Stream or skip? +2023

A hallmark of streaming romcom series is the couple coming together under unusual circumstances, be it a one-night stand-turned-marriage (catastrophe), a “normal girl” who accidentally hooks up with a movie star (Starstruck), or two sisters trying to figure out what and who they want in life (Vida). Now a new Spanish romantic comedy on Netflix brings this formula to two guys who probably would never connect if it wasn’t for a misguided voicemail.

SMILEY: Stream or skip?

opening shot: We hear a phone ring, then an outgoing recording asking the person on the other side to leave a message. “In the end I decided to call you,” says a voice. Then we hear more of that voice as we watch him wake up in the morning.

The essentials: Àlex (Carlos Cuevas) is a bartender in Barcelona and he leaves his ex an epically long message after being ghosted by him for several weeks. The message is filled with conversations about how he thought their relationship would be different, how he thought the two had a connection and a real chance at something special. He also explains that the last thing he texted him on WhatsApp was a smiley face emoji saying a whole bunch of things.

One problem: since he called the phone from the landline of the bar where he works, he actually had to dial the number. He ended up dialing the wrong number; instead of the ex, the epic voicemail ends up in the inbox of an architect named Bruno (Miki Esparbé). Bruno is also looking for something real and lasting, and he feels he’s been in the dating scene for far too long. He even ends up deleting Grindr, especially after some of the guys he matches basically told him to go away.

He is seriously considering calling back and trying to meet Àlex. His best friend Albert (Eduardo Lloveras) and his wife Núria (Ruth Llopis) think he’s crazy. But when he takes a chance and calls Àlex at the bar, the two have a great conversation and decide to meet there.

Meanwhile, Àlex’ friend Vero (Meritxell Calvo), who reminds him that he went out with a parade of assholes with great abs, has problems of her own: her friend Patri (Giannina Fruttero) is getting her new apartment in shape and happy very much looking forward to their new phase of life. But Vero has gotten a job offer to run a club in Ibiza over the summer, which also upsets Javier (Pepón Nieto), who owns the bar with her. But when he stars as his drag personality, Keena, he accidentally lets the cat out of the bag… and Patri sits in the crowd.


What shows will it remind you of? The mood of smiley feels pretty close to shows like Vida and Starstruck.

Our opinion: One of the reasons we cited these two shows above is because smiley It’s about a relationship that starts off in a surprising way and has the potential to have some really interesting ups and downs as the season progresses. You can tell from the first few minutes of the episode that while Bruno and Àlex feel like they’re about to have a streamable TV meetup, the end of the episode tells us that the meetup will lead to a whole lot of emotional upheavals.

Why? Because when Àlex sees Bruno walk in to Bar Bero (so named because Vero convinced Javier to convert it from a barbershop to a bar), he says “shit,” and not in a good way. He’s probably not attracted to Bruno at first, but he also knows in the back of his mind that the guys who immediately attracted him were the parade of assholes Vero talked to him about. Especially the moments when the two boys are getting to know each other and Àlex is probably trying to figure out if he should give Bruno a chance will make for some funny and romantic moments.

But writer Guillem Clua did a good job of building the supporting characters with their own solid B-stories. We have Albert and Núria’s struggle to get back some crumbs of fun they had before they had kids – Albert admits to Bruno jerking off in his bedroom while his kids watch Dora the Explorer. And Vero and Patri have a lot to do after Javier accidentally found out about Vero’s new job in Ibiza. The first episode covers a lot of ground, and we’re really interested in seeing where all of those relationships go during the season.

gender and skin: Nothing but kissing in the first episode.

farewell shot: When Bruno comes in with a book like he said, he notices Àlex. “Don’t let him go,” Alex says to himself. But, as we have described above, if it is him, Àlex says a deflated “Shit” to himself while putting a smile on his face.

sleeping star: Meritxell Calvo’s edgier Vero pairs well with Cuevas’ more sensitive and romantic Àlex.

Most pilot line: Bruno’s last straw on Grindr was when someone matched him only to write, “Stop saying hey you bore. I wouldn’t make out with you even if I was on GHB.” Why do you have to be so cruel gridnr match dude?

Our appeal: Stream it. We’re suckers for couples struggling to make it against the odds, especially after meeting the unusual way. smiley definitely belongs in that category, and all the characters are drawn well enough to make us want to follow their romantic adventures.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and technology, but he doesn’t fool himself: He’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Salon,, VanityFair.comFast Company and elsewhere.

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