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Primo Is Freevee's Next Great Comedy

The show is a hilarious tale of a teen being raised by a single mom and five unhinged uncles.
  • Carlos Santos, Johnny Rey Diaz, Christina Vidal (photo: Jeff Neumann/Amazon Freevee)
    Carlos Santos, Johnny Rey Diaz, Christina Vidal (photo: Jeff Neumann/Amazon Freevee)

    On the list of unlikely cultural developments in 2023, Amazon Freevee producing two of the year’s best comedies would have ranked pretty high, and yet here we are. After delivering the unexpected delights of Jury Duty, the streamer is now debuting Primo, a family comedy that's sweet without being saccharine, smart without grinding its gears to make a point, and, best of all, incredibly funny.

    Primo comes from executive producer Mike Schur, who built his brand on warm-hearted series like Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, and creator Shea Serrano, an author and journalist who's covered sports and entertainment at Grantland and The Ringer. The premise, drawn from Serrano's own life growing up in San Antonio, centers on Mexican-American teenager Rafa (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio) coming of age with a single mom (Christina Vidal) and her five brothers, each of whom take an active and frequently unhinged interest in helping raise him.

    In lesser hands than a TV veteran like Schur or without Serrano's lived experience, the characterization of Rafa's uncles could verge on overdetermined. They're five demonstrably different personality types, each one pulling Rafa in a new direction. Jay (Jonathan Medina) is the oldest and grumpiest, who owns his own construction business and has little patience for… well, anything. Rollie (Johnny Rey Diaz), prone to fighting and getting arrested, describes himself as a "chiseled Marc Anthony," though his sweetly uncomplicated vibe recalls The Good Place's Jason Mendoza. Mike (Henri Esteve) is an army vet, while Mondo (Efrain Villa) is the family's off-the-grid free spirit. The youngest, Ryan (Carlos Santos), is an insufferably and unjustifiably braggy white-collar bank employee. At the center of this hurricane is Rafa's mom, Drea, who's been taking care of and managing these big personalities her whole life, though to the show's credit, she's no beleaguered nag. She gets her own chances to be quirky and imperfect, even while trying to keep everyone in line and help Rafa filter the deluge of advice coming at him from his uncles.

    Sometimes, their advice is even good. The uncles have their moments, even though they usually emerge between bouts of busting on each other. Yet their constant combativeness never obscures the fact that they're looking out for Rafa, and the tone of the show never strays from upbeat silliness. This recalls a show like New Girl more than Schur’s signature hits, which rested on municipal (Parks and Rec) or moral (The Good Place) do-goodery. The beating heart at the center of Primo is never in doubt, but the show never strays into sentimentality.

    It's strangely rare these days for a family sitcom to feel this free to be purely funny, even as its cultural specificity makes it all the more vital. We're still in a TV environment where a show about a Mexican-American family is representationally important, even — or perhaps especially — when it's just trying to tell stories about growing up in peculiar yet relatable circumstances. Shows like Black-ish, The Conners, and the One Day at a Time remake all felt compelled to ground their comedy in the darker realities of raising a family in these racially fraught, economically perilous, politically turbulent times. Primo touches on those aspects in its own way while adhering to an unflinchingly silly tone that is defiant in its own way.

    The uncles get the lion's share of highlights over the course of the eight-episode first season, but Diaz-Silverio does amazing work as Rafa. The show avoids the temptation to have the kid act tormented by his off-kilter uncles, which allows the teen to get mixed up (and often led astray) by their examples. As you might expect from a teenage boy, Rafa's life offers plenty of opportunities for guidance, not least of which is his budding romance with new-in-town Maya (Stakiah Lynn Washington). Rafa also has college ambitions, which sometimes puts him in an awkward position with his uncles, who all want the best for him but are also loudly confident that they know what's best for him. The show does a good job of expressing the anxieties that come from wanting younger generations to surpass their elders.

    These story beats come wrapped in a blessedly dense narrative package. It's exhilarating to see a freshman show this confident in its own sense of humor: This is the rare series that can pull off an A+ running gag about cancel culture and find a new spin to put on the "shoplifting teen gets in trouble" storyline. It's an accomplished, likable new series that more than justifies figuring out where to find Freevee on your streaming device of choice.

    All eight episodes of Primo's first season are available to stream on Freevee on May 19. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Primo, Amazon Freevee, Carlos Santos, Christina Vidal, Efrain Villa, Henri Esteve, Ignacio Diaz-Silverio, Johnny Rey Diaz, Jonathan Medina, Michael Schur, Shea Serrano