You’ll see.”
I finally took the plunge on Netflix, and oh man, what a campy, ridiculous, lovable hot mess of a show.
If you like your drama served “guilty pleasure style” with just the right amount of cheese (I’m looking at you, former fans of One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl) then get ready to jump in head first.
Premise of Gran Hotel
After the death of the Alarcón family patriarch, Teresa and her children are left to carry on his legacy: a magnificent luxury retreat for the wealthy in the remote Spanish countryside known as The Grand Hotel.
For reasons that aren’t yet clear to me (I’m only five episodes in) Teresa has formed an evil alliance with her late husband’s smarmy assistant Diego, and sees him as the key to her family’s future, so much so that she orders her beautiful daughter Alicia to marry Diego in order to save the family.
Meanwhile Julio, a strapping young country boy, comes to the hotel to visit his sister, a maid named Cristina.
When he arrives he learns Cristina has disappeared under strange circumstances. Julio senses foul play, so he assumes a new last name and weasels his way into a waiter’s job so he can explore the mystery from the inside.
There he meets the beautiful blonde daughter, Alicia Alarcón, who begins to help him investigate Cristina’s disappearance.
Is it really a Spanish Downton?
The similarity to Downton Abbey begins and ends with fact that both series take place in the early 20th century and there’s clandestine mingling between the social classes. I believe Gran Hotel is set in 1905.
On Downton we have the aristocrats and their servants. Gran Hotel shows the interactions between high society hotel owners and their employees.
However, unlike Downton, the Gran Hotel storylines revolve around a central mystery, and it’s essentially a ‘whodunnit’ kind of show.
This show is so cheesy that right now I’m craving a nice slice of manchego.
The smarmy manager, Diego, is super villainous. Matriarch Teresa is essentially a Spanish Cruella de Vil with a maliciosa streak to rival any Lady Mary.
And Alicia, oh Alicia, she is so beautiful, and perfect, and good, that she may as well be an angel. No joke, after watching a few episodes, I noticed the costumers had begun to dress her almost exclusively in virginal white lace!
Poor Alicia is betrothed to the villain! So of course, her one flaw must be her attraction to the good-looking and enigmático waiter Julio.
Plus, can we talk about the score of the this show? Every single movement seems punctuated by dramatic orchestral music. Cue the strings, and dunt-duh-duh-DAAAA!!!
Yet it is so addictive… ¡un vicio delicioso!
I love the costumes; they are really beautiful. And I like that the women’s hairstyles aren’t impossibly shellacked. The blog Film a Porter has a great post in Spanish about the clothing on the show, which features explanations from the costume designer about her choices.
Gran Hotel offers crisis around every corner! Accidents, double crosses, and calamity abound! Secret pregnancies! Missing cutlery! Boxing matches!
But ¿sabes qué? The pace moves fast enough for me that I’m hooked, and for a few hours the outside world fades away.
Stay away from Wikipedia and the Gran Hotel official site!
A word of caution. The Gran Hotel official website is absolutely one giant SPOILER.
You don’t even have to go looking for spoilers. When the main page loads, in giant text it basically says something to the effect of “Wasn’t it great how this, this and this happened and we found out this in the series finale?!”
Dude, Spain. ¿Qué coño es esto, Antena 3? For real…
Likewise, the English language Wikipedia page also has some subtle spoilers. I’m not linking to either page so you won’t be tempted.
Stay away from the internet, and get on with watching Gran Hotel already!
Where and How to Watch Gran Hotel
Netflix offers the complete series, Seasons 1-3. You can choose to watch Gran Hotel without subtitles, with English subtitles, or with Spanish captions.
The Spanish captions were written for the deaf, so sometimes they don’’t match exactly what is being said on screen. The wording is tightened up so that the captions remain more or less in time with the mouths of the people speaking on screen.
This goes to show you just how many words a Spaniard can pack into a second!
I watch it with Spanish subtitles so I can pay close attention to how verbs are used and structured. I’ve also learned a couple new words, like una cotorra (chatterbox) and una meretriz (a strumpet!)
Hulu Plus also offers subscribers Gran Hotel, but only season one.
Whether using Netflix or Hulu, you should search for Gran Hotel by its English name, Grand Hotel to find it.
Let me know what you think of the show, or if there are any others I should be watching!