TV Review - East Los High

Hector David Jr. (left) and
Janine Larina in "East Los High"
Two cancelled soap operas were recently brought back, exclusively for the Internet. All My Children and One Life to Live used to be on ABC. Now, you can only watch them on the web site Hulu, but, aside from these exclusives, Hulu has also been producing original series. The first scripted series was Battleground, which premiered last year. That series basically mimicked NBC's The Office or its Parks and Recreation. Hulu's latest original series is a teen drama, one that you might find on the CW or ABC Family, but it basically mimics the soap operas that were at once cancelled.

East Los High was created by Carlos Portugal and Kathleen Bedoya. Portugal produced and directed every episode of which there are 24. If you are a subscriber to Hulu Plus, you can stream all 24 episodes immediately. If you're not a subscriber, each subsequent episode is made available every day, Monday to Friday, starting on June 3rd and ending on July 3, 2013. What's unique about the web series is that it features an all-Hispanic cast.

The show revolves around eight students at a East Los Angeles high school and it's meant to address various problems that teens, particularly American-Latino teens, face. Those problems include but are not limited to sex-related issues. If you visit, the show's web site that's separate from Hulu, you'll find links to resources for such things as bullying, homelessness, depression, cancer, and etc. The site also engages with positive things such as music, dance and fashion, three outlets that become integral to the show, especially dance.

Janine Larina stars as Jessie Martinez, a virginal high school student and aspiring dancer. She auditions for a local dance group that's run by best friends, Vanessa and Ceci who are both the opposite of virginal. Jessie has to deal with bullying from them as well as deal with her burgeoning sexuality as she becomes interested in boys but seemingly in a non-monogamous way.

Alicia Sixtos co-stars as Maya Martinez, Jessie's cousin who is a runaway, a thief and who perhaps has a drug problem. Maya comes to live with Jessie, as she tries to reconcile the issues haunting her, which are abusive and possibly violent. She gets a job at a local restaurant. The restaurant is owned by the father of one of Jessie's classmates.

Gabriel Chavarria co-stars as Jacob Aguilar, the son of that restaurant owner. Jacob is also the King of the Winter Formal, a veritable prom king. He's like the top jock, but he's not as much of a horn dog as his friend Paulie. Jacob is more respectful of women, so obviously he's the romantic lead, the guy that every girl wants. He's in fact the center of the show's principal love triangle, that at one point becomes a love square where three women are within his sphere of influence.

Tracy Perez co-stars as Vanessa De La Cruz, essentially the Heather Locklear of the show. She's all about having power and control, and she doesn't care who she has to step on to get it. She was the Queen of the Winter Formal until an unfortunate event took it away. She blames Jessie for it and now gets off on getting revenge on Jessie via bullying.

Hector David Jr. is featured as Cristian Camacho, a choreographer who is introduced to counterbalance some of the overwhelming female energy, and to be a foil for Jacob.

Like with most soap operas, the thrust is figuring who is going to sleep with whom, and if their directions are going to be derailed with a pregnancy. Like with most teen dramas set in urban environments, the other thrust is figuring who is going to make it out, go to college or pursue their vocational dreams. The show used a sex video as a hook to maintain interest in the first episode and by half-way through it in episode 11 used a rape as another hook. Each, however, are meant more for their shock value, not for any insight or actual understanding or empathy.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 21 mins.


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