It always has to be said: representation matters. And in 2023, Latine showrunners, actors, writers and directors are creating some of the most engaging and interesting TV shows that honor the complexity of the Latine diaspora in the United States. While the use of representation as a selling point is always up for debate and critique, it’s also important to uplift the Latine TV shows that are trying to do everything right, pushing for more inclusive representation and touching our hearts with excellent storytelling.
From engaging with a tradition of magical realism to creating stories that explore Latine family dynamics to challenging the rules of Latine masculinity, Latine TV shows in 2023 make us reflect on our lives, laugh at ourselves, and understand our own cultures better. Here are some of our favorite Latine TV shows this year, so far.
Primo (Season 1) on Amazon Prime
Amazon Freevee series Primo is an ode to large, boisterous Latine families who love each other intensely, and it had me laughing out loud several times throughout the first season. The show centers on 16-year-old Rafa (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio), who is trying to figure himself out in the midst of a chaotic family home featuring an extensive Latine cast of uncles who love to meddle in Rafa’s high school life. Ryan, played by Gentefied’s charming Carlos Santos, is a bank manager who wants Rafa to go to college. Rollie (Johnny Rey Diaz) is the uncle that is considered a regular in the local jail and impresses Rafa with his rabble-rousing stories of meaningless scuffles in bars. Jay (Jonathan Medina) is the responsible wife-guy uncle who says college is a scam when Rafa could work for Jay’s construction company to learn a trade. Mike (Henri Esteve) is a military man who believes Rafa should enlist so he can go to college for free after serving. And then there’s Mondo (Efrain Villa), the peaceful, sensitive brother who actually listens to their sister — and Rafa’s mother — Drea (Christina Vidal) and doesn’t meddle in Rafa’s future. If things get hectic in this show, it’s simply a reflection of what being a part of a large Latine family can be like.
Freeridge (Season 1) on Netflix
Overburdened and overly responsible for her family, Gloria (Keyla Monterroso Mejia) is the eldest daughter of a Mexican-American family that practically raised her younger sister Ines (Bryana Salaz) due to her mother’s untimely death by cancer. Billed as a Netflix spinoff of On My Block, Freeridge tells the story of the two sisters who have a strained but loving relationship and a mysterious cursed box that Gloria and her friends find in a yard sale. Hearkening back to the adventures of the original On My Block, where four teenagers are looking for lost treasure in their Los Angeles neighborhood, Freeridge is an extremely watchable Netflix show with some delightful characters, excellent familial explorations and unexpectedly spooky narratives.
The Horrors of Dolores Roach (Season 1) on Amazon Prime
Based on a fictional Spotify original podcast of the same name, Amazon Prime’s The Horrors of Dolores Roach is a modern, Latine-led re-creation of Sweeney Todd. Set in New York City’s Washington Heights rather than London, the comedy-drama series tells the story of Dolores Roach (Justina Machado), a Latina recently released from prison who returns to her old neighborhood after 16 years of incarceration for a drug possession charge. With $200 to her name, she aims to become a massage therapist but becomes a murderer instead. The casting of Machado in the role of Dolores was simply perfect, as she rarely gets the opportunity to play someone unlikeable. In the midst of efforts to produce positive representation for Latine people, The Horrors of Dolores Roach seems to be pushing back, exploring the possibility of Latine people taking on roles that are more complex and not so clear-cut as being a good role model for a marginalized population.
With Love (Season 2) on Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime’s With Love started as a show about two siblings looking for love, but it became so much more than that. Telling diverse stories through diverse characters, With Love is about family, acceptance, gender roles, and emotional growth, and the second season is even better than the first. After looking and finding love in the first season of the show, Lily (Emeraude Toubia) and Jorge Diaz (Mark Indelicato) are tasked with the challenge of keeping the love they found despite expectations, emotional baggage, and turbulent family holidays. With the benefit of an established roster of characters, Lily and Jorge, along with the rest of their family – their cousin Sol (Isis King), parents Beatriz (Constance Marie) and Jorge Sr. (Benito Martinez) — dig deep into their emotional lives, figuring out what they want and having real conversations about love, family, and life goals.
This Fool (Season 2) on Hulu
Hulu’s This Fool is a comedy series about the intergenerational relationships in a Mexican family living in Los Angeles, based on the lived experiences of Chris Estrada, who plays the goody two-shoes main character Julio Lopes, a nonprofit worker with a savior complex who is tasked with rehabilitating his wayward cousin and ex-bully, Luis (Frankie Quinones). Luis is the opposite of Julio, who has spent most of his life dedicated to running the Hugs Not Thugs nonprofit, where formerly incarcerated people get the resources to get their life back together. While Julio has worked his hardest to be reliable and responsible, Luis lived a life of crime that landed him in prison. After being released from almost a decade in prison, Luis enters the Hugs Not Thugs rehabilitation program and Julio becomes his case manager — a problematic yet entertaining setup that results in messy adventures, insights about family and identity, and laugh-out-loud comedy.
Fantasy Island (Season 2) on Hulu
Fox’s Fantasy Island — a sequel to the original 1977 show of the same name starring Ricardo Montalbán as the original Mr. Roarke — takes place in a fictional, magical island where visitors are granted their wildest dreams. The modern version of the show is more diverse: the island is run by Mr Roarke’s grandniece, Elena Roarke, played by Puerto Rican actor Roselyn Sánchez. Elena welcomes fantasy-seekers to the island, providing them with their wishes that often lead to revelations about their deepest and oldest wounds, forcing visitors to face truths they have been avoiding for years, maybe decades. I love this show because it presents an original take on the human condition, and it often feels like I’m diving into a world of magic realism therapy.