From One Day at a Time to Charmed to Roswell, New Mexico and Party of Five, networks and streaming services have gotten in the habit of reviving past shows with a Latino lead or leads. "In the 1990s and early aughts, diversity on television meant throwing a Latino or two into an ensemble show: the cop on the right, the paramedic on the left, the nurse in the back," says Carolina A. Miranda. "Occasionally, a show might feature a Latino lawyer or doctor. Over the last half dozen years, however, studios seem to have developed another strategy to contend with representation. Enter: the reboot." Latinos, as Miranda points out, even star in Latino American reboots like Queen of the South, Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty. "For the most part, however, it appears that TV studios are hellbent on recycling old U.S. properties and dressing them up with a veneer of Latino," says Miranda, adding: "Building an audience is a complicated and costly endeavor, and reboots offer readymade marketing and a built-in fanbase. But they can also be a lazy default for fixing issues of representation while setting narrative traps: programming that fits into Hollywood’s narrow vision of what is Latino rather than programs that provide a more nuanced Latino worldview. At a time when the lack of Latino representation has created a cultural vacuum — one that has been eagerly filled by xenophobic politicians — original stories are critical. Of course, one show headed for a reboot — Fantasy Island (1977-84), being remade by Fox with Black and Latino actors (Kiara Barnes and John Gabriel Rodriguez, respectively) as two of the protagonists — was that rare television series with an iconic Latino lead: Ricardo Montalbán. In his dapper white suits and mellifluous accent, he played against Hollywood’s stereotypical vision of the servile Latino. His regal Mr. Roarke is always in charge." Miranda says reboots can offer new perspectives and feel contemporary, like One Day at a Time. Still, she points to Party of Five, which rebooted the 1990s Fox series with an immigration twist for Freeform. "The show’s plot made the show feel like more than a reboot," she says. "But it was a reboot nonetheless. And the whole reboot concept can trap a show into a preexisting narrative framework that might grant the existence of Latino characters but does not always allow for a Latino worldview." Miranda says Latinos need more original shows with Latino talent behind the scenes and on camera like Netflix's Gentefied, HBO's Los Espookys and Starz's Vida, which are like "unicorns" in their rarity.
TOPICS: One Day at a Time (2017 series), Charmed (2018 series), Gentefied, Jane the Virgin, Los Espookys, Party of Five (2020 series), Queen of the South, Roswell, New Mexico, Ugly Betty, Vida, Latinx TV