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Series / Cuéntame Cómo Pasó

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Cuéntame Cómo Pasó (transl: tell me how it happened) is a Spanish soap opera that runs on RTVE 1 since 13th September 2001. After an initial 10 series and a brief break, it came back for an 11th series after its immense popularity. Famous for being quite witty, with occasional dry, dark humour more in common with British TV.

The entire thing is one enormous Flashback belonging to Carlos Alcantara, and it follows his life growing up in The '60s and The '70s during the decay of the Franco regime and the Transition to democracy. Edutainment Show, mix of macro and micro history: the big events of the time (the lunar landings, the assassination of Carrero Blanco, Franco’s death, Eurovision (whoops)) and this typical middle class Madrid family’s story, narrated soap- opera style and with voiceovers from adult Carlos.

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It’s all deliciously sepia- tinged and has the remarkable effect of making you nostalgic for the seventies, even if you weren’t there! One of the best aspects of it is its epic music. Note: It’s not a musical (yet) but simply plays four or five songs from the era each episode. Heaven for pop music geeks.

Cuentame can safely be considered to be a family show; good ol’ pure nostalgia for parents/grandparents (anyone over fifty) providing them with a nice long sesh in which they can bitch about the Franco regime they experienced, and for the kids a dramatized, perhaps definitely exaggerated insight into how their parents may have lived back in the Good Old Days. This is combined with either “I’m so glad I didn’t live back then” or “I so wish I could have lived back then”!

So basically little Carlitos is growing up in exciting times. He’s the youngest child initially of a hardworking, despairing father, and "absolutely perfect" mother, with a hippie Cool Big Sis, a communist brother, and a lovely Catholic gran. And don’t forget his fleet of flare-wearing friends.

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Here are some of its tropes:

  • The '60s.
  • The '70s.
  • Badass Preacher: Padre Froilán
  • Catchphrase:
    Antonio ¡Me cago en la leche, Merche! (Literally: ''I shit on the milk!''
  • Been There, Shaped History: The main plot kicks in when the middle child, Tony, becomes an Innocent Bystander in the 1968 protests on his very first day of college Bit of history!  and is given a black eye by the police. This incident makes the young boy begin to evolve from a Wide-Eyed Idealist whose only worries are those of a stereotypical teenager, to a passionate member of La Résistance. From then on, some member of the family is always connected in one way or another to the history of the country.
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  • Big Brother Worship: Carlos absolutely adores his older brother. The feeling is mutual, even if Carlos gets on Tony's nerves sometimes.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The Series is normally good at keeping track of its Loads and Loads of Characters but there are a few examples such as Jose Luis and his sister and more surprisingly Maica
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Don Pablo especially comes to mind.
  • Doomed by Canon: The writers of the show are constrained by the real history of Franco's time Spain
  • Dream Sequence: appear periodically. Often incredibly cool/ scary/ funny, sometimes all at once! They give the show a wacky surreal feel, much complemented by the hippy music.
  • Foreign Remake: Conta-me Como Foi (meaning the same as the Spanish title), centered around the Lopes (who share the same first names as the Alcantaras), which however lasted only 5 seasons, covering the time period from April 1968 (last months of the Salazar period just before his fall from the chair and substitution by Marcello Caetano on 27 September 1968) then the whole Marcellist period all the way to 25 April 1974 (the Carnation Revolution). Later continued by its Spiritual Successor, Depois do Adeus, centered around the unrelated Mendonças, which lasted an even shorter time, lasting only one season which covered the Revolution and immediate post-Revolutionary period, ending with the approval of a new Constitution and the democratic election of the first non-provisional President.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Clara, the family's neighbour, is initially rumoured to be a prostitute because she is a single mother with no stable income. However, people start taking notice of her sweet nature and eventually warm up to her.
  • Knight in Sour Armour: Antonio, bless him.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters.
  • Mental Affair: Elisa and Antonio.
  • Product Placement: Brilliantly done by showing the characters seeing on TV the real adverts used by the sponsoring brands at the time of the setting.
  • Put on a Bus: Toni exited the series five episodes into season 17 when he had to get out of the country after receiving death threats. The Bus Came Back on the next season.
  • Straight Gay: Paqui’s first boyfriend.
  • The Woobie: Josete is sometimes played as the In-Universe Woobie.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The original name of the show was just “Cuéntame”, but due to copyright reasons (there’s a song, in fact the title song, which is called that), so it became "Cuéntame Cómo Pasó".
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