If you’re looking for your next addictive, twisty, and frothy family drama, look no further than Promised Land. ABC’s newest drama fits perfectly into the fabric of the network, which has long been a home for delightful family-focused and soapy primetime dramas. The new generation-spanning series, Promised Land, brings the network’s signature storytelling to the scorching Sonoma Valley via Joe (John Ortiz) and Lettie (Cecilia Suárez) Sandoval, the Latinx owners of the premier Californian vineyard “Heritage House.” Between tending to the yards and perfecting their grapes, the Sandovals, their blended family, and their exes are all trying to stake their claim in both the vineyard and the family legacy.
The show unravels across two different storylines: the first follows a group of undocumented immigrants as they make their way into the US and find work on a vineyard, and the second examines the family at the helm. In the migrant story, Carlos (Andres Velez) and Juana (Katya Martín) meet under treacherous circumstances and forge a bond supporting one another on their journey. On that same vineyard, the Sandoval family lives a life of privilege that is in sharp contrast to Carlos and Juana’s lives. The way these two stories intersect is surprising in a way that I hadn’t experienced since the pilot of This Is Us.
One part Succession, one part Dallas, and one part This Is Us, the ABC series delights in leaning into its soapy DNA. There are heightened circumstances, dramatic turns at every corner, and a fair amount of melodrama. The wealthy and privileged setting inherently lends itself to soapiness, but the series manages to ground itself in the immigration storylines. Instead of a meditation on the problems of rich people, we’re also shown the hustle and determination of comparatively powerless people, which feeds equally into the dramatic stakes.
As far as drama goes, there’s plenty of it. Everyone has a secret that could crumble the entire Sandoval family, from a Succession-esque hit-and-run accident that threatens the fate of the daughter hoping to be named the next CEO, to a grassroots investigation into who exactly Joe Sandoval is. Conversely, the only child who seems to have no interest in the family business has a serious drug problem, and Lettie seeks solace at the church where—surprise!—her ex-husband is a priest. Bellamy Young of Scandal fame also appears as Joe’s ex-wife and she’s deliciously conniving, teaming up with her son who is two-timing his father Joe.
A cast of mostly fresh faces, the most compelling performances are from Martín and Velez, who embody the dichotomy of strength and vulnerability as immigrants searching for a better life. Suárez is believable as Lettie, a matriarch battling her family’s demons, though her performance isn’t quite as memorable as it was in Netflix Mexico’s Casa de Flores. Much of the show is also in Spanish, providing an authenticity to the stories that are unfolding, especially on a network show that likely would have nixed the multilingual aspect previously.
Promised Land knows exactly what it is and doesn’t shy away from leaning into those sensibilities. While the first two episodes that were available for critics feature some familiar and recycled story elements, the show is fun and enthralling enough to stand on its own. That it features a sprawling central family with a rich heritage and backstory to lean on only adds to the appeal: there is more than enough wine left in the bottle to keep viewers invested.
Promised Land premieres Monday, January 24th on ABC and streaming on Hulu.
Radhika Menon is a pop culture-obsessed writer and filmmaker living in New York City. Her work has appeared in NY Post’s Decider, Teen Vogue, Vulture and more, and is featured in Brown Girl Magazine‘s first ever print anthology. She is a proud alumna of the University of Michigan and thinks she’s funny on Twitter.
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