For those not familiar with the character of Juanpis González — we certainly were in that group — he’s the alter ego of Colombian comedian Alejandro Riaño, who established the character first on Instagram, then in YouTube videos where he interviews politicians and celebrities. His character is an overprivileged idiot who has no concept that the world doesn’t revolve around him. That character was very successful making politicians and celebrities uncomfortable, but will he work as a character in a scripted series?
Opening Shot: A man in designer sunglasses and a sweater tied around his shoulders looks at his older phone and wonders what’s going on. He then finds himself selling mangoes from a car on the side of the road. He sees his grandfather in a passing car, who chides him that he’s now poor.
The Gist: Luckily for Juanpis González (Alejandro Riaño), the most spoiled man in Colombia, it was all a dream. He’s still exceedingly rich, and he’s hungover as hell from a good night at a club. He gets a voice text from a friend that he should see a video that someone has posted. Apparently, Juan Pablo didn’t remember getting into a scuffle outside the club, screaming the phrase you never want to hear yourself saying on YouTube: “Do you know who I am?” He’s also threatening cops with a reassignment to an undesirable city.
His grandfather, Louis Carlos (Jairo Camargo), is pissed. The head of the family’s company, Pombo Holdings, wants to ensure that the company is inherited by a family member when he dies, and he wants Juanpis to take over. But public displays like the one from the night before will hurt his chances of taking over — also meaning that his inheritance goes down the drain. Louis tells Juan that he will be polished by a consultant, whose report will determine whether Juan stays with Pombo or not.
When Juanpis meets the consultant, Camila Benavides (Carolina Gaitán), he can’t believe that a young woman is going to determine his fate. She’s all business, though, and tells him his first move is to apologize on a live social media feed. He does so, then hails his own performance and insults that same city he talked about in the first video when he doesn’t realize the life feed is still going.
Undeterred, Juanpis goes about hiring an assistant. He finds a willing one in Libardo Bucaramanga (Julián Caicedo), who goes along with Juanpis naming him “Ivancito” just because that’s who he thinks he looks like.
Meanwhile, Juan’s mother (Marcela Agudelo) tries to lobby her father to make her the heir, but he vows that a woman will never run Pombo Holdings.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? The character of Juanpis González feels like a combination of Sacha Baron Cohen’s two most famous characters. He has the cluelessness of Borat and the arrogance of Ali G.
Our Take: People outside of Colombia likely don’t know about the character of Juanpis González; we knew so little about him that we thought Juanpis González – The Series was a reality show at first. But after looking up Alejandro Riaño and the character he created on Instagram and eventually took to YouTube, it’s pretty clear that Riaño is taking a cue from people like Cohen or even Martin Short, who interviewed people as Jiminy Glick. The idea behind the character was to skewer privilege and make politicians and celebrities uncomfortable during controversial interviews.
As a character in his own scripted series, though? We’re not sure if that’s the best way to go. From what we saw from the first episode, Juanpis González – The Series seems to be a standard-grade single cam about a spoiled rich guy who either doesn’t know how offensive he is or doesn’t care. Camila is there to get him straightened out, but we all know that the relationship between the two will be fraught with both tension and signs of a budding alliance.
But the series comes down to whether Juanpis is a character that we want to sit with for ten episodes. Other shows where the main character is generally clueless, oafish and offensive — Jann comes to mind, as does Curb Your Enthusiasm or the original Office — succeed because not only are the supporting characters well developed but there is a melancholy or some other redeeming value in the character that makes the audience see what those supporting characters see in him or her. Cohen went in the other direction, being so outrageous that you’re astonished that he can get away with what he gets away with and that people will still agree to talk to his various characters.
Riaño tries to tread the middle ground with this series and it doesn’t work. Juanpis is irredeemable, and it makes us wonder why people around him like Ivancito would want to be abused by him. We know that Camilia might help him, but at some point, we’re going to wonder why she doesn’t just quit and find a less stressful job. Finally, why is Grandpa so against having a woman in charge of the family business that he’ll risk it all on a manchild like Juanpis?
Because all of those questions don’t have good answers, the repeated instances of Juanpis’ offensiveness will wear on a viewer.
Sex and Skin: None in the first episode.
Parting Shot: At a school for at-risk teens, Juanpis is disgusted with the lentils that they serve, so he orders a butcher to slaughter an old goat and llama and send the meat over. Problem is, the meat is as tough as shoe leather.
Sleeper Star: Carolina Gaitán has good chemistry with Riaño, and her character should be the one that grounds him, even if only a little bit.
Most Pilot-y Line: Juanpis signs an extensive disclaimer at the end of the episode saying that what he’s doing is a satire of privilege and that every character is fictional. It’s a lot to take in, but we guess it’s because the character got some real death threats while doing his interviews.
Our Call: SKIP IT. Even if you’re a fan of Riaño’s work, Juanpis González – The Series isn’t as outrageous as it wants to be. And it’s not particularly funny, either.
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.