Allí Abajo – Season I

Allí Abajo (Down There) is a Spanish television comedy series created by César Benítez and Aitor Gabilondo, the same team behind the highly successful Ocho Apellidos Vascos.

Allí Abajo is about the adventures and misadventures of Iñaki Irazabalbeitia (Jon Plazaola), a bar owner in his 30s who has not left his tiny piece of heaven in San Sebastián all his life. He lives with his domineering mother Maritxu (Ane Gabarain), works with a cute waitress named Nekane (Alazne Etxebarria) and spends his free time playing mus or pelota vasca with Koldo (Gorka Aguinagalde), Peio (Iker Galartza) and Antxón (Óscar Terol), collectively known as la cuadrilla. With the hopes of putting up his own restaurant to look forward to, Iñaki is perfectly contented with his life in Euskadi.

That blissfulness is shattered to pieces when Iñaki is forced to accompany his mother to a supposedly short vacation in Sevilla, in lieu of his aunt Bego (Maribel Salas), due to some force majeure.

Allí Abajo by Plano a Plano for Antenna 3. Photo from elmundo.es

The trip to Sevilla is nothing like what mother and son anticipated. Maritxu looks down on the Sevillans and deems them untrustworthy. She thinks that Sevilla is a backward place lacking the technological advances found in her beloved Euskadi. These preconceptions of Sevilla only get worse because Sevilla is hot as hell, literally, and Maritxu wants to get away from the flock of retirees they get stuck with and their tour guide Walter (José María del Castillo) who looks like a peacock and chatters incessantly like a parrot. To top it all off, Maritxu falls down the stairs playing gallina ciega (blind chicken) when Iñaki, her partner, gets distracted by a buxom hotel employee, gets hospitalized and goes into coma. Against his will, Iñaki stays in Sevilla, otherwise known as “down there” to take care of his mother.

This is where clinic personnel are introduced: Dr. Rober Almenar (Alfonso Sánchez), Maritxu’s attending physician, chief nurse Carmen Almonte  (María León) whose inconsistent dating life is frustrating to follow, nurse José Narvaéz (Salva Reina) and clinic information officer Dolores Ocaña (Mari Paz Sayago) also known as the fountain of gossip, among others. To add more Sevillan color to the show, Carmen’s brother and Harry Potter fan Rafi (Alberto López) and his body-conscious wife Isabel (Beatriz Cotobal), the hospital cafeteria/bar concessionaires are frequently featured.

Maritxu’s comatose state means the continuation of the ongoing Vascos vs. Sevillanos war, which is a limitless source of comical stereotyping and cultural differences, between Iñaki and his Euskadi group who all brave the weather and backwardness of Sevilla and the staff of the clinic. In his protracted stay at the clinic, Iñaki gets to know the Sevillan staff better and ultimately, trust them enough to let them take care of his mother without prejudice, invest his inheritance in a local business in an effort to help his newfound friends, and well, fall in love with Carmen.

Allí Abajo is a comedy show, so a Vasco being head-over-heels in love with a Sevillana causes a series of unfortunate events, which at some point involves a naked third party sprawled on the sofa like a Michaelangelo statue, which questions the sexual preference of one of the pair, a super tight Sevillana costume that shows every vein in the human anatomy, a horse ride to everywhere and nowhere, and a metal rod piercing one super white butt.

Allí Abajo is by far my favorite Spanish show (I have watched El Barco (2 seasons), Sin Identidad, El Príncipe, El Ministerio del Tiempo, El Tiempo Entre Costuras, and Mar de Plástico). The hilarity of the situations, funny antics of over-the-top personalities and witty lines more than make up for the high level of difficulty involved in understanding what the characters are saying (I watched it in Spanish, without subtitle, and their accent is different than what I am used to). The side-splitting behavior and events in Allí Abajo are relatable despite the obvious differences in culture and language because they focus on family and friends. Each character is a representation of someone I know or interact with, a friend, a colleague or a family member. I had an aunt who was so like Maritxu in her officious ways, an uncle who is as henpecked as Sabino (Santi Ugalde), Bego’s husband, and of course, there is the adorable Iñaki who reminds me of the boys in my high school.

