“Long live the goat!” — one of the memorable lines from Arde Madrid: Burn Madrid Burn, the new comedy-drama from Spain that premiered today in the US on MHz Choice.
The winner of multiple awards, including the coveted Feroz Award (Spain’s version of the Golden Globes) for Best Comedy Series in 2019, Arde Madrid: Burn Madrid Burn is brilliant.
A send-up of loyalists, dictators, and gangsters, much of the show’s humor caught me off guard and I found myself guffawing out loud, often laughing longer than a scene even lasted because it was that funny.
The series, set in Madrid in 1961, centers on Ana Mari (Inma Cuesta, The Mess You Left Behind, Criminal: Spain), a conservative and virginal 30-something Catholic spinster with a limp who is given the opportunity (read: ordered) for a new job: working as a domestic for American actress Ava Gardner (Debi Mazar, Younger, Entourage), who is living in Spain to escape her volatile relationship with Frank Sinatra.
Franco’s government suspects the Hollywood star is hosting dangerous meetings at her home with “Communists, anarchists, and all those artistic types,” and they want Ana Mari to spy on the actress and report back with details. But the job posting calls for a married couple, so the powers that be have arranged for Ana Mari to pose as the wife of Manolo (series director and co-creator/co-writer Paco León, The House of Flowers, The Plague), a laid-back opportunist and fellow spy who signs on as the chauffeur for the loose-living, hard-partying, jamon-, mojama-, and churros-loving Ava.
Gardner’s household staff includes Pilar (Anna Castillo, Paquita Salas, The Ministry of Time), a young and unwed (and sssh, don’t tell, pregnant) maid who doesn’t live on the property (or spy on Ava), as Ana Mari and Manolo do. All three of them, though, have to run interference, as it were, between the movie star and her neighbors, the now-sleep-deprived former President of Argentina, Juan Péron, and his wife, Isabel, who are living in Spain in exile.
What the straight-living and straight-talking Ana Mari doesn’t realize is this whole set-up is going to change her in ways she would never have imagined — from drinking alcohol and telling untruths, to… doing stuff she feels the need to confess.
Like Ava Gardner, Arde Madrid is stylish, most noticeably in its black-and-white format, which offers a visual contrast to the colorful life of the actress, points to the dichotomy of lifestyles between Ava and Ana Mari, and hearkens back to an earlier time.
And its comedic moments are laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Filled with finger-snapping, toe-tapping tunes like “I Like It Like That,” flamenco, and visual gags, the eight-episode series costars Julián Villagrán (The Ministry of Time) as Floren, Ana Mari’s brother; Ken Appledorn (The Refugees) as Bill Gallagher, Ava Gardner’s private secretary; Osmar Núñez (Juan y Eva) as Juan Perón; Fabiana García Lago (Only You) as Isabel Perón; and Moreno Borja (The Plague) as Vargas, a gangster associate of Manolo.
The first two episodes of Arde Madrid: Burn Madrid Burn are currently available for streaming in the US exclusively on MHz Choice and its digital channels, including MHz Choice on Amazon. The remaining episodes will debut in pairs on Tuesdays through May 26.
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