There's scandal afoot in the Gran Hotel, where you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. (Image via Google Images)

‘Gran Hotel’ Is the Spanish ‘Downton Abbey,’ and It’s Coming to the U.S.

Guests can soon check in to a more modern, American production.

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Guests can soon check in to a more modern, American production.

Years ago, a young man in Spain boarded a train to visit the luxurious Gran Hotel in search of his sister, only to find her missing. A quest to investigate her disappearance would evolve into a story based around dark family secrets and a budding romance troubled by class differences.

If you don’t watch Spanish television, then you probably haven’t heard of “Gran Hotel,” which has been called Spain’s answer to the American show “Downton Abbey,” both period dramas with widespread popularity. It seems, though, that producers are trying to bring the series to a broader, more American audience with the upcoming release of the U.S. remake, “Grand Hotel.”

Set for a release date of June 17, 2019, the ABC edition centers around the Mendoza family and their modern hotel, called the Riviera Grand, the last family-owned hotel in Miami. Alicia Mendoza (Denyse Tontz) arrives at the hotel and reunites with her father Santiago (Demian Bichir) and skirt-chasing brother Javi (Bryan Craig), but familial bonds become tense when Alicia discovers that her father plans to sell the hotel. Adding to the drama is Santiago’s second wife, Gigi (Roselyn Sanchez), and her two daughters, who Javi refers to in the official trailer as evil stepsisters.

Besides the hostile dynamic between Santiago’s children and his wife Gigi, who was their mother’s best friend, the trailer introduces Danny (Lincoln Younes) as a new waiter at the Riviera Grand. A fellow waiter, Jason (Chris Warren) — who you might recognize as Zeke from “High School Musical” — shows him the ropes, describing the girl who attracted Danny’s attention as “boss man’s daughter Alicia, otherwise known as “off-limits.”

Finally, Santiago reveals to his daughter that the hotel is failing, to which Alicia replies that they just need to pay back the bank. Her father, however, cryptically informs her that it’s not the bank they owe.

It’s clear that the trailer is marketing the glamour of the Riviera Grand and the scandalous affairs that take place within it. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I am afraid that the historical charm and genuine performances of the Spanish drama might evaporate under the weight of the remake’s modern retelling and focus on sex.

In other words, it might turn into yet another show cashing in on the attractiveness of its cast. If it hadn’t been based on a show that many have come to love, “Grand Hotel” might stand on its own, but the fact that it is a remake automatically places it under the scrutiny of fans.

Actress Eva Longoria, known for her roles in “The Young and the Restless” and “Desperate Housewives,” serves as executive producer for the U.S. remake of “Gran Hotel,” and she has already fallen in love with the series. “We wanted to do a show where the Hispanics were the upstairs,” Longoria says of the show, where she has a four-episode role as Beatriz, Santiago’s late first wife.

The actress’ version of the Spanish drama definitely ramps up on the sex appeal of its gorgeous cast, but the show could prove to be a lot more than just bare skin. I, at least, have confidence in Longoria’s enthusiasm, which she’s conveyed in interviews promoting “Grand Hotel.”

Not only that, the trailer allows you a sneak peek of several enticing storylines: the pivotal romance between Danny and Alicia, the announcement of a pregnancy and Santiago’s closely guarded secret. “You can’t touch me, unless you want the entire world to know what your husband did,” an employee chillingly tells Gigi.

While the upcoming U.S. remake bares skeletal similarities to its Spanish predecessor, all three seasons of which are currently available on Netflix, the two have many distinct differences.

“Gran Hotel” takes place in 1907 near the town of Cantaloa and begins with Julio Olmedo (Yon Gonzalez) receiving a letter from his sister Cristina, who has recently been promoted at the reputable Gran Hotel. He finds out, however, that Cristina was fired a month prior to his visit, a revelation that rouses his suspicion that something happened to her at the hotel. Julio decides to pose as a waiter under the surname Espinosa and meets the rest of the staff, most notably kind Andres and his no-nonsense mother and staff manager Angela.

As Julio’s stay at the Gran Hotel lengthens, key characters are introduced and draw viewers deeper into the intricacies of the show, especially Julio’s growing attraction to the stunning Alicia Alarcon (Amaia Salamanca), whose mother owns the hotel. You also get to see the family dynamic between Alicia and her siblings, womanizing Javier and ambitious Sofia. The show has an impressive antagonist duo in ruthless hotel owner Dona Teresa and hotel director Diego, who has his sights set on marrying Alicia.

“Gran Hotel” is a show that has captured the attention of loyal fans and newcomers long after its ending, from its early-20th-century outfits and set pieces to the gradually unfurling plot that transitions into deeper, complex storylines within each 45-minute episode. In the middle of all the secrecy and clashing of personalities is the heart of the drama: the romantic chemistry between Julio and Alicia, who end up falling in love and helping each other uncover the mysteries buried within the elegant walls of the hotel. Another delight to watch is the friendship between Julio and Andres and the humorous scenes that show Andres’ reluctant participation in Julio’s schemes.

As with all remakes, it’s almost impossible to watch a trailer without comparing it to the original and dissecting all the glaring differences. The U.S. remake, for one, takes place in the 21st century and in the United States, whereas the Spanish show prides itself as a historical drama at the turn of the 20th century in Spain.

I respect the remake’s attempt to diverge and claim its own identity, an obviously more American one, and might give the remake a try when it comes out. Regardless, I find solace in knowing that there’s the original to turn to if I decide to check out of “Grand Hotel.”

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