Reality TV used to aspire to replicate the rhythms of scripted drama, albeit for considerably less money. Now dramas are being developed that seem to approximate the simple (or if you prefer, “guilty”) pleasures of unscripted shows.
Enter “Grand Hotel,” a summer adaptation of a Spanish telenovela that ABC has cleverly positioned directly after “The Bachelorette.” Set in and around a posh Miami hotel, it’s a series unpretentiously designed to deliver breezy summer fun, where about all that’s missing is a rose ceremony.
Basically, “Grand Hotel” plays like a more straightforward, dumbed-down version of the hotel shenanigans in “Jane the Virgin,” the truly grand CW dramedy that’s heading into its final flurry of episodes. Or think of it as “Downton Abbey,” with its upstairs/downstairs component involving the hotel staff and the family in charge, only if they fabricated excuses for both to be undressed as much as ABC standards allow whenever possible.
Nicely cast, it’s also a showcase for Hispanic talent, and counts “Desperate Housewives’” Eva Longoria among its executive producers, in addition to appearing in a later episode in a small but significant cameo.
The show hinges on a blended family, with hotel entrepreneur Santiago Mendoza (Demian Bichir) having wedded Gigi (Roselyn Sanchez) after the death of his wife, who also happened to be her best friend.
Each has grown kids from their prior marriage, with Santiago’s daughter Alicia (Denyse Tontz) and son Javi (Bryan Craig) both taking a hand in running the operation, although he spends most of his time seducing women around the pool.
Not surprisingly, there’s a murder mystery to keep things interesting, which slowly unspools over the four episodes previewed, as well as an attractive new employee (Lincoln Younes) who takes an immediate interest in Alicia.
“That’s the boss man’s daughter,” he’s told not long after the two lock eyes. “Otherwise known as off limits.”
The not-wholly-evil stepsisters (Feliz Ramirez, Justina Adorno) also figure in the plot, mostly because they’re fraternal twins who don’t look much alike – a point of friction, especially since the former unabashedly uses her looks to keep getting her way.
For the most part, “Grand Hotel” moves briskly enough, offering the kind of undemanding soapiness that has occasionally worked with summer dramas in the past. Of course, that’s assuming ABC can entice a respectable subset of “Bachelorette” viewers to check it out, or rather, try checking in.
“Grand Hotel” premieres June 17 at 10 p.m. on ABC.