Gem Finder: Vida is a provocative Latino drama you can binge in one afternoon

Alexandra Plesa 30 May 2018 NEWS

With two excellent leads, this vibrant show breathes new life into the family drama genre.

We live in the era of Peak TV. Streaming services offer thousands of hours of quality content and everyone seems to be recommending you a new series to binge. Through all the noise, there’s no wonder some marvellous titles fly under the radar. Here’s where we do our best to push them into the mainstream.

What is Vida about?

Vida follows two estranged Mexican-American sisters brought back together by their mother’s death. Emma is the responsible one who lives in Chicago and has a stable job. Meanwhile, Lyn does her best to enjoy everything life has to offer, even if that means manipulating those around her to get what she wants.

When their mother Vidalia (Vida for short) passes away unexpectedly, the two must travel back home and confront their past as well as deal with some brand new information about their mother’s identity. To the girls’ surprise, it turns out their mother’s “roommate” Eddy was actually Vida’s wife. The three women have to learn to work together to preserve Vida’s legacy and figure out what to do with the bar and apartment building she left behind.

Who stars in Vida?

Emma is portrayed by Mishel Prada, who played Gabi in the mini-series Fear the Walking Dead: Passage. As for Lyn, she’s brought to life by Melissa Barrera, whom you might know as Isabel from Club de Cuervos. The cast also includes Karen Ser Anzoategui, Chelsea Rendon, Carlos Miranda, and Maria Elena Laas.

Where can I watch?

The first season of the show, currently in progress, is on Stan. New episodes are added weekly, with the finale scheduled to drop on the streaming service in early June.

How many seasons does Vida have?

One short season of six half-hour episodes, which means it'll only take three hours to binge it all. There’s no word yet on whether the series will be renewed, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Will I like Vida?

One of the best things about Vida is its unique setting – a rapidly gentrifying lower-income Latin neighbourhood in East LA. It’s a world we don’t often get to see on TV. The setting is populated with well-developed characters defying the stereotypes usually associated with the Latino community.

When Emma and Lyn get back home, they need to figure out what to do with their late mother’s building, which is half-filled with undocumented immigrants. Real estate developers are swooping in to renovate, which would of course leave the building’s inhabitants on the street. There’s also a bar on the ground floor, which turns out to be vital to the community.

Gentrification is a huge theme in Vida, but it’s not merely a plot point – it’s a part of these characters’ lives. The story of a character returning home after a long time away is a universal one. In Vida, it feels fresh and exciting and is a nice spin on an overused trope. Besides Emma, Lyn and Eddy, the show also introduces viewers to Marisol, a young activist fighting gentrification and standing up to the man. Vida is brimming with socio-political commentary, but it’s a natural inclusion. The focus on gentrification is neither preachy nor forced – this is simply a part of these women’s story, so it has to be addressed.

Complex relationships are what this series thrives on

On the same note, the characters’ sexuality is also handled with grace and tenderness. Complex relationships are what this series thrives on, and there’s no shortage of dysfunctionality in Vida – Lyn reconnects with a former lover; Eddy grieves for her lost wife; and Emma finds a newfound desire for an older woman. Will these three be able to overcome their personal issues, fend off real-estate developers and restore the bar to its former glory? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

Another great thing about Vida is that it’s short. That might sound counterintuitive, but hear us out. There are so many quality shows currently on the air, it’s hard to find time to catch up with them all. As far as dramas are concerned, most offer hour-long episodes. In Vida’s case, the shorter instalments work wonders. The series still manages to make a point and deliver a solid narrative, all without robbing you of too much precious time. Indeed, sometimes less is more.

Anything else I should know?

Vida is developed by Starz, a network unafraid of experimenting with formats – it also gave us underrated gems like Party Down, Ash vs. Evil Dead and The Girlfriend Experience. These are all original and provocative series, made to stand out in an over-crowded TV landscape. If you’re the kind of viewer who likes to expand your horizons, Vida is the perfect binge.

Note that there are several explicit sex scenes

Also, note that there are several explicit sex scenes over the course of the show’s six episodes. You might want to avoid watching this with your parents, for instance, as things can get uncomfortable fast. You’re welcome.

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