What’s the best way to achieve nothing productive in your month-long Christmas vacation? Simple answer: by getting addicted to a slightly over-the-top Spanish period-drama.
Grand Hotel is an award-winning Spanish series that was first broadcast in the UK in November 2012 by Sky Arts, and has gone on to receive critical acclaim.
With the second series just around the corner, it seemed an appropriate time to reflect on why series one was such a big success.
Perhaps part of the show’s popularity comes from its often-used and unofficial title: ‘The Spanish Downton Abbey’. While this is high praise indeed, I’m not sure if I totally agree.
The only noticeably common factor is that both programmes are period dramas.
Grand Hotel moves far quicker than its British counterpart, and is certainly more intense and dramatic. It also focuses more on the political side of things, both in the Alarcón family (the owners of the hotel) and in the servant quarters.
Set in the early twentieth century, the programme centres around Julio Olmedo, a young man who arrives at the hotel to meet his sister, who works there as a maid. When he finds that she is mysteriously missing, he gets a job as a waiter in order to discover more about her disappearance.
Grand Hotel moves far quicker than its British counterpart, and is certainly more intense and dramatic
One of the reasons why the show works so well is due to the strength of Julio’s character. For a start, he is far from perfect – he doesn’t mind a little lying to help his cause, and seems to attract trouble at will.
However, his determination and perseverance in finding his sister is certainly admirable. He also manages to remain witty and relatively light-hearted throughout the series, which is impressive considering the events that unfold.
His friendship with a fellow servant, Andrés, is one of the show’s finest aspects.
A nervous and hard-working man, Andrés seems to be the exact-opposite of Julio. Throw in a handful of amusing one-liners, and you are left with the perfect formula for an on-screen bromance.
Julio also forms an acquaintance with Alicia Alarcón, the wealthy daughter of the hotel’s owner, who agrees to help him find his sister. We are left to watch as the two become closer as the series progresses.
There are obstacles, however, that prevent them from expressing their true feelings. Alicia is engaged to the power-hungry manager of the hotel, Diego. She belongs to a different world from Julio – servants are expected to refrain from eye-contact and keep a distance of forty centimetres from the upper classes. But, as Julio regularly shows us, rules are for breaking.
Filmed at the stunning Palacio de la Magdalena, the setting of Grand Hotel is simply breath taking – the hotel stands majestically over the beautiful Spanish countryside.
It is also hard to ignore the show’s music, which adds to both the dramatic and more delicate scenes in the show.
It may be almost unheard of in the UK, but that is part of the reason why Grand Hotel is perfect escapism television. It is set in a different country and a different era – you can’t get much further from everyday life!
If you like the sound of Grand Hotel, the first series is now available On Demand through various providers. Series two is currently broadcasting on Sky Arts