HBO Max sure seemed like it was poised to be the best streaming service for a while there, but I guess we can’t have nice things. As so many cozy shows, like Summer Camp Island and Infinity Train, have been removed from the platform, those of us who spend our time binging TV to feel something have had to look elsewhere. Well, Netflix has some new sitcom about a Blockbuster, the very titan it brought down all those years ago, and Hulu has Handmaid’s Tale, I guess. (I’ve mainly used it to rewatch seasons of American Dad every couple of months for the last eight years or so.) But if you haven’t looked at what AppleTV+ has to offer since you binged Ted Lasso or Severance on a free trial, you’re missing out on some primo storytelling. There’s the slow-burn sci-fi of Foundation, the mystery of M. Night Shyamalan’s Servant (or as we call it in our house, “Creepy Baby Show”), and my personal favorite, the cozy English and Spanish language comedy Acapulco.
Acapulco takes place in the romanticized memories of Maximo Ramos, played in the present day by the brilliant Eugenio Derbez (I’m particularly fond of his bumbling character Alejandro in Dora and the Lost City of Gold, but you can also see him in CODA and the ill-fated Overboard reboot). Maximo is a prosperous entrepreneur entertaining his nephew Hugo (Raphael Alejandro) with the story of how he went from rags to riches, starting in 1984 when he was hired on as a pool boy at the neon pink La Colinas Resort in Acapulco.
All young Maximo (played by the charismatic Enrique Arrizon) wants is to grow up and be as successful as Don Pablo (Damián Alcázar, Narcos), the head of operations at the resort. On his first day, Maximo falls for Julia Gonzalez (Carmila Perez), the front desk receptionist, who is, of course, dating the General Manager/boss’ son, Chad Davies (Glee’s Chord Overstreet). It’s your classic sitcom sort of love conflict, but Maximo is also juggling his compassion for family, friends, and the guests at the resort, putting them above his own needs most of the time.
Acapulco sets itself apart from even the coziest of shows by delivering compelling characters that are also consistently hilarious. There’s no surprise twist; everyone is just trying to do their best and help their friends. I’ll give you an example: in an episode from the still-airing Season 2, Maximo’s best friend and sidekick, Memo (Fernando Carsa), tries to make Chad look cool in front of his old fraternity brothers, but instead finds his own status elevated when he accidentally does an impression of Chad. Instead of being mad, Chad acknowledges Memo’s feelings and tries to let Memo beat him in an arm-wrestling match. Memo then feels guilty that he didn’t help Chad as promised and wants to let Chad win. It’s a battle of who can out-nice the other nice person! Plus, the Maximo of the present can’t remember all of Chad’s friends’ names since they all looked alike, so they’re all named Chad now!
Hugo will often push back at the older Maximo when some of the details in his stories seem too good to be true. These moments made me realize that the show is actually a lesson on the subject of storytelling itself. So much of writing your own story is about being a compelling and believable narrator. The reader needs to trust the writer to connect with the story they’re reading fully. When I write a personal essay, I’m patching together memories from echoes of feelings twisted up with odd bits of dialogue cobbled together from stray words in other conversations. No matter what I write, it’s from a place of experience. I am older and wiser than I used to be, so the days, months, or years that I’ve had to reflect on these core memories can undoubtedly distort my recollections in one way or another. As a writer, I write the truth, but I am given a creative license to romanticize life thanks to the luxury of experience.
We could take Maximo’s word and go along with it, as we would with most shows. When we watch Ted Lasso, we let Jason Sudeikis take the wheel to drive us down the left lane to Cozytown, UK. But on Acapulco, we, the viewers, are Hugo. We are the skeptical nephew raised by a mother who often disputes the details of her brother’s stories. Maximo is our rich and eccentric uncle, and I don’t know about y’all, but none of my uncles are going to tell me a story from their life without some fantastical elements in it, and I sure as shit am not going to believe every word they say. Uncles embellish and will try to make themselves sound superior. And I should know… as an uncle, I speak the truth, but I also have the freedom to leave out all the bits where I was doing dumb shit.
My point is, Maximo might not have all the details exactly as they happened. He might have fluffed them up with flowery language, forgotten some of the people, and made himself look a lot cooler, and that’s okay. Maximo uses his stories to impart his wisdom to Hugo, and a lot of sweetness and laughter to us.
We’re seeing an influx of resort-related TV right now with The White Lotus and The Resort on Peacock. I get it. We collectively went through hell the last few years and would love to jet off to some tropical paradise immediately to sit by a pool drinking unlimited piña coladas. But those other resort shows are a bit stressful and do not feel like a vacation. (Spoiler alert, a surprising amount of people die.) La Colinas Resort is where you’ll get the most rest and relaxation, plus a swimming pool full of laughs—drinks not included. So go ahead and use your free trial subscription to AppleTV+ to watch Ted Lasso, but be sure to binge Acapulco before those seven days are up.
New episodes of Acapulco go up on Apple TV+ every Wednesday.
Jack Probst is a writer and record collector from St. Louis. He appreciates the works of James Murphy, Wes Anderson, and Super Mario. Send any and all complaints to @jackdprobst on Twitter. He enjoys writing paragraphs about himself in his spare time.