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Recommended: Menudo: Forever Young on HBO Max

The tale of Puerto Rico's greatest pop machine gets a meaty music doc worth savoring.
  • Menudo, circa 1981: (top) Miguel Cancel, Johnny Lozada and Xavier Serbia, (bottom) René Farrait and Ricky Meléndez. (Photo: Padosa Inc)
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    Menudo: Forever Young | HBO Max
    Music Docuseries (4 Episodes) | TV-MA

    What's Menudo: Forever Young About?

    The legendary Puerto Rican boy band Menudo pushed Spanish-language pop music to previously unimaginable success in the late 70s and early 80s. But while a global audience fell for them, the boys in the band endured shocking neglect and abuse, which several former members recall in detail.

    Who's involved?

    • The series is co-directed by Ángel Manuel Soto (Charm City Kings) and Kristofer Ríos (Havana Skate Days). Soto was born in Puerto Rico, and in the episodes he directs alone, he brings keen insight to the economic forces that brought millions of Puerto Ricans to the United States and thus set the stage for Menudo's popularity in places like Miami and New York City.
    • Though Ricky Martin, the most famous member, is not involved, many former Menudos sit down for vulnerable conversations about their time in the group.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    For anyone who watches the perpetual stream of music docs, Menudo: Forever Young will be familiar in both comforting and chilling ways.

    On the comforting end of the spectrum, this series is structured much like an episode of Behind the Music, taking us on a chronological journey from the early days of the Menudo project to its global success and its eventual descent into scandal. The dramatic tension in this arc is as gratifying as ever, and if Soto and Ríos aren't breaking new ground with their storytelling style, then they at least have an uncommonly interesting subject.

    For one thing, Menudo was explicitly conceived as a pop music brand that was bigger than its members. From the beginning, singers were phased out if they got too old (or difficult) and replaced with younger kids, and the series does a good job articulating the economic benefits and emotional costs of this approach. For another, Menudo conquered many parts of the world by singing in Spanish, which was rare for pop stars at the time, and the series vibrantly demonstrates how meaningful this was to Spanish-speaking fans across the world.

    Sadly, the back half of the show — when ex-Menudo members describe the physical, verbal, and sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of their manager and his cronies — is also familiar. As the former Menudos describe what they endured, there are obvious parallels to the revelations of abuse in docs like HBO's Leaving Neverland and Lifetime's Surviving R. Kelly, as well as the financial and emotional injustices detailed in Framing Britney Spears.

    Though the series argues the legacy of Menudo is still overwhelmingly positive, it's hard to ignore that, once again, the story of beloved pop stars is shot through with suffering.

    Pairs well with

    • The Ricky Martin episode of Behind the Music (Paramount+), which adds the most famous ex-member's voice to the mix.
    • Leaving Neverland (HBO), the gripping documentary about the children who were allegedly abused by Michael Jackson at the height of his fame.
    • Star (Hulu), the underappreciated fictional series starring Queen Latifah as a manager trying to guide young singers to the big time.

  • Menudo: Forever Young
    All four episodes premiere June 23 on HBO Max.
    Starring: César Abreu, Ray Acevedo, Robert Avellanet, Sergio Blass, Andy Blazquez, Edgardo Diaz, Angelo Garcia, Johnny Lozada, Ricky Martin, Ricky Meléndez, Jonathan Montenegro, Ádrian Olivares, Raphy Rodriguez, Ash Ruiz, and Rawy Torres.
    Directed by: Ángel Manuel Soto and Kristofer Ríos.

    TOPICS: Menudo: Forever Young, HBO Max, Ádrian Olivares, Andy Blazquez, Ángel Manuel Soto, Angelo Garcia, Ash Ruiz, César Abreu, Edgardo Diaz, Johnny Lozada, Jonathan Montenegro, Kristofer Ríos, Raphy Rodriguez, Rawy Torres, Ray Acevedo, Ricky Martin, Ricky Meléndez, Robert Avellanet, Sergio Blass