Live action shows geared towards teens and preteens sometimes take pains to make their plot super-relatable to the target audience, but doesn’t keep the larger audience — i.e. parents — in mind. The best of these kinds of shows are designed to be accessible to everyone. A new kids’ mystery series from Argentina fits this description. Read on for more.
Opening Shot: We see a remote, forested area on a lake. Then we switch to a private plane, as we hear a woman’s voice over in a letter to her stepdaughter.
The Gist: Champion wakeboarder Steffi Lavalle (Pilar Pascual) is headed to a remote Agentinian resort names Cielo Grande to compete in a tournament called Summer Crush, the same tournament that her father competed in 20 years ago. Her trainer, Antonio (Victor Varona), wonders why they’re going to this place in the middle of nowhere, but the letter Steffi reads from her stepmother, who recently left her father, says there are secrets to discover at Cielo Grande.
The summer season is just beginning at the resort, and the owner, Augusto Montero (Martin Tecchi) has good news: Summer Crush is back after 12 years. And he has more good news: Luz Aguilar (April Di Yorio), one of his longtime teen employees, has earned the right to reopen and recreate Sky Vibes, the karaoke bar that entertained the guests and people in the wakeboarding competition. Also working there is jack-of-all-trades bartender Charly (Laun Brum), new girl Nati (Thais Rippel) and Julian (Guido Messina), who notices right away that Luz is “different”, i.e. has grown up in the past year.
Luz and Nati bond over an old song both of them like, and the quartet take to singing as they try to clean up the storeroom where the karaoke club used to be. As Luz gives Nati her first wakeboarding lesson, they almost literally run into Steffi and Tony on a practice run; it turns out that Luz and Tony actually know each other, though how they know each other isn’t mentioned.
When Steffi checked in, she stole the reservation system password from the seemingly clueless desk clerk After she finds that her father Ron (Francisco Bass) and YouTube-obsessed brother Ian (Byron Barbieri) have checked in as a surprise, to support her during the tournament, her anger at him ticks up. It spurs her to sneak into the office during the season-opening get-together and try to copy data from the system.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Secrets Of Summer (Original title: Cielo Grande) has the vibes of Go! Live Your Way, right down to the musical sequences.
Our Take: Secrets Of Summer is the kind of show you might conceive if you’re looking to create a telenovela for preteens and teens. Created by George Edelstein, it depends heavily on beautiful rainforest locations, an inoffensively good-looking young cast, and a central story that’s mysterious but not scandalous.
It does seem that Steffi and Luz might have a connection beyond their shared love of wakeboarding. And while that may seem obvious to the adults who are watching, Edelstein and his writers have done a good job of making things just mysterious enough to engage their target audience and not tick off their parents.
To be honest, the musical interludes are pleasant and the scenery is so lush that a low-level mystery plot doesn’t really detract from the show, at least not to these middle-aged eyes. The degree of layering to the show’s central mystery is still to be determined; Tony is involved in this somehow, as we see when he takes an old picture that we think is of Steffi and her father.
And there’s a reason why Steffi’s father Ron is there besides rooting his daughter on, which she never wants him to do. What caused Steffi’s stepmother to leave Ron and reveal all of his secrets? Again, there’s just enough intrigue to keep kids and adults interested, even if the episodes will likely be more about music and Argentinian influencers playing themselves than some grand story.
What Age Group Is This For?: Secrets Of Summer is rated TV-Y, but the show is more for the 8-and-up crowd.
Parting Shot: Steffi hides from the desk clerk when he comes out while she uploads some mysterious data to a flash drive.
Sleeper Star: The scenery is definitely the star here. Every scene makes us want to go to wherever the show is shot and just escape for a month or so.
Most Pilot-y Line: While the musical interludes aren’t as disruptive as on a show like Glee, they are still pretty long and sometimes interrupt the flow of the episode.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Secrets Of Summer is a pleasant show you can watch with your preteens and teens and feel good that they’re watching a show that isn’t completely idiotic.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.