East Los High: Season 1 Critique

Since I’ve been looking for more shows and movies with diverse content, I recently decided to give “East Los High” a viewing. If you have Hulu Plus you probably have seen promos for the web based tv series between whatever you’re watching. I could excuse it away with I study what works and what doesn’t in the screenwriting of these shows (which I do), but honestly I have a guilty pleasure soft spot for soap melodrama. So that means turning a blind eye to some of the poor acting and contrived storylines to take the ride. If you’re ready to enroll and attend a class at East Los, you’ll get a lesson or two in love, violence, and revenge...and you don’t want to be tardy.

Jessie (Janine Larina) & Jacob (Gabriel Chavarria)

Jessie (Janine Larina) & Jacob (Gabriel Chavarria)

“East Los High” follows Jessie (Janine Larina), a good student who is socially awkward. She and her friend Soli (Noemi Gonzalez) are two peas in a pod. What could pull two best friends apart? A boy of course. Jacob (Gabriel Chavarria) is the high school stud that every girl wants to be with. His attention turns to Jessie after his girlfriend Vanessa (Tracy Perez) is caught red handed cheating on him via cell phone footage.

The show brings cultural music and dance into the lives of its’ teens through the Bomb Squad, the high school dance team. The squad is led by Vanessa and Ceci (Danielle Vega). Vanessa is your classic queen B, who runs the girls with an iron fist. That fist is actually Ceci, a vocally unfiltered, untamed teen with plans to take down the queen.  

Vanessa (Tracy Perez) & Ceci (Danielle Vega)

Vanessa (Tracy Perez) & Ceci (Danielle Vega)

What would a soap be without a stranger moving into town and shaking things up? Maya (Alicia Sixtos) comes into town to escape the past, but of course, that past follows her and puts a lot of people in danger. With the stage set, the students of East Los High deal less with tests and studying and more with their interactions with one another. Whether they’re hooking up, trying to avoid danger, or trying to tear each other apart, there is always something going on.

Numerous times while I was watching the show I kept thinking “this feels like a PSA for sexual health.” It actually is, but by the time you realize that, the message has already been delivered. The key to understanding the show is knowing who is really pulling the strings. Population Media Center (PMC), a nonprofit organization that creates serialized content to promote social change, is the creator of the show. Frankly, I think PMC is a genius for creating the show. “East Los High” puts the various outcomes of teen sexual experiences (or lack there of) at the feet of its’ viewers and asks them to make the decision for themselves. It also supplies viewers with online resources to help. It basically delivers medicine encompassed in dessert like your mom used to do.

Season 1 is clunky in its’ writing and very melodramatic most of the time. After finishing Season 2 I can say everything gets better, although it could still benefit from less foreshadowing...it’s entertaining. Like most online series, if you can get past the first few episodes, you’ll get invested in the characters and melodrama as you binge. It’s the kind of series that you love to hate at times, but with a worthy message for teens that may be the only “talk” they have...it’s worth supporting.

Check out my Top 5 characters of Season 1!

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Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.