“GRAND HOTEL” AND “REEF BREAK” BOOST SUMMER FUN ON ABC TV
A TV Review by Tim Riley
Original programming during the summer months is more often left to the cable networks, with series like “Animal Kingdom,” where the excessive lifestyle of a family is fueled by criminal activities, and “City on a Hill,” mixing criminal plots and corruption in the justice system.
The ABC network is taking advantage of an opening to deliver a pair of summer shows, “Grand Hotel,” a soap opera about a family-run swanky hotel, and “Reef Break,” a sexy, action-packed crime drama that has all the gravitas of a fraternity’s toga party.
There is nothing serious about “Reef Break,” where the gorgeous backdrop of a seductive fictional Pacific Island paradise will have you wondering if the location is on Australia’s Gold Coast or an unknown Hawaiian island that nobody knew was developed like Miami Beach.
A point of confusion is that the show was filmed in Australia with many actors having the native accent and all the while trying to sound like Americans. Perhaps the locale is intended to remain intentionally ambiguous so as not to be confused with a show like “Magnum P.I.”
Whatever the case may be, “Reef Break” stars Poppy Montgomery as Cat Chambers, a surfer with a criminal past who returns to the place she calls “The Reef” and describes as “the shadiest sunny place in the country.”
Within minutes in the first episode, Cat has informed the air marshal on her flight to the island that a man on board is carrying a gun and a bag of illicit loot. Soon after landing Cat hooks up with police detective Wyatt Cole (Desmond Chaim) she has just met in the hotel bar.
The action kicks in when the daughter of the island’s richest man goes missing, and Cat gets sucked into the case after telling a reporter that it’s likely a kidnapping and the ones holding the girl for ransom decide she’s to be the go-between.
On more than one occasion Cat’s only too willing to remind everyone that she was only “accused, never convicted” of crimes. This comes in handy when the governor’s office seeks out her services as a fixer for thorny cases.
Another story line runs with Cat’s reunion with ex-husband Jake (Ray Stevenson), a former FBI agent who had been deep undercover when they married. Now he’s as close to being a beach bum without stepping foot into the ocean.
Moving forward, Cat will be handling sensitive matters for the island’s governor, working mainly through lieutenant governor Ana DuMont (Melissa Bonne) who’s wary of Cat’s impulsive, reckless nature.
With beautiful tropical settings and ocean views, “Reef Break” is a frothy entertainment with as much depth as a summer beach read. It’s all about surf, sex and sunshine, and plenty of crime thrown in for good measure.
Fitting nicely into the frivolous nature of summer fun, “Grand Hotel,” in the spirit of a Spanish telenovela, is filled with beautiful people, sexual heat, family squabbles, shady business deals, and mysterious twists.
The Mendozas’ Riviera Grand Hotel remains the last of the family-owned luxury resorts in the glamorous part of Miami Beach, with patriarch Santiago (Demian Bichir) nominally in control as the business falters.
Having remarried after his first wife died (which seems to be a mystery), Santiago’s new spouse Gigi (Roselyn Sanchez) fits the mold of trophy wife even though she has two adult fraternal twin daughters.
Santiago has two adult children of his own. Javi (Bryan Craig) has a prosthetic leg but that doesn’t hold this playboy back from seducing pretty hotel guests who believe his story of losing his limb in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Alicia (Denyse Tontz), graced with smarts and beauty, is a recent MBA graduate who returns home with the expectation of applying her education to helping manage the family business.
The wicked stepsisters are Carolina (Feliz Ramirez), attractive and seductive, and Yoli (Justina Adorno), the frumpy one who nonetheless catches the eye of needy VIP guest El Rey (Jencarlos Canela), a singer headlining nightly shows at the hotel.
Sibling rivalry between Demian’s kids and the stepsisters heats up when Carolina is about to get married and it is revealed that her future husband’s family is buying the hotel.
This news goes down badly with the resentful Alicia and Javi as they seem certain that Gigi is behind the move to jettison the family’s legacy. An indiscrete liaison involving Carolina becomes a vehicle to torpedo the deal.
There are reasons, of course, that Santiago was anxious to sell the property, given that he’s eyeball in debt not to a bank but rather to unsavory people unwilling to extend any more credit.
Meanwhile, new employee Danny (Lincoln Younes) has a lot of interest in the mysterious vanishing of a line chef during a hurricane, and the hunky waiter gets plenty of notice from Alicia.
Check in, if you will, to the “Grand Hotel,” because the scenery is replete with gorgeous people and the endless bickering and backstabbing machinations keep everything interesting.