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Eva Longoria in Apple TV+ Spain-Set Dramedy

Eva Longoria in Apple TV+ Spain-Set Dramedy

The characters on Land of Women are, generally speaking, not having a great time. Gala (Eva Longoria) is a posh New Yorker who’s just discovered that her feckless husband (James Purefoy‘s Fred) is $15 million in the hole to loan sharks. Fearing for her life, she flees to rural Spain with her teenage daughter, Kate (Victoria Bazúa), and mother, Julia (Carmen Maura). Neither of them are thrilled to have their lives upended at a moment’s notice, and once there, they’re only temporarily out of danger anyway.

But if the events of the Apple TV+ series are stressful for its characters, they’re downright relaxing for us as viewers. Once the family have arrived in La Muga, the crime-thriller plot machinations take a backseat to a sun-dappled fantasy of small-town life, cut with tart humor and some minor soap operatics. In the wrong hands, this could be a recipe for Palm Royale-level incoherence. On Longoria’s confident shoulders, it’s as soothing as a crisp glass of white on a warm weeknight.

Land of Women

The Bottom Line

Longoria anchors an enjoyably sweet dramedy.

Airdate: Wednesday, June 26 (Apple TV+)
Cast: Eva Longoria, Santiago Cabrera, Victoria Bazúa, Carmen Maura, James Purefoy
Creators: Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira, Teresa Fernández-Valdés, Paula Fernández

If anything, Land of Women might go down too smoothly. There’s never any real sense of danger to the proceedings, even once a pair of gun-toting thugs (Jim Kitson and Amaury Nolasco) turn up in the town. The show’s family drama has a similarly light touch, yielding lots of nice moments but few profoundly emotional ones.

What creators Ramón Campos, Gema R. Neira, Teresa Fernández-Valdés and Paula Fernