In 'Primo,' a kid comes of age with the help of his colorful uncles : Pop Culture Happy Hour In the charming Amazon Freevee sitcom Primo, Rafa is a typical 16-year-old kid navigating life with the help of his enterprising mom and five very colorful uncles. The show was created by journalist and podcaster Shea Serrano and is executive produced by Mike Schur (The Good Place, Parks & Recreation). So unsurprisingly, there's no shortage of pop culture references, silly situations, and a heartfelt moment or two.

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In 'Primo,' a kid comes of age with the help of his colorful uncles

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In the charming sitcom "Primo," Rafa is a typical 16-year-old kid with typical 16-year-old hang-ups. Luckily, he's got a supportive family to help keep him grounded - his enterprising mom, as well as five very colorful uncles. The show was created by journalist and podcaster Shea Serrano and is loosely based on his childhood growing up in San Antonio, Texas. Mike Schur also serves as an executive producer. He's the mind behind "The Good Place" and "Parks And Recreation." So unsurprisingly, there's no shortage of pop culture references, silly situations and a heartfelt moment or two.

I'm Aisha Harris. And today we're talking about "Primo" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR.


HARRIS: Joining me today are the co-hosts of NPR Music's Alt.Latino, Anamaria Sayre and Felix Contreras. Welcome to you both.


ANAMARIA SAYRE, BYLINE: Hey, thanks for having us.

HARRIS: Yes. It's so great to have you here and to chat about this show in particular. So "Primo" stars Ignacio Diaz-Silverio as Rafa, a 16-year-old growing up in San Antonio, Texas. Christina Vidal plays Drea, his savvy and mostly chill mom who manages a grocery store. Now, Drea has five brothers with very dominant personalities. Johnny Rey Diaz plays Rollie, Rafa's uncle who always finds himself in trouble with the law. Henri Esteve plays Uncle Mike, a military man. Carlos Santos is Ryan, the uptight uncle who works at a bank. Efrain Villa is Mondo, the woo-woo (ph) hippie uncle. And then there's Jonathan Medina as Jay, the uncle with a landscaping business.

When they're not bickering with each other and getting caught up in zany schemes, all the uncles help Drea raise Rafa, aka Primo, and provide guidance in school, work and his huge crush on his classmate Mya. She's played by Stakiah Washington. The show is created by journalist Shea Serrano, who's written for publications like The Ringer and is the author of "The Rap Year Book." He executive produced alongside Mike Schur, who previously created "Parks And Rec" and "The Good Place." "Primo" is streaming on Amazon Freevee starting tomorrow. And we should note Amazon supports NPR and pays to distribute some of our content.

So Felix, I'm going to start with you. What are your initial reactions to "Primo"?

CONTRERAS: OK. I liked it - OK - for a lot of reasons, all right?



SAYRE: I knew you would like it, Felix.


CONTRERAS: You could tell. There's a lot of reasons to like it. So here's the deal. I'm of an age where sitcoms ruled. I grew up when there were just three networks, so sitcoms were the thing. So this is a very, very - it falls into that category of sitcom. There's all these kind of different situations, and there's a lot of comedic relief. There's an undertone of some serious stuff. It's like comfort food to me.

The other thing I liked about it is the representation, right? This is a Latino family in San Antonio. But what I really admired about it, it's a Latino family, but it's not a Latino family. They're not waving their Latino flag. These are just Latino families living and doing things that Latino families do without having to draw on or rely on the ethnicity. They're just living everyday stuff that happens to be particular to Latino communities all over the Southwest or all over the country, but in this case, Mexican-American Southwest. So I dug that. Like, it's Latino but not Latino at the same time.

Personal for me, there were a lot of levels, right? The undertow of this - of Rafa or Primo going to college - I'm the first one of my family to go to college. I remember bringing home those papers, looking at, OK, what are we going to do? My parents were like, well, we don't know anything about college. You know, let's just figure this out.

The family dynamic of what's going on - that's very, very familiar to me of what's happening in Latino families. And I'm one of four brothers. OK? So there are five in this show. And the way they get along is very similar to how my brothers and I get along. So there was a lot for me to dig in this show. There's a lot.

HARRIS: Yeah. And I think also just the fact that it's set in suburban Texas, it's - we don't often get to see that kind of dynamic or that kind of environment in any TV show. It's often, you know, urban settings or not in the South. So I find that really interesting to dig into as well. Like, it felt different in that way as well to me. Anamaria...


HARRIS: I've gotten the sense from talking to you before this, you had a slightly different perspective. What did you think of this?

SAYRE: I mean, listen, I completely hear everything that Felix is saying. I think the second I saw it, I was like, this is down Felix's line of humor. Like, he is going to so go for this. So there's definitely absolutely an audience for this. And there were pieces of it, I think, that you're right, Felix. I mean, I'm pretty wary with shows like this around, like, are we going to be waving the Latino flag, like you said? You know, because I've seen that a lot. Like, we don't get a ton of TV shows, we don't get a ton of comedies that are, like, full Latino casts, Latino creator. And a lot of times I think there's a necessity to do that, right? Because it's like, well, we have the opportunity to represent, so let's represent.


SAYRE: Initially, in the first episode in my notes, I was kind of like, oh, it's feeling very - like, we're leaning into the stereotypes. Like, the single mom, Dad's not around who's a hustler, like, all the brothers being the brothers. But I do think over the course of the season, you really do get to see each of the brothers come into their characters a bit more that do, like Felix said, feel Latino but not Latino. Like, there are parts of them that are, and there are parts of them that aren't. And I think you can hear that too, in just the way that - they all have kind of, like, varied accents of how they say things and varied, like, levels of, like, pronouncing Spanish with certain words, which I think anyone who grew up in a Latino family knows. Like, there is variability in terms of, like, people's levels of language or what their accents end up turning out like. So that felt really authentic to me.

On the flip side, I don't know. I think that some of the humor just fell a little flat for me...


SAYRE: ...If I'm being honest. And I wanted - I really wanted to find it as funny as they wanted me to find it. But I just think that a lot of the jokes just did not quite hit as hard for me as I would have wanted them to. But there were definitely some heartwarming moments.

HARRIS: Yeah. Yeah. I think I fall kind of in between both of you.


SAYRE: Good. We don't usually have a tie breaker.


HARRIS: Well, you know, like, I - (laughter) it's funny because, like you, Anamaria, like, I feel sometimes the humor - I think I've kind of moved past this sort of - the typical - even though this is on Amazon Freevee, this feels like it could have been on ABC or, you know, NBC. The show even, when there's - like, sometimes a character will curse, but they bleep it out, you know? There's a moment where one of the brothers sculpts, like, these phallic pieces, and those are blurred out.

SAYRE: Yes (laughter).

HARRIS: And I actually think that's kind of, like, a funny touch. I liked that touch. So yeah, some of it is kind of broad, and - but I'm always here for the pop culture references. And I think that after the first few episodes, I was finally able, to some extent, to distinguish between the uncles. I mean, they each have their thing in that very kind of, like, broad, sitcom way. It's like - I couldn't remember any of their names. I was like, OK, so that's the jail uncle. This is the hippie uncle. This is the military uncle.

Over time, I do think if you stick with the show after the first three or four episodes - and this is only, like, a 20-, 25-minute show, so it's an easy lift, but it does take a little time to find its groove. I can see how it might not be for everyone, but I can also see how, like you, Felix - like, it does feel different enough and thoughtful enough in the way it portrays these characters that, like, I think it's worth kind of sticking it out, even if, at the first couple of episodes, it's not - maybe not quite your thing. I especially love - as soon as I saw Drea, Christina Vidal's character, I was like, where do I know her from? Then I was like, holy, she's from "Taina." And I don't know, Anamaria, if you remember that show.

SAYRE: Oh, yes. No, yeah.

HARRIS: "Taina" from Nickelodeon.

SAYRE: Oh, my God.

HARRIS: Yes. This is a late '90s, early 2000s maybe show, sitcom. I remember her from "Taina." I was like, I have not thought about this show in forever, but she played Taina, the lead character. So it was really fun to kind of see her now playing a mom.

SAYRE: That's so wild.

HARRIS: But I think one of the things I liked is that her character especially is very interesting to me because she's not sort of this - what I would often expect from this type of show, regardless of the ethnic background, of, like, the sort of overbearing mother who's really hard and, like, is always constantly battling with her son. She's very enterprising. She - like, there's a funny sort of joke where she's talking about how she was able to afford something. And it goes through the steps, like, all the stuff she takes, which is, like, a lot of networking, like, using her network to the best of her ability and bartering and all these other things.


CHRISTINA VIDAL: (As Drea) So food for Sammy, bus passes for Gloria, foot medicine for Carlos, and he has a booth at the flea market where he sells clothes. And he gave me the coat for free.

IGNACIO DIAZ-SILVERIO: (As Rafa) So if Carlos didn't have some gross foot fungus, I wouldn't have this new coat.

VIDAL: (As Drea) One man's rash is another man's treasure.

HARRIS: I like those little touches. But I'm curious what you think about the star of this show, the primo himself, Rafa. How does that work for you? It's - 'cause it's very clearly kind of built from a mold of many shows before. I kept thinking about "Everybody Hates Chris" 'cause it kind of feels like similar in tone, and also, just, like, this is from the young boy's point of view. But what did you think of his character and how Ignacio Diaz-Silverio plays him?

SAYRE: I think he was very sweet. I think that the brothers have such strongly written characters - right? - where they're, like, very much supposed to have these personas that I think were decided on. And Rafa is a little more, like, choose your own adventure in a way, I think, in the sense that, yes, he's the kid that wants to go to college maybe and that likes the girl, and everything is kind of surrounding him. But I think there was a bit more space for him to really build out and define his own character because there was less of, like, this prescribed, like, you're the this-character or that-character. So I did appreciate that. So I think he did do a good performance alongside the more colorful uncles.

CONTRERAS: Yeah. I think that there could have been a little bit more to him. I thought of at least three other shows, like you said, "Everybody Hates Chris," "Wonder Years"...


CONTRERAS: ..."Malcolm In The Middle," you know, and this particular character, there wasn't anything that really distinguished him from any of these others. And I think that they could have had a little bit more. Now, all props to, you know, the people involved in the show, but I think there could have been a little bit more. But maybe that's the second season if they get a second season - right? - 'cause he really is - like Ana says, he's overpowered by these wacky uncles - right...

SAYRE: Yeah.

CONTRERAS: ...And then the symbolism and the strong character of his mom.

HARRIS: Yeah. It definitely - not a spoiler - but it definitely ends in a way that suggests that they hope there will be a second season. And I agree with you. I think he is kind of - I wouldn't say a blank slate, in a way, but he definitely can be overpowered by all of the craziness that's going around him. But I did like his sort of flirtations with Mya, his school crush.


HARRIS: I thought they had good chemistry, and they also seemed like believable teenagers. The show isn't, like, stacked with what the youths might be saying today, which is - I don't even know because I'm far past that.


HARRIS: Like, they feel like real teens who are trying to figure things out. I really liked seeing them kind of figure things out together, him and Mya. But speaking of uncles, do we have a favorite uncle?

CONTRERAS: You know, I was always trying to figure out, OK, which one am I, compared to my brothers, right?

SAYRE: That's what I was wondering, Felix. Where do you fit in?

CONTRERAS: A little bit of the hippie and a little bit of the uncle with the landscaping business.

HARRIS: OK. Jay - yeah. Jay and Mondo, the - yeah.

CONTRERAS: Yeah, I think a little mix of both, I think...


CONTRERAS: ...'Cause I've had - I've been working in media since I was 19, right? So I've been working the whole time. The - what about you, Ana?

SAYRE: What were you going to say, Felix?

CONTRERAS: No. What I wanted to say is, like, I really admire and respect the fact that these five uncles are so different 'cause it's a reflection of - and it's something I sort of played around with when I wanted to be a screenwriter way back when. I had this vision of a Chicano band and these five different members. And these are the five uncles 'cause they each represent different aspects of being Chicano, right? So there are different ways that that culture is interpreted. And this is all within one family. It's a microcosm. It's like you look at the DNA of the Chicano culture. It's those five brothers.


CONTRERAS: That's what I really appreciated about this 'cause you can put them all together, and those are the people walking around all over the Southwest.


CONTRERAS: So I, you know - as favorite, I don't know, like, the combination of the two, but that was my appreciation of this, the fact that they blew this culture up and presented it in these five guys.

HARRIS: Yeah, yeah.

SAYRE: Yeah. I think, like I was saying earlier, like, I really loved the level of Chicanoness (ph) too, that felt represented. Like, my favorite uncle was probably Rollie. Like, I...


SAYRE: Of all of the ones, he did actually make me laugh the most frequently. And I think he - also because he's just your, like, most Chicano Chicano. Like, you see him, and you're like, oh, my God. Like, he is, like, the stereotype.


SAYRE: But I think that the fact that they were willing to represent, like, a lot of different facets of that is what felt, to me, the most authentic about it in the sense that I know that this is the - based on the creator's real life, and I think you can sense that, like, yeah, he knew every single one of these characters and that they were all written from somewhere real. And that felt really good to me because like I said, I was initially worried about - are we just trying to fill the trope? And I think the five brothers is really what makes it feel like we're not, which I appreciated.

HARRIS: Yeah, there's also just that tension, I think, that exists between a lot of families of, like, class variability and, like...


HARRIS: ...There's the college-educated ones and then there are the ones who maybe are doing well for themselves but don't have the college degree. And there's that, like, tension that can arise between your family members and how that plays out. And I think this show does a pretty good job of sort of showing how that exists, but it also doesn't overwhelm the relationship. Like, all the family members are just like, all right, whose turn is it to get Uncle Rollie out of jail? Like, this - it's like it just kind of rolls off their back. It's like they're living their lives and kind of accepted each other's differences, even as those things also cause some friction from time to time.

