Grand Hotel Is Actually An International Phenomenon & The U.S. Is Just Catching Up

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Much of the world has already seen Gran Hotel, or some version of it. The sumptuous Spanish show, which ran from 2011 to 2013, has been broadcast in the U.K., France, Iran, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, and Venezuela — and on Netflix.
Now, the United States is finally getting to experience the unabashedly soapy version of the hospitality industry. Eva Longoria is executive producing the American adaptation called Grand Hotel, which airs on ABC on June 17. But the Miami Beach-set show is significantly different than the original Gran Hotel and its three other international adaptations.
The first Gran Hotel is a soap opera in high quality period piece disguise. The action begins when Julio Olmedo (Yon González) takes the train to Cantaloa, Spain to find out what happened to his sister Cristina (Paula Prendes), a maid who disappeared from the nearby lavish hotel. During his search, Julio — now working as a waiter — falls for the hotel owner's daughter, Alicia (Amaia Salamanca). Since it's 1905, Alicia and Julio's crossing-class-lines flirtation is extra forbidden, and thus far sexier. Around them, the show's cast of supporting characters create storm clouds of drama, impeding their romance.
In comparison to this turn-of-the-century feast for the eyes, ABC's Grand Hotel is unabashedly modern. It's set in the last family-owned resort on the Miami Riviera — but its existence is threatened by a changing real estate landscape. The Riviera Grand's owners, Santiago Mendoza (Demián Bichir) and his second wife, Gigi (Roslyn Sanchez), are considering selling the hotel to developers. Santiago's two kids, the full-time flirt Javi (Bryan Craig) and recent B-school graduate Alicia (Denyse Tontz), aren't thrilled; Gigi's daughters have other things to worry about.
Despite the century and geography divide, the two Grand Hotels do have significant overlap. Both feature mysteriously missing maids — the one in the American version disappears during a hurricane, naturally. Both look at what happens when the hotel's staff crosses path with its owners, from romance to tension to romantic tension. And most immediately obvious, they feature a cast of wildly good-looking folk.
ABC's Grand Hotel follows the pattern of past Grand Hotel adaptations — each country puts a slight spin on the Spanish version's premise. In 2015, two years after the Spanish show concluded, Italy's Rai 1 premiered an Italian-language version, also called Gran Hotel. Luca Ribuoli's Gran Hotel hews pretty close to the original: A young man named Pietro travels to the Grand Hotel Paradiso, located in a mountain valley, to search for his missing sister Caterina in the year 1905. There, he falls in love with Adele Alibrandi. Let the melodrama in ball gowns ensue. Germany broadcast the Italian version under the name Hotel Imperial.
In 2016, a Spanish-language adaptation of Grand Hotel came to Mexico's Univision channel with a very apt title: El hotel de los secretos, which translates to "the hotel of secrets." While the premise is similar, creator Roberto Gómez Fernández altered the setting to 1908, which coincides with a significant moment in Mexican history: the advent of electricity. In the show, the Grand Hotel is the first of Mexico City's hotel to get electricity. Another difference? Julio Olmedo (Erick Elías) and Alicia Alarcón (Irene Azuela) meet as strangers on a train.
However, many Mexican viewers had already seen the Spanish Grand Hotel on Netflix, and weren't thrilled with the remake. The general consensus on Twitter: Watch the original on Netflix.
But as of 2018, Netflix now has two versions of Grand Hotel — the Spanish original and the Egyptian one created in 2016. The Secrets of the Nile was Netflix's first Arabic-language series. Unlike the Grand Hotels before it, The Secrets of the Nile zooms past the Belle Epoque and into the 1950s in Aswan, Egypt. You can guess the plot by now: Ali (Amr Youssef) goes searching for his sister, becomes a waiter at the Grand Hotel, falls in love, etc.
The Grand Hotel adaptation phenomenon bears some resemblance to the movie Perfect Strangers, which has been adapted 9 times (and counting) since the Italian original came out in 2016. Like Grand Hotel, Perfect Strangers' premise has an universal appeal — it's set around a dinner party game. But each country's adaptation applies cultural specificity to the premise. Depending on the country, the characters eat different food, joke about different things, complain about different trends sweeping their city.
The same goes for Grand Hotel. Loosely borrowing some elements of the Spanish original, ABC has made a decidedly American version Grand Hotel. It's an over-the-top, soapy, and totally entertaining showcase of Miami as a seat of Latinx power in the U.S.

More from TV

R29 Original Series