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Series / Los Simuladores

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"Why should you stop solving problems, when you know you have a gift for it?"

Los Simuladores (lit. "The Simulators", or more accurately "The Pretenders") is an Argentine TV series that ran for two seasons, from March 2002 to December 2003.

Los Simuladores are four-man secret organization that can "solve all kinds of problems"... for a fee. And no, they're not the bad guys.

This group helps people who are desperately in need, by doing something they call "drills" (lit. "simulations" - hence the group's name) which involve complex plans that one way or another solve the problem. This may or may not involve deceiving the person with said problem, and always involves deceiving a whole bunch of other people.

The sufferings of the person in need range from "owning money to the mob" to "having to introduce your family to your future in-laws", but could still ruin their life. Then some former client has to tell him/her how to contact Los Simuladores, who in turn will see if his/her problem is worth their time. Said person is usually charged a huge sum of money for the drill (twice the costs), but the group is willing to help those who can't pay it. Also, since those people are now in debt with Los Simuladores, they might have to provide help in future drills, which is an awesome resource of continuity nods.

A comedic action/adventure show with moments of psychological drama, it is a cult series in Argentina. You can see the article (which is really complete) on The Other Wiki here.

Since the series ended in 2004, a return was teased numerous times through the following decades, originally thought to be a third season, such as the characters making a cameo appearance on an ad for Netflix's Lupin.

Eventually, a film was announced in March 2022 for the Paramount+ platform, almost exactly 20 years after the airing of the first episode, with the entire cast returning to reprise their roles under the direction of the original writer and creator Damián Szifrón. The film is set to release sometime in 2024.

Not related to The Pretender.

