Promised Land – a show worth prime time television

Arts & Entertainment

Danielle O’Brien, Staff

“Promised Land” is a drama series created by Matt Lopez that appears on Hulu every Monday and is a great example of the Latino representation and talent in need of your support. The show began in January of 2022, originally appearing on ABC at 10 pm on Tuesday nights, however, from the 6th episode the show was moved to Hulu due to lower viewership on cable. Nevertheless, it received a high score on Rotten Tomatoes and much critical acclaim.  

(SPOILERS AHEAD) The premise of the show follows a well-established mixed family in all definitions of the word. Although Joe Sandoval, his wife Letti (played by Cecilla Suarez), and their kids seem to only have to deal with the first-world problems presented to them while living in the mansion of their California vineyard, it wasn’t always this way. It is important to note that the show is told in the frames of two different points in time: one in which we follow an older Joe (played by John Ortiz) in issues he and his family have to experience after inheriting the vineyard, and the second, a younger Joe (played by Andrez Velez) who was simply working on the vineyard with no concept of what more he wanted to do with his life.

Joe was an immigrant from Mexico who crossed the U.S-Mexico border in the ’80s to reunite with his older brother Billy (played by Rolando Chusan but more like Rolando Chulito, in my opinion) who works at a vineyard in California. On his venture to cross the border, Joe meets another girl trying to cross, Letti and her sister Rosa. Joe learns that Letti aspires to be a teacher and Rosa aspires to be a nurse, while Joe initially doesn’t seem to have many plans outside of working at the vineyard with his brother in the U.S. In the course of traveling across the border, however, Joe, Letti, and Rosa run into many trials and tribulations which bring them closer, such as almost getting trafficked and Letti’s sister even getting kidnapped for blackmail. Over the course of a few episodes the issues are resolved and Joe and Letti are reunited with Joe’s brother in California, Billy, who gets them a job at the vineyard and even forged them government documentation. Joe’s original name was Carlos and Letti’s was Juana, however, these forged documents forced them to take on a completely new identity. While Joe and Letti’s choice to rename themselves symbolizes the plights that many immigrants are forced to do in leaving behind part of their identity to assimilate to this new world, it remains true that even with these new identities in this strange new country, there are more problems that Joe, Letti, and Billy have yet to anticipate. For one, the three witness firsthand how unwanted they are in the vineyard when the vineyard owner’s daughter, Margaret Honeycroft (played by Kerri Medders) befriends Letti. Margaret comes from a completely different world of privilege but nevertheless faces issues of her own. In an attempt to make friends, Margaret strikes up a conversation with Letti, enlisting her help as a personal tutor in Spanish. It’s made very clear, however, from Margaret’s father that befriending the “help” was shameful. Joe and Billy also struggle with the woes of their father who also lives in the United States but is constantly asking his sons for money.

            However, the main course of chisme (drama) in the show is the love “square” as you could put it between Joe, Letti, his brother Billy, and Margaret which carries on into their adulthood. It’s clear from the beginning of the series that Joe is in love with Letti, however, Letti doesn’t seem to reciprocate the feelings of Joe. This is likely due in part to her meeting Joe’s brother, Billy (who could blame her?). The two spark a fiery romance that they try to hide from Joe who eventually finds out anyway. Nevertheless, Joe doesn’t take long to “get over it” as he turns to pursue Margeret who has always had an interest in him, however, Joe had some frustration upon first meeting her. Interestingly, however, Letti seems to disapprove of  the two’s relationship although she should be preoccupied in her own relationship.

Billy, Letti, and Joe

Nevertheless, it’s clear the love square turns into a circle as the show pans to the other perspective of when the characters are older. Margaret and Joe got married and had four kids, Letti and Billy shared one, and once both couples divorced, Joe and Letti also shared one kid after remarrying one another. However, the chisme never seems to end between the four as the older Billy returns after deserting Letti and their child to reinstate those familiar sparks between himself and his ex-wife who is currently taken by his brother. On top of the drama ongoing between the parents of the mixed family, their children’s issues adds further drama to the story which makes it even more worth the watch.

Besides the show being presented from two different points in time, what makes it interesting is how beautifully the show balances the addictive chisme reminiscent of a telenovela, but better, while also having a serious undertone concerning the American dream and the state of immigration within the U.S today. There are several references to the struggles undocumented persons in the United States experience in the process of immigrating, such as the risk of being trafficked by coyotes “helping”  those cross the border. Furthermore, even if undocumented persons safely arrive in the United States, these same immigrants face further horrors in this new country such as racism and the constant presence of ICE threatening their livelihood. These themes all play a role in developing the plot of the show. I would also like to make a point that the show includes representation of real Latinos of all colors. While it is one feat to have a lead cast of Latinos on prime time television, it is another thing for there to be a range of diversity in said Latino representation, from gueras/gueros to morenas/morenos in an industry where when there is a Latino character, they are often cherry picked to look a certain way.

With all these factors in hand as to why “Promised Land” is worth the watch, it is upsetting that the show was removed from premiering live on ABC on Tuesday nights to being moved to Hulu. However, with a persistently large following, “Promised Land” could at the very least secure a second season to premiere sometime in the future, which it is very much deserving of. The show and it’s actors deserve the opportunity at a second season for the diversity it brings in representing the Latino community in a way no show on prime time television has before. Not to mention, it’s become one of my favorite shows and I’m begging whoever is reading this to give the show a watch so I can finally decide which brother I like more.

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