Allí Abajo thrives in the cultural clashes between Vascos and Sevillanos, finds humor in them and turns them into something riotous without any hint of malice. The characters are distinct from one another, including the members of la cuadrilla and their Sevillana counterparts, which is a mean feat becaude they almost always appear together. No character is a waste of space in the show, and each story arc has a purpose and gets to that purpose as quickly as possible without sacrificing either the quality or the pace of the show.

Aside from being an exceptional and entertaining series, Allí Abajo is a great showcase of Sevilla, its beautiful tourist spots, its warm people (and weather), and its cultural heritage. The Seville Fair takes center stage in episode 6, where the women are garbed in form-fitting and colorful traje de gitana (gypsy dresses) and the men look dashing in suit and tie. Women dance to the sound of sevillana while men act as caballeros. And, I learned that to dance the flamenco, one has to “coge la manzana, come la manzana, tira la manzana y pisa la manzana” (pick the apple, eat the apple, throw the apple and trample/step on the apple), I did not learn these words when I flirted with flamenco.

Allí Abajo’s la cuadrilla and Carmen Almonte (María León) before they attended the Seville Fair. Photo from planoaplano.com

 

Favorite Characters:

Iñaki – There is something about a guy who knows his way in the kitchen that makes him sexy. Iñaki is that guy who cooks pintxos (small finger food served at bars) with grace that one might wish to be the toothpick he uses to pierce the pintxos. AND he moves well when he plays pelota vasca, which reminds me of Roger Federer. He is now my third favorite Spanish fictional character.

Nekane – Nekane is oh-so-cute. She has small breasts (according to her, in a conversation) and unable to walk in sky-high heels yet has the courage to lay all her cards on the table and pursue the man of her dreams, albeit a little too late. I am rooting for you, Nutella Nikita Nekane!

Allí Abajo’s Nekane (Alazne Etxebarria) and Iñaki Irazabalbeitia (Jon Plazaola). Photo from planoaplano.com

Benito Benjuame (Mariano Peña) – Benito is that old man who has achieved everything and is set for life. He does not give two figs about money and people who want his money who are coincidentally the fruits of his loins. He smokes, drinks and courts women in dapper suits while confined in a clinic. How legendary is that?

 

Awesome Twosome:

Bego and Sabino – Bego is the lesser version of Maritxu in the dominatrix area, and Sabino is the “yes, dear” husband. But when Sabino is trying out to be Iñaki’s replacement in the cuadrilla, they devise a way to make it look like the roles are reversed. Their phone conversation seconds after Sabino’s confirmation as a member is a hoot.

Benjuame and José – Their bond transcends their professional relationship; they drink together, smoke together and dance together. More of this duo next season!

Iñaki and the metal rod that pierced the side of his butt – That description is enough.

 

Noisiest Characters:

Luci/Piedad/Merche – They are Carmen’s neighbors who cackle like chickens as they gossip or insinuate themselves in the lives of Carmen, Iñaki and la cuadrilla. They are my least favorite part of the show. My ears! My ears!

 

Fashion Plate:

Trini Lozano (Noemí Ruiz) – I think she is the clinic administrator. Regardless of her role in the show, her clothes are always on point. It helps that she is tall and slim with nice shoulders. She looks like a runway model even with messy hair.

 

Funniest Moments:

Maritxu and Nekane plotting to marry Iñaki and the latter, without the consent or knowledge of Iñaki. The conversation in English goes like this:

Maritxu: Nekane, you’re going to be my daughter-in-law. Congratulations! Not that you’re the ideal choice, but right now you’re the only one.

Nekane (with a look of doubt): Thanks, I suppose. Just one thing, shouldn’t Iñaki decide a little about this?

Maritxu: Yes, of course. But Iñaki will decide what we tell him to.

La cuadrilla thinking that Iñaki is gay. – The car ride from Euskadi to Sevilla is filled with we-have-to-support-Iñaki’s-preference and we-have-to-show-him-how-open-minded-we-are. I know how difficult it is for three grown up heterosexual men to come to terms that one of their friends, whom they spend hours with each day for years, turns out to be gay.

Sabino thinking that Bego wanted to have sex with him in the bar, right on the bar. – It is fun watching Sabino give sexual meanings to Bego’s words, but no, Sabino, she just wants you to fix the faucet. Then again, Sabino is a lucky lucky lucky man.

 

Basque Words I Learned from Allí Abajo:

Aupa – Hello!

Agur – Good bye!

Kabenzotz – For Christ’s sake! or God damn it! or Shit!

Ama – mother

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