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Primo

Primo season 1

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

You can’t beat family—though there are perhaps times when 16-year-old Rafa would like to.

On the census report, it’d look like the teen’s family is quite small. It’s just him and his mom in their San Antonio house. She works at a local market, while he’s just trying to make it through high school.

But the census doesn’t register the other folks who also are at the house pretty much all the time: Rafa’s uncle. His other uncle. His other other uncle. His other other other uncle. And oh yeah, that uncle over there, too.

That’s five uncles in all—eating Rafa’s food, hogging Rafa’s bathroom, climbing all up in Rafa’s business.

He loves them all. But sometimes—well, they’re just enough to make him want to cry … uncle.

Nuclear Family

Admittedly, Rafa could use a male role model or two. His father left long ago, and all those uncles came along to fill in the gap. They love Rafa and his mom (their sister). They’d all do jailtime for either of them. “H—, I just did!” one exclaims (before being reminded that he was arrested for trying to race greyhounds on the local track.)

But they’re something of a mixed blessing. Rafa describes their constant presence as being stuck in a cloud of bees. “Except the bees are always, like, cussing and punching at each other.”

And the advice they give always goes in five different directions. If Rafa asks, “Should I go to college?” business owner Uncle Jay will growl that he should just get a real job. Flower child Mondo will mumble that college is “handcuffs for the mind.” Bank-teller Ryan will tell him he should get a degree like he did (never mind that it’s really a certificate for taking a one-hour class), and Mike will push him to join the military. And Rollie? Well, he might be too busy picking through the trash for pizza crusts to listen.

Oh, Brothers

Primo (which refers to the uncles’ nickname for Rafa) is the brainchild of author and journalist Shea Serrano, and it is in part based on his own upbringing in San Antonio. It’s pretty funny and, in some ways, it offers some of what Ted Lasso does: hilarity with heart.  

Rafa’s uncles are wildly different people, but they’re united in one very-important aspect: their love and loyalty to sister Drea and her son. And even though most of the advice given by said uncles is, well, pretty terrible, each can has moments of poignant wisdom.

And Drea is a pretty cool mom, too. She works to give Rafa a caring, loving home. She’s determined to keep her son focused on his own future, hoping he’ll have opportunities that she never did.  And if her brothers ever get out of line (and let’s face it, they’re almost always out of line), she’s not afraid to yank them back in.

“We are going to fill this house with joy, or I swear to God, I will slit all of your throats!” she tells them.

And with that, we get our first real hint of the show’s real problems.

As we continue on the Ted Lasso train, let’s start with a nice bit of assurance: Primo keeps its language far cleaner than that Apple TV+ comedy. While Ted and company might fire off 40 f-words a show (with Roy Kent responsible for 38 of them), Primo keeps its bad language at a milder level. And while an occasional f-word is spoken in the script, the word itself is censored. Amazon’s Freevee service seems to want to keep Primo’s content at a network sitcom level.

But, as we’ve seen recently, that level can still be pretty bad. The foul language may be milder than some streaming shows, but we still hear plenty of it. We also hear sexually charged quips, drug references and plenty of bathroom humor. And while Rafa’s uncles have their moments of clarity and goodness, none can exactly be described as role models.

Those uncles in some ways serve as metaphors for the show itself: It means well, but you just never know what it’s going to say.

Episode Reviews

May 19, 2023 – S1, Ep1: “Big Eyes”

When Rafa’s guidance counselor tells him that he really should consider college—and enroll in a college prep program to boot—Rafa worries that continuing his education would put an undo burden on his cash-strapped mother. And his uncles are not much help in giving advice.

The exception this episode? The frequently incarcerated Rollie. Even though his teeth are stained blue for most of the episode after squeezing a bunch of cake frosting into his mouth, he gives Rafa a little perspective. “You don’t think you take care of your mom, do you?” he asks. “You taking care of your mom is like a flower taking care of the sun.” And in context, this is indeed sage advice: Drea would love Rafa to go to college, and they’ll figure out a way to make it work if that’s what he chooses to do, she tells him.

Then again, Rollie also suggests that the best way to a girl’s heart is to “find someone she hates … then punch that guy right in the mouth.” Drea threatens her brothers with death if they don’t help her “fill this house with joy.” People threaten others. We hear a reference to the R-rated Scarface. Uncle Gary watches a supercut of the cocaine scenes from The Wolf of Wall Street. “It ends up being the whole movie,” he admits.

Characters say “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “d–k” and “p-ssed.” God’s name is misused thrice, twice with the word “d–n.” One of Rafa’s friends is seen in a picture using two crude hand gestures.

May 19, 2023 – S1, Ep2: “The Cook Out”

The family prepares for its notorious annual neighborhood barbecue, and Rafa invites Mya, a girl whom he has a crush on, to attend. Mya says she’s looking forward to eating some good Mexican food, and Drea seems thrilled to cook some. That’s whenRafa gets a shock from his uncles: For more than 20 years, they’ve been replacing her terrible Mexican food with their own.

The deception stemmed from when Drea was just 12, and their mother got hooked on “penny slots.” It was up to Drea to cook for all her brothers. But the home was perpetually low on ingredients, so she improvised. (We hear that one of her favorite ingredients for quesadillas, for instance, is horseradish.) They didn’t want to hurt Drea’s feelings, though, so they’d throw away her food and cook their own when she wasn’t looking. They even “made a pact to never tell her the truth.”

Discussions revolving around Drea’s Mexican food involve quite a bit of bathroom humor. We also hear about Uncle Mondo’s otherworldly fireworks displays. This year, he wants the annual show to be an “erotic tale of courage, perseverance and human frailty, told through explosives.” (His brother, Ryan, asks then in light of that what the “horniest” firework they could buy would be. “Snakes,” Mondo replies.) Mondo also talks about his hands being guided by the gods and his ancestors.

We hear about past barbecues, including last year’s “lighter fluid fight.” Mya’s brother is rumored to have given some extreme wedgies. A joke involves a reference to a bit of anatomy. We hear about a car crash that broke someone’s arms. Mike (head of security) frets about not being allowed to bring his crossbow and gets excited at the prospect of scooping someone’s eyes out.

There’s a reference to The Exorcist, comparing it to Drea’s cooking. One of Rafa’s friends says, “If I ever get the courage to smoke weed, I’m going to get super high and eat so much Taco Bell.” There’s a joke involving someone being drunk and shaving a skunk as well. Characters say “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—” and “d–k.” We also hear a censored f-word. God’s name is misused twice.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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