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Smiley

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What it’s about:

Alex, a bartender in Barcelona, leaves a very long-winded message on his ex-boyfriend’s voicemail, revealing all his thoughts about their relationship. The only problem is that he left the voicemail on Bruno’s phone, an architect he’s never met. Intrigued, Bruno calls Alex, and after a great conversation, the two decide to meet up…and the plot thickens.

Names you might know:

Miki Esparbe, who stars as Bruno, has been in a handful of Spanish TV shows and movies including A Man of Action and Reyes de la Noche. Carlos Cuevas, who plays Alex, has also been in a number of Spanish TV shows, including The Ministry of Time and Ventdelpla.

Why it’s worth your time:

Smiley is delightfully queer and — set against a stunning Barcelona — a delightful escape. While the series follows familiar rom-com tropes, it skips the unfortunate ones that have plagued LGBTQ+ characters for years. There are no homophobic family or friends here. Alex’s mom adores her son, going so far as to try to hook him up with a cute guy she met. Bruno’s straight bestie, Albert (Eduardo Lloveras) is determined to help him find love. Both Alex and Bruno are pretty normal dudes who are simply fed up with Grindr (which the show takes many hilarious shots at).

Alex works at a gay bar where his boss, Javier (Pepon Nieto) performs in drag. He has a lesbian best friend, Vero (Meritxell Calvo), who  has been with her girlfriend for years and is tired of seeing Alex date jerks. The playful jokes about queer culture celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in the same vein as Billy Eichner’s adorable rom-com, Bros.

The series might feel like a retread of an American sitcom set in Spain, were it not for its sharp writing and equally game actors. Alex and Bruno have undeniable chemistry, and while watching them connect over shared interests is sweet, the real fun is when they banter. Alex immediately thinks Bruno isn’t his type, while Bruno first thinks that Alex is a meathead. They get into a loud argument about this in the middle of the street, only to have their night end with a twist.

It’s the banter, conflicts, and turns that make a rom-com a rom-com, and it’s hard not to root for Alex and Bruno. Both characters are so darn endearing: Bruno has a cute dog he watches sad movies with, and Alex is a very loyal friend to Vero, even when he doesn’t fully agree with her. When the pair both discuss how their hearts have been broken, it’s prime shippin’ time.

Unlike a lot of rom-coms where the side characters stand around and fret over the main characters, Bruno and Alex’s friends and family have their own lives to deal with. Vero is offered her dream job in Ibiza, which causes a rift between her and her girlfriend, as they just bought an apartment together. Albert isn’t having the easiest time with his wife and three children, and he yearns for the days when he could go out and party. A lovable weirdo, Albert organizes a dinner with his and Bruno’s old college buddies and insists everyone dress up as a famous architect. He chooses none other than Antoni Gaudi, complete with red paint to represent Gaudi’s unfortunate death.

While the focus of the series is on Alex and Bruno, Smiley dissects multiple relationships, often in a realistic manner, making this a rare treat and a refreshing change from many of TV’s darker fare.

The takeaway:

A charming Spanish take on the rom-com that also takes a practical look at relationships and all the complexities that come with them.

Watch it with:

Your friend or family member who love rom-coms, or anyone who wants to escape into Barcelona and Spain.

Worth noting:

Smiley does include adult themes and language, and its rated TV-MA. But it keeps the comedy and the sex light.

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