Selena The Series

Review – Selena: The Series

Latin pop star Selena’s quick-paced stratospheric rise to stardom suddenly ended on March 31, 1995 at just 23 years of age when the arguably diabolical and mentally deranged manager of her fan club mercilessly shot her.

Selena holds more popularity today than during her short-lived heyday thanks much in part to her family keeping the young singer’s music and career alive. A movie starring Jennifer Lopez was released in 1997, the Selena Museum was created in 1998, but now Netflix has produced Selena: The Series a television show recounting the early days and times of not just Selena but the entire family and of course her eventual rise to fame.

Selena: The Series undertakes the remarkable task of going back to the start when a young Selena finds her voice and her dad immediately recognizing the untapped talent.  Netflix breaks up Selena: The Series across two seasons, nine episodes in Season 1, and Season 2 just started production. Season 1 of Selena: The Series begins with the early years but thankfully quickly moves to the teenage Selena and her father’s near relentless effort to push her career as well as the family.

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Selena Netflix Series Review

Selena: The Series is not all about Selena who is played by Christian Serratos. Actually, Ricardo Chavira (of Desperate Housewives fame) who plays Selena’s dad Abraham Quintanilla, delivers much of the strengths for the first nine episodes. Extremely protective over not just Selena but also his family and the Los Dinos band – whose members consist of Selena’s sister Suzette Quintanilla on drums played by Noemi Gonzalez and brother A.B. Quintanilla portrayed by Gabriel Chavarria, who plays bass and writes most of the songs – Abraham Quintanilla just about drops everything from Day 1 to get his daughter’s voice and family’s music in front of an audience while making Selena a household name.

Like all struggling musicians, Selena and Los Dinos, the original name of the band, play backyard BBQs and weddings before catching some luck and eventually getting noticed through sheer hard work and perseverance. As the gigs progress, Quintanilla buys a used touring bus that you readily expect to breakdown providing a story arc for one of the episodes, but alas, it fuels the band for thousands of miles all over the United States. The Los Dinos name eventually takes the backseat as record deals get discussed then the wheeling and dealing Abraham along with his sidekick son A.B. work their magic to get a contract signed, sealed and delivered with record label EMI and the promised production of an English language album.

The head strong Abraham Quintanilla delicately balances the line between doubling as a caring father while holding a near iron-fisted managerial grasp over his family and Selena, something today’s millennials would bristle at, cower from and eventually succumb to emotionally.  Quintanilla pushes A.B. almost exhaustively to write new songs and Selena pretty much has no love life as a young woman until future husband Chris Perez, portrayed by Jesse Posey, joins the band as guitarist. Emotions quickly get the best of Selena and Chris as their attempts to hide their blossoming love comes to an abrupt end in the final scene of episode 9 when Dad-Knows-Best Abraham finds out.

The first nine episodes of Selena: The Series offers a fun, almost breezy and quick-paced look at the early life and times of the “Queen of Tejano Music.” As a TV show, you cannot not get caught up in the excitement and adventure as well as the frustrations and angst that go with living life on the road as a touring musician. As a documentary series, fans surely learn lots of new aspects about Selena’s life and how the Quintanilla’s worked around the various barriers along the way thanks in part to Abraham Quintanilla.

You see, it was because of Abraham Quintanilla’s drive, determination and devotion that the world heard Selena’s music. Sure, eventually Selena may have found her way and carved a niche and thus arguably she’d be alive today. Therefore, you cannot possibly understand the grief, pain and turmoil endured in the 25 years since Quintanilla lost his daughter.

The ominous foreshadowing scene in Episode 9 shows Quintanilla handing a piece of paper with the name and number of a woman for Suzette to call and interview regarding a job to handle Selena’s fan club. The moment quickly reminds you that Selena: The Series does not end well. A few scenes later, we get introduced to Yolanda Saldívar, a Selena Super Fan happy to take on the fan mail and merchandise duties for free. This rather undesirable task Saldívar willingly embraces even gives Suzette pause who seemingly facetiously questions her sanity.

A gloomy cloud indeed exists for the viewer because you know what happens. Spending time with a lovable character for two seasons, only to lose her, makes for emotionally great fictional television. But Selena: The Series retells real life therefore every passing minute gets you closer to the unfortunate end you hope never materializes.

Selena: The Series does not incorporate any original video or photographs of Selena or the family instead relying on the actors portraying the parts even when employing raw video effects. However, any singing performances come from the original Selena. Serratos does a solid job representing Selena as the girl next door who just loves to sing and has a heart of gold. (I’ve heard some criticism regarding the casting of Serratos which at this point in the world of social media makes you toss your hands up. One more reason why social media has ruined humanity.)

Both Gonzalez and Chavarria bring to life Selena’s mostly unrecognized foundation as two important characters in their sister’s childhood and eventual success. Casting also did a fine job in finding two actors who fully resemble Suzette and A.B. Quintanilla.

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Like many, I was introduced to Selena because of her death. Shortly after, I’d discover her music as my eventual wife said some of Selena’s songs remind her of our early courtship. Coincidentally, our wedding was years later on her death date.

Selena’s music crossed multiple musical boundaries but you don’t need to like Tejano music or even Selena’s music to get into Selena: The Series. The show is not about Selena’s music, thus far, but rather Selena the singer and – just as much if not at times more – her family. Selling the family farm to realize a dream makes for many a great movie and resonates with lots of people in a variety of disciplines. Selena: The Series fully illustrates this real-life rags-to-riches story with unfortunate gut-wrenching results.

Likewise, fans of Selena will enjoy (or maybe not) this series immensely. It is a tragic end to a beautiful life and nothing can bring her back. Those invested in her music before that tragic day no doubt will relive all the feelings and emotions produced when news broke outside a Days Inn 25 years ago.

Season 1 of Selena: The Series ends with a heart-broken Selena who we know gets her love back in Season 2 along with a happily ever after that ends too quickly.

We also know Season 2 ends with everyone heart-broken.

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