If Fanatico‘s point is to prove that the grass isn’t always greener, then mission accomplished, but it manages to condemn most of humanity and contemporary culture along the way.
This review of Fanatico Season 1 is spoiler-free.
Everyone wants to be famous. Or, more accurately, everyone wants one of the things that being famous provides — money, recognition, followers, designer clothes, jewelry, girls, boys, whatever. Nobody knows why they want these things, really. Culture tells them it’s because that’s what you need to be cool, and by extension to be happy. So, as that famous quote goes, we buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. The idea of “celebrity” is that in a nutshell, amplified and presented to the masses. The great achievement of Fanatico, a new, very short Spanish series now streaming on Netflix, is that it doesn’t just make being famous seem miserable, but makes everyone in the general vicinity of fame seem like deplorable monsters.
IMDb bills Fanatico at least in part as a comedy, but trust me when I say there’s nothing remotely funny about it. The plot revolves around Lazaro (Lorenzo Ferro), a blow-out loser with dreams of him and his girlfriend, Clara (Eva Almeida), making their way to a big house with a terrace. He hasn’t put much thought into how he might achieve that, beyond delivering pizzas, and even that he can’t stick with. But an opportunity falls into his lap when Quimera (also Ferro), Spain’s biggest trap musician, takes a fatal overdose and dies on stage, plummeting into the arms of his “adoring” fans. Lazaro has an uncanny resemblance to Quimera, and begins to impersonate him after his death, trying to adopt his lifestyle and success.
And I get it, that does sound like the premise for a comedy of sorts. But the hook here is that everybody knows Quimera is dead and thus knows that Lazaro is an imposter, and yet the whole thing goes ahead anyway. Lazaro dies his hair, tattoos his face, and starts hanging around parties that Quimera’s friends are throwing in honor of his memory. He starts signing autographs for fans who know their idol is dead but will take the next best thing. He ingratiates himself with Quimera’s former friends, girlfriend, manager, and record label, all of whom are willing to not necessarily accept him but certainly profit from him. Lazaro is allowed to become the ghost of Quimera, and the crowd bays for another pound of his flesh.
There’s a common idea about fiction and storytelling that the audience needs someone to root for. It’s nonsense, and Fanatico is one of the better recent examples of why. This is a story entirely about deeply awful people doing ugly, deplorable things, and yet it’s endlessly fascinating viewing. You can’t look away for the same reasons that you might gawp at a multicar pileup as you drive on by; you’re trying to take account of the wreckage from your position of relative safety. Perhaps you shouldn’t judge, but you will. The spiraling decline of everyone involved becomes perversely satisfying. You start to think these people deserve everything that’s coming to them.
And perhaps they do, but the more relevant question ought to be aimed at the culture which not only allows this kind of depravity but actively rewards it. Fanatico has five twenty-ish-minute episodes; all told, it runs for less time than a feature film. But it seems to go on interminably, this hellish descent into ruin that takes you with it. I’m not sure I can recommend the show, at least not for the traditional reasons, but it’s worth watching as a reminder that perhaps you already have everything you need.