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Don't Tax Your Brain, Just Enjoy with 'Grand Hotel'
June 17, 2019  | By David Hinckley

We all know television’s shopping cart is overflowing with guilty pleasures, so don’t think twice about throwing ABC’s summer soap Grand Hotel into the basket. 

Grand Hotel, adapted with a few changes from the popular Spanish-language telenovela Gran Hotel that ran from 2011 to 2013, serves up over-the-top drama in a stylish package with a cast of good-looking mostly Latino and Latina actors. 

It’s a pure summer TV cocktail, brimming with froth and requiring nothing more from the viewer than to lean back and smile. It premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET. 

Santiago Mendoza (Demián Bichir, top) runs the last family-owned hotel along a high-end strip of Miami Beach. He inherited it from his late wife, and the family plan all along has been that he will eventually turn it over to his smart and eager daughter Alicia (Denyse Tontz). 

As we meet Alicia, she has just returned to Miami from two years at Cornell getting the MBA that will help her keep the place humming. 

There is also a Mendoza son, Javi (Bryan Craig), who cheerfully describes himself as “the family screwup.” Everybody likes him, including the female guests he spends most of his time seducing. He seems not to work much, but he gets dispensation because he has an artificial leg, the explanation for which we do not immediately hear. 

Alicia and Javi have little fondness for Santiago’s new wife Gigi (Roselyn Sanchez, top), who was their mother’s best friend. They have even less fondness for Gigi’s rather nasty and spoiled twin daughters, Carolina (Feliz Ramirez) and Yoli (Justina Adorno). 

That would just be standard blended family drama except that Carolina is about to marry a fellow named Byron (Ken Kirby), who turns out to be a real estate developer who has just bought the hotel and plans to turn it into luxury condos. 

Santiago never mentioned this to Alicia, which does nothing to improve intra-family relationships. 

And yes, fans, these are just the headline dramas in Grand Hotel. It’s a big place, lots of rooms, lots of stories. 

To name one: A fellow named Danny (Lincoln Younes) shows up at the hotel seeking a job as a waiter. Personnel manager Helen Parker (Wendy Raquel Robinson) doesn’t trust him, but need someone fast and hires him anyway.

He’s a lousy waiter, it turns out, and it’s soon clear that Helen could be onto something. Not long ago a kitchen staffer at the hotel disappeared during a hurricane, and while that incident has officially been declared over, Danny seems to have some curiosity about it. 

Also, Danny accidentally makes Alicia’s acquaintance, which soon threatens to test the hotel’s strict policy against management and staff having anything more than a professional relationship.

Speaking of which, the hotel’s oily money man Mateo (Shalim Ortiz) has been testing that policy himself with the wistful housekeeper Ingrid (Anne Winters). And just to give that situation a little more dimension, Helen Parker’s son Jason (Chris Warren) has an unspoken thing for Ingrid himself.  

Oh yes, and then there’s the rap star El Rey (Jencarlos Canela), who checks into the hotel because he burned down his $20 million mansion with a fireworks display. El Rey quickly lands at the center of both personal and professional dramas. 

Grand Hotel developer Brian Tanen juggles these multiple storylines well, and if the writing isn’t Shakespearian, it serves the characters. 

The original telenovela was set in 1905 and thus had more of a period feel to it, with hints of the upstairs/downstairs dynamic found in, say, Downton Abbey.

Some of that remains in this contemporary adaptation, as it did in a 2016 Egyptian TV adaptation that was set in the 1950s. 

Grand Hotel also has some familiar TV-soap DNA backstage, with the producers including Eva Longoria and the first episode directed by Ken Olin. 

It doesn’t aspire to anything more profound than spinning a campfire yarn. There are worse ways to cap off a summer evening. 

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