Los Simuladores provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The Mexican remake of the show has a lot of original episodes with no direct counterpart to the Argentine original, the finale involves a completely new (female) villain called Lorena who seduces one of the team members and then sabotages a drill which results in Santos' death, with Lorena crowning herself the new leader of the team, and threatening to rat out any of the team members who have objections to the authorities. Santos' "death", however, is revealed to be part of a bigger drill that they were pulling on her, and after completing it, they decide to split up.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: One episode has the team using one to help a boy pass an Apathetic Teacher's one-mistake-and-you're-screwed exam.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: One episode revolves around a client needing help with this trope. The team develops a plan to make them seem likable.
  • Artistic License – Law: For example, in the end of the season one, when two criminals get arrested for having documents with the picture of Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden, maybe you could be arrested or questioned for identity theft and ID falsification, but no one is so silly to arrest you with that level of severity for having the ID photo of a famous (at the time) wanted criminal and a dictator that has been dead for decades. (Worth mentioning that none of the people in question even remotely look like Hitler nor Bin Laden, taking it as seriously as shown in the episode is laughable).
  • Asshole Victim: Some of the people fooled by the team can qualify as this, although it is deserved most of the time.
  • Badass Normal: If they aren't, they pretend so.
  • Balanced Harem: Ravenna in the second season, altough it isn't a major plot in the series. He lives with three beautiful (and highly intellectual) women, who are deeply in love with him. However, he does not seem to have the same feelings for them.
  • Bank Robbery: Half the team gets caught in one of these right in the middle of an operative. Santos quickly improvises a new one to help foil the bank robbery (and the commissioner's plan to silence the crooks).
  • Batman Gambit: The team specializes in these (although they are pretty good at Xanatos Gambit and Xanatos Speed Chess (07x01 as a good example).
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: One of the team's favorite tactics. They manage to fool both the police force and the FBI.
  • Big Bad: Averted in that there is not a main villain of this series, and the stories gor for a more Villain of the Week format. The closest thing the series has to a Big Bad is Franco Milazzo, during season 2, and Marcos Molero.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the very end of the series, Lamponne organized a meeting where, for the first time, they opened up emotionally to each other. Consequently, the group decided to separate and stop their activities until further notice. Medina couldn't help expressing his feelings, eventually he breaks into tears after telling his fellows, one by one, that he loves them. Much to Lamponne's shame, of course.
  • The Bully: The team helps a young comic-book lover resist one.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Detective Molero to Franco Milazzo. He doesn't care a bit about how deathly could Milazzo be and how pissed off he is about this whole situation. Molero spends their entire scenes blatantly laughing at his face for being sent to the jungle by the team.
  • Catchphrase: All by Mario Santos:
    • Stay calm
    • Be punctual and go alone
    • Comes in 3, 2, 1...
    • Got a light?
    • First, we plan an operative. Then we make a budget for it and you would pay exactly the double, for logistics and labor.
  • Capitalism Is Bad: An underlying theme in many of their episodes, which also fits very well with that particular moment in Argentine history, and with many issues the country suffered (and still suffers): An abstent state, corrupt public officers, exploitative business, publicity over-saturation, loan sharks, scammers, domestic abusers, dirty cops, etc.
  • Celebrity Impersonator: The guys pick two Paul McCartney impersonators (one look-alike and one sound-alike) to help a woman leave her post-divorce depression. Hopefully she'll never find out about having given a blowjob to a lucky butcher.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Subverted. Through the entire second season, one of the members of the secondary brigade wears a black glove on his left hand. When asked about it in the finale, he just answers he hadn't realised the other glove was missing.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Constantly throught the whole series.
  • Cliffhanger: The original first season finale.
  • Con Man: A whole team of them. Siding with fairness, though.
  • Continuity Porn: Most of the extras that the team hires to help in the drills are clients they helped succesfully in previous episodes, some of them even giving follow ups to their situations.
  • Credits Jukebox: The closing credits feature real songs which are related to each episode. The song for the first Season Finale is "The Great Pretender".
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Lamponne was bullied as a child, and fought in the Falklands War.
  • Darker and Edgier: Most stories deal with daily problems, however, there are episodes which deal with bigger and significantly darker issues than the rest:
    • "Out of Calculation" (07x01): During a drill, Santos and Lamponne get stuck in a bank robbery, they have to deal with the robbers themselves and a group of murderous Dirty Cops waiting for them outside.
    • "An Involuntary Job" (13x01): The team is hired by a mobster who wants to free his partner from jail, responsible for the deaths of children in meal centers by buying spoiled food, and Santos decides not to take the case, only to get stabbed in the leg and kidnapped, the rest of the team is forced to work against their will, or else Santos would be executed.
    • "The B-Brigade" (07x02): The team has to infiltrate the FBI headquarters to free the "B Brigade", a sub-division of their company who works on smaller scale cases. They were captured by U.S agents who mistook them for actual terrorists after a poorly planned drill, and brought them to the US for prolonged interrogation and torture.
    • During the whole second season, there's the subplot of Franco Milazzo (a violent scammer fooled succesfully by the team in Season 1 episode "The Last Hero"), who after realizing what happened tries to find the four protagonists to get revenge. Altough the second season has lots of comedy, the small segments which follow Milazzo and his tireless search for the team are played straight, in a very dark tone with noir/thriller elements. The only comic relief in these is provided by the detective he hires, Marcos Molero.
    • During the drills, the team uses fake aliases, usually taken from people fooled in previous operatives. One of the most prominent ones is "Máximo Cozzetti" (used by Ravenna the most). The fate of the original Cozzetti is revealed near the end of Season 2. He's staying at a mental hospital, pretending to be crazy so no one suspects, while believing there's a Soviet robot out there trying to kill him.
  • Darkest Hour: Either 13x01 or 07x02 could qualify. In the first one, Santos is kidnapped and the team is forced to freed a corrupt public officer from a maximum security prison. In the second, the B-team is abducted by the FBI, and they are forced to travel to Washington D.C. to free them. Both are the riskiest missions undertaken in the series (In the first one, they either succeed or Santos dies. In the second one, they either succeed or the B-team spends the rest of their lives in Guantanamo and potentially guide the FBI to the team. Both situations feature the highest stakes and risks of the whole series).
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: The series' theme tune, Astor Piazzolla's "Cité Tango", is the same one the team uses as their ringtone.
  • Dirty Cop: They're featured a lot. We even see Lamponne playing one during one of the operatives.
  • Dub Name Change: OK, this trope only applies in full for the Russian version, but...
    • In Mexico, Emilio Ravenna is called Emilio Vargas, and Pablo Lamponne is called Pablo López.
    • In Spain, Ravenna is called Jota, and Lamponne is called León.
    • In Chile, Lamponne is called Lorca, and Mario Santos is called Ernesto Santos.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The final episode of the Argentine version is called... "Final Episode".
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The reason why they decide to rescue the B-Brigade from the FBI headquarters. Any other choice would end up bad for everyone.
  • Film Noir: It has a lot of elements of this, the use of music (sometimes very smooth and jazzy), the ambiguous morality, the anti-heroes, the mysteries... Some episodes even pay direct homage to this genre;
    • "The Copernicus Pact" : The team bassicaly introduce the targets of the operative in a simulated Casablanca-like romantic film noir.
    • "An Involuntary Job" : This episode includes a kidnapping, an attempted escape from a maximum security prison, the clients here are the biggest assholes in the whole show; two cheap bastard petty mobsters who are responsible for many acts of corruption, and one of them involving the death of children.
    • "Rectoscopic Diagnosis": at least the first part of the episode that shows the predicament of Vanegas; he's threatened by a underworld loan shark that tells him that if he doesn't pay what he owes at the end of the week, the gangster's gonna kill his two kids. Unusually dark for this show, and this is already the second episode.
    • "Holiday Weekend": Oh boy Holyday Weekend... by far one of the darkest episodes. Here practically isn't a "simulation"; bassicaly, the team tries to solve a very turbid murder mystery.
    • "Z 9000": This has a comedic effect, but the setting and "plot" the team creates has a great sci-fi neo-noir feel.
    • In the second season, the subplot of Milazzo chasing the team plays this trope very straight.
    • Marcos Molero, a private detective hired by Milazzo. An alcoholic anti-hero who doesn't know that Milazzo plans to kill the team. He's a character pulled straight out of a noir 100%.
  • Foreign Remake: For Chile, Mexico and Spain. Oh, and there is one remake for Russia as well, called Kings of the Game.
  • Jerkass: Generally the victims of the drills, like in "The Last Hero", "The Spanish Witness", "Unemployment Insurance", "Z 9000" or "The Social Debilitator".
  • I Have Your Wife: Well, more like "I Have Your Leader": Santos is kidnapped by mobsters in the first season finale, forcing the team to unwillingly help them for free.
  • Karmic Trickster: In a way, they qualify as this. As Molero puts it:
    • You help the good guys, punish the bad guys... fix the dubious ones... plus you make some money.
  • The Matchmaker: The team act as this tn the very first episode.
  • Nom de Guerre:
    • In the simulations, the guys use names taken from their past victims (like "Máximo Cozzetti", always used by Ravenna), or even names from the show's crew (like "Juan Carlos Cabral").
    • In the second season we learn that Mario Santos' name is a pseudonym too. His real name is Francisco de Aguirre.
  • Once an Episode: Santos gets his cigar lit up just after a plan is sucessful (usually by an unsuspecting victim or a client). With a few crucial exceptions.
  • Picky Eater: Cultured and refined people may have selective tastes in food, but Santos takes this to the extreme. The only tea he drinks is Earl Grey, and his water must be non-carbonated and sodium-free, among other quirks. But he's picky not only with food, but aestethically too. When he works on a plan, he's specific at such extremes as the type of wood and style of the chairs he sits on and the format and recording company of the music he listens to.
  • Product Placement: Very well integrated, mostly businesses and vehicles.
  • Reality Show: The guys arrange a fake, Survivor-like reality show to send one Villain of the Week to the jungle, living for himself for one full year. Then he returns and they deceive him again by sending him to kill Osama bin Laden.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The script calls for occasional gay kisses or blowjobs.
  • Regular Caller: Santos Coupled with quirky Day in the Life-style sequences from the other 3 guys.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: Could apply in the very last episode. First we got the conclusion of Milazzo's story arc; a thriller/suspense plot where he is determined to take revenge on the team. The opening scene is quite intense with a creepy atmosphere, flashbacks, distorted sounds. Milazzo is not only a very immoral guy, he's very skilled with weapons and martial arts (what makes him extremely dangerous too) and because of the team, he's erased from existence; he doesn't have an identity, home or belongings, and of course he's pissed as hell. But this story doesn't last too much, really; once the team gets rid of him (again), the episode goes through a tone shift, becoming a comedic Christmas special which deals with family ties and nostalgic childhood memories. This does not mean it is bad, in fact, is an excellent episode and great series finale.
  • Team Pet: Betún (Lamponne's dog) in the second season, an Almost Normal Animal.
  • Villain of the Week: The team has to perform drills on different characters across the episodes, some of them quite unsavory (and sometimes directly opposed to the team).
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lamponne tends to this.
    • After "saving" the life of a (deceived) mobster, the thankful thugs offer repaying the favor to him (who's disguised as a doctor). He asks them to have a talk with the sexually harrassing boss of his girlfriend.
    • In the second season, after hearing about a particularly gross case of domestic violence, he asks "But didn't she cheat on him?" Cue collective Stunned Silence. "...What's the matter? I'm just asking, not justifying it!"
    • Later, he finds a man who bullied him in middle school and points a gun to his head. A "BANG" flag gun just to scare him, but still, the guy didn't know it.
    • The B-Brigade sub-leader tells Santos about a male kindergarten teacher who beats the kids. Santos considers the case's not worth a plan, and instead he sends a Big Guy nicknamed "Satan" to threaten him.
    • One of the episodes has a plan that involves hooking up an extremely hormonal 14 year old boy and an older, sexually unsatisfied married woman with the hopes that they have sex. No one in the team has a problem with this. While the show is considered pretty ahead of it's time socially (especially for the time it was made), this is one of the few instances where saying it 'aged badly' would be an understatement. It's no wonder the remakes of the show for other countries either age up the boy or leave this plot point out entirely.