We caught an early peak at all nine episodes of Selena: The Series, the new Netflix drama starring Christian Serratos as the “Queen of Tejano,” and we’re obsessed. The show traces the icon’s childhood in Texas as the singer of a traveling family band managed by ambitious father Abraham through teen years and into the eventual superstardom she found in early adulthood. Early episodes follow Selena y Los Dinos’ rise from performing in nursing homes to regional gigs, and endless hours on a tour bus without heating or air conditioning. The middle section is mostly devoted to drama surrounding choosing between record companies, and the eventual disagreements about the direction in which Selena and the band should move, including a funny moment where fans were simply not feeling a Jody Watley cover.
Serratos’s portrayal shows the many sides of the superstar – charming, dedicated, talented and at times a little defiant and anxious to make her own decisions. Ricardo Chavira also stands out as domineering patriarch Abraham, although one scene where one of Suzette’s would-be suitors asks him permission to take her out plays as cute and old-fashioned instead of woefully outdated. At times, Chavira’s portrayal comes off as slightly more, uhh, abusive than Edward James Olmos did in Selena, Gregory Nava’s 1997 film that cemented Jennifer Lopez as a serious actress. We could also do with a little more storyline for the family matriarch Marcella (Seidy López) – Lopez offers a warm and supportive presence, but she’s mostly on the sidelines.
Overall, the cast has a smooth and natural chemistry that allows the series to explore a variety of family dynamics and the writing makes room for all the supporting characters. Nava’s 1997 film Selena places most of the focus squarely on Selena’s career – this new series goes beyond that while demonstrating how much blood, sweat and tears The Quintanilla family put into this group project, and the tensions that arose as one of them became a breakout star. From the ambitious father/manager angle to the siblings’ subplots, there’s a lot going on here, yet the writers juggle the multitude of conflicts in the script with ease and it never feels like a soap opera. A nice and wholesome vibe runs throughout, and the recurring themes about trust in artistic vision and familial love are quite heartwarming. One of the sweetest moments come near the end of Episode 4 when a teenager comes up to talk to Selena’s older sister/the band’s drummer Suzette (Noemi Gonzalez) – Suzette’s first thought is that the fan must want to speak to Selena, but quickly realizes she has the power to inspire just as many people as her little sister.
There’s no hint of the darkness to come until later episodes when Selena’s secret relationship with guitarist/eventual husband Chris Perez (Jesse Posey) comes to light, and once the name Yolanda Saldivar is finally mentioned, the viewer finally remembers how tragic this story ends. These first nine episodes offer a compassionate and loving tribute to all the struggles the Quintanilla family went through and fans will surely make this a big enough hit for Netflix to give the green light for a second season.
Selena: The Series premieres this Friday on Netflix