Jamie Post Broad City
**A few spoilers within**
While some recently mourned the end of a certain HBO series, I was trying to come to grips with the end of another fantastical world — the end of Ilana and Abbi’s wild and crazy ride on Comedy Central’s Broad City. Sure, maybe the stakes weren’t as high as the coming of winter on GOT, but the misadventures of our slacker-sheroes in a New York City that I actually recognize really resonated with me throughout the show’s five-season run.
Ilana’s longtime Guatemalan immigrant roommate Jamie (Arturo Castro) was one of the show’s other standout characters, and Season 2’s “Citizen Ship” episode provided a fun take on Jamie becoming an American citizen, Broad City-style. But when the show smartly started to explore what it meant to live in a post Election of 2016 world, I felt that it missed the opportunity to really mine how its two main characters of color — Jamie and Lincoln — felt about this.
Luckily, Arturo gets that chance on Alternatino with Arturo Castro, a dynamic new sketch comedy series, which premiered on Tuesday, June 18. In the 10-episode inaugural season, Artro plays upwards of 45 characters, exploring scenarios like when another Hispanic soccer player joins your soccer team and rains on your parade, how to successfully change the subject in a conversation without being painfully awkward, and keeping up your Spanish dirty talk in bed all the while struggling to simply keep it up. Arturo, who created the show, as well as writes, and serves as EP, really shines in this fun format; There’s a main sketch, which spreads out over the course of an episode, with several standalone interludes in between.
Episode 1, “The Date,” might contain the best sketch of the season. Arturo plays a father, preparing his adolescent son for a date night. It’s not long before the typical scenario is turned on its head and mined for maximum comedy. In a world where we’ve now started to elevate some of our language, Papa Arturo actually ends up woefully out of his depth and being totally schooled by his kid. For one, his son says he’s going out with a “woman” not a “girl.” Also, why was there that assumption in the first place? It’s not long before Arturo is ready to just send his son on his way, rather than continue to have this 2019 conversation about the birds and the bees.
This opening sketch sets the tone for one of the greatest strengths of Alternatino. Arturo’s characters are not always right or righteous, and he’s not afraid to make himself the butt of a joke. Consider another moment when Arturo —now a bar hopper out with his friends— objects to a white American presenting dude who tells him “no problemo.” In response, Arturo goes on a woke rant, but it isn’t long before he’s undercut, discovering that the guy is in fact also Latin American, and mourning the death of a loved one.
Awkward. And quite honest and real to boot.
Episode 1’s “The Date” explores what happens when a romantic prospect doesn’t think you’re stereotypically “Latin” enough and as a black American, I’m loving how this new era of representation is revealing the unique challenges that Asians and Latinx also face in this space. Another episode, “La Pulga” or “The Fly,” explores the burden of representation as Arturo plays an up and coming movie star. And the fifth episode, “The Girlfriend,” deals with Arturo dating a sexy woman who counts a “Make American Great Again” hat amongst her collection.
Sometimes, I felt like Alternatino’s shorter sketches were a bit braver than its multi-part ones. “The Girlfriend,” for instance, focuses more on Arturo’s squeeze being a Republican rather than a Trump voter. This felt a little inane. In contrast, a later sketch has Arturo and a fellow White House staffer trying to update the words of The New Colossus, the poem on the Statue of Liberty, with a descendent of poet-activist Emma Lazarus. This to me felt more hard-hitting and on point. Another highlight sketch dubbed Broken Home Hunter, channels yuppie couple angst almost as well as Parker Posey in Best in Show.
I was also surprised with how much Arturo, the actor, had to say about music. I won’t spoil it with details, but there’s an hilarious sketch about Macklemore and a sick boy helped by the Final Wish Foundation, and another where Arturo plays phenom Pitbull at a moment of unexpected existential crisis. Again, you’ll be amazed at the range of characters Arturo assumes in Alternatino.
As the series progresses, sometimes sketches start to feel like repeat beats; for instance, we go back to Arturo’s experiences in the dating scene a few too many times. But overall, Alternatino with Arturo Castro is a worthy summer watch.