Classic Mexican television shows are just as popular today as they were in decades past. Shot in low-quality color, physical comedy reigned supreme, and laughter at every twist and turn of the plot was–and is–all but guaranteed.
Don’t let the fact that these shows were produced in Mexico lead you to believe that their popularity was confined to one sole country. To the contrary, from Nicaragua to Colombia to Peru, the timeless catchphrases, slapstick routines, and feel-good endings reached homes throughout Central and South America, and beyond. Here are 3 such shows you should know about–and watch–if you call yourself a lover of Latin American culture:
El Chavo del Ocho
Story lines focus on our main character, el Chavo. This homeless boy lives in a barrel in a traditional Mexican apartment neighborhood, making friends with a few local kids and quickly becoming enemies with a couple of pesky adults. The characters are easy to sympathize with: Don Ramón is always short on rent money and Doña Clotilde, who constantly pines for the uninterested Don Ramón, has earned the nickname La Bruja (or The Witch).
The premise might sound depressing in today’s politically charged world, but el Chavo’s misfortune and general mis-adventures generated countless laughs from viewers and launched the cast into international stardom. And today, more than 20 years after the last original episode aired on television, it continues to attract an estimated 90 million viewers daily. Watch the first episode here.
Actor Roberto Gomez Bolaños, known as much for being the star of Chespirito as he was for playing the lead character in El Chavo del Ocho, is considered to be one of Mexico’s greatest comedic legends. Chespirito was a sketch comedy show that allowed Gomez to develop a number of legendary characters, including the aforementioned Chavo del Ocho, who went on to become the main character in a separate show.
Another fan favorite was El Chapulin Colorado, or The Red Grasshopper, which placed our antagonist in a different situation each week, though the premise was always the same. El Chapulin Colorado was regarded as a superhero, arriving to the scene only to cause confusion, mess things up, provide plenty of laughs, and then (somehow) miraculously save the day, of course with a little help from his friends. Check out El Chapulin Colorado here.
Just like in the U.S., some of Mexico’s most treasured shows are animated. Cantinflas Show is one such series. Each episode took kids to a far-off place where there was a little bit of learning and a whole lot of laughing. The actor, simply known as Cantinflas, lent his name to the show and provided the voice for its lead characte, decades after having established himself as one of Mexico’s most famous talents.
This brings us to the reason why you need to get to the movies this weekend. If you’re lucky enough to live in New York, L.A., or another major city where it’s screening, check out the movie Cantinflas, which tells the rags-to-riches story of this Mexican legend. From his humble beginnings in a small town circus to his Golden Globe-winning performance in “80 Days Around the World,” Cantinflas’ story is mesmerizing. Not only will you gain some insight on one of Mexico’s most highly regarded comedic talents, but you’ll get to practice your Spanish, too.
Think your Spanish needs some work so you can truly appreciate and enjoy these classic TV shows? As El Chapulin Colorado would say, “!Síganme los buenos!’ Give us a call or email us today and we’ll help you master the language so you can understand every questionable joke, ridiculous story line, and other piece of comedic gold in these legendary Spanish-language TV shows.