CONTRERAS: Yeah, and that acceptance doesn't always happen in real life, right?

HARRIS: No, no (laughter).

CONTRERAS: So that's - yeah, I really appreciated that. Yeah, absolutely what you said.

HARRIS: Yeah, yeah. My final question for you all is, you know, what would you hope to see in a Season 2, should it get a Season 2?

SAYRE: I think that, in a sense, kind of what we were talking about, I would love to see Rafa's character develop a bit more. I think also just, like, the central conflict to me around, like - is he going to go to college, the girl? - like, I would love to see a little more nuance in whatever conflict kind of carries Season 2. I think that what they chose worked as kind of, like, a setup type of thing where it was like, OK, this is the idea. It's the five brothers. This is what - this feels different about this story. This is just, like, setting the scene with these characters. But I would love to see something that feels a little more, like, complex, whether it's because Rafa's character is, like, doing something unexpected or one of the uncles really starts to stand out as participating more in a central conflict. I think I'd love to see something a little stronger there, story-wise.

CONTRERAS: I would like to see - since it is a coming-of-age show - it continue with this light touch it has, right? We're not going to get super, super deep and heavy, but maybe one of his friends, his family gets deported or something, you know what I mean? Like, real-life issues from the perspective of a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old, I think is - can be a very, very strong launching point to look at these things in ways that we don't see them as adults. We're looking at all this stuff from adults. What do the kids think? And that's very, very rarely ever showed in any of these things like this. And I think that, again, without losing this light touch - we don't want it to be heavy, heavy, heavy. But, you know, "One Day At A Time" did that, too, when they had some of the immigration stuff and all that, right?

SAYRE: Right, right.

CONTRERAS: You can still be a comedy, but you can still do some of this stuff. That's what I would like to see. I would really like to see it address some of these youth issues - identity, gender identity, all of this stuff.

HARRIS: Yeah. To that point, I did find the Uncle Mike character somewhat frustrating, or at least the way he was integrated into the family because later in the season, he is actually going to - he's a recruiter at Rafa's school.


HARRIS: I don't necessarily need it to be, like, a conflict, per se...


HARRIS: ...But I did find it interesting that the show didn't even address that it is weird to think about recruiting kids for the Army. And also, there's an Air Force recruiter there as well. And it just felt strange to me, especially in this climate, to be kind of not really interrogating that a little bit more. I think that could be an interesting sort of conundrum in the next season, were they to do one, if Rafa is somehow seriously considering maybe instead of going to college, joining - like, following in his uncle's footsteps.


HARRIS: So we'll see. I would be curious to see how that plays out. But you're right, Felix, like, it's still a very lighthearted show, and I don't need it to be, like, a very...


HARRIS: ...Special episode, you know? But...


HARRIS: ...Yeah.


SAYRE: Yeah, I really like what you said there, too, because, you know, not that we're offering suggestions, but if we were...


CONTRERAS: Hello, producers, can you hear us?

SAYRE: I'm like, if they want to invite us into...


SAYRE: ...The writers room, I think that could be a really interesting conflict because I think it also showcases what is often a conflict within, like, Latino culture generally - is, like, you would know someone who, you know, is a military vet. And that is definitely a part of life, and you want to showcase that. And you want to have that character and also, like, recognize that there are a lot of members of the community that are like that and also challenging what that is. And so I think that that could offer an opportunity through a humor lens to be like, this is where our community is at, and these are some of the things that are challenging about it. And also, this is what we're moving towards. And so I think it just could really make things more complex in an interesting way.

CONTRERAS: I also - I mean, I really strongly hope that they get a second season 'cause I want to hang out with those brothers again, man. They're so much fun.


CONTRERAS: I want to hang out with them. They're just too much fun.

HARRIS: Well, there you have it. We want to hear more about those brothers and see more interactions with the uncles. And we want to know what you think about "Primo" once you've had a chance to check it out. Find us at And that brings us to the end of our show. Anamaria Sayre, Felix Contreras, thanks so much for being here. It was an absolute pleasure.

CONTRERAS: Thank you. It was so much fun.

SAYRE: Thanks for having us.

HARRIS: And we want to take a moment to thank our POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR+ subscribers. We appreciate you all so much for showing your support of NPR. And if you haven't signed up yet and want to show your support and listen to the show without any sponsor breaks, head over to or visit the link in our show notes. This episode was produced by Hafsa Fathima and edited by Jessica Reedy. Hello Come In provides our theme music. Thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Aisha Harris, and we'll see you all tomorrow.


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