Spanish comedy-drama Arde Madrid: Burn Madrid Burn on MHz Choice! Starring Paco León, Inma Cuesta and Debi Mazar as the incomparable Ava Gardner!

Premiering May 5th

THE SHOW: Arde Madrid: Burn Madrid Burn is a Spanish comedy-drama created and produced by Paco León and Anna R. Costa. That’s the basic info, but its 30-minute episodes are so far above and beyond that, it can honestly be said that they defy description. It’s absurdly funny, it’s weirdly heart-wrenching, it’s thrilling and quite racy, at times. It’s art. León also stars in and directs every episode, suffusing each moment with irresistible machismo. The series, set in 1961, centers around actress Ava Gardner’s time living in Francoist Spain after divorcing Frank Sinatra in 1957. “This seems really… specific,” you’re saying. I know, but think about it: can you imagine anything more delicious? The drama. The debauchery. The drinking! My God, the drinking.

HEY, IS THAT…: Perhaps the most intriguing tidbit about this show that I read before watching it was its inclusion of American actors. How very American of me to focus on that, I know, but give me a break – Ava Gardner is played by none other than the criminally undersung American character actress and style icon, Debi Mazar. She alone understood that the raven-haired, arched-eyebrowed, cinch-waisted look she had been cultivating from well before it was cool – well before even her BFF Madonna was doing it – would one day pay off in this job of a lifetime. She gives Gardner a smoky, boozy veritas even in this crazy context.

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L to R: Inma Cuesta & Debi Mazar in Arde Madrid: Burn Madrid Burn

BUT: But, Gardner – as wild as her life story truly was – isn’t even the real story here! It’s León’s opportunistic Manolo, and the devoted Francoist Ana Mari played by the incredible Inma Cuesta – so beautiful even a fascist cardigan cannot hide it – who drive this runaway train. Spying for their Generalissimo to report back on Gardner’s freewheeling lifestyle, they are forced to confront the hedonistic excess that comes with privileged wealth while, at least in Ana Mari’s case, trying to stay true to a rigid ideology. Also? This subterfuge requires that they pretend to be married, and they hate each other. Ana Mari’s disgusted intolerance of Manolo’s bumbling ambition is a thing of comedic perfection, and their chemistry is undeniable.

[LOCATION] WAS LIKE ANOTHER CHARACTER: Here’s how compelling the filming locations, Madrid and Las Rozas, are: While this thing is shot in black and white, putting you squarely in the period and maximizing the artistic quality, it still seems lush. And hot. And entirely Spanish.

HOW SPANISH IS IT: Let’s just say that Ava Gardner famously had a thing for bullfighters and was enormously influenced by, and influential to, Ernest Hemingway. León is a master in front and behind the camera at contrasting this voluptuary quality with Ana Mari’s spartan-in-the-streets, secretly-boiling-beneath-the-sheets persona.

MAKE A NIGHT OF IT: This is the kind of show that will make you feel like you need a fan blowing directly in your face as you sweat out the mistakes you made the night before, in which case I can only recommend the counteraction of a cooling gazpacho with a freezing San Miguel. Olé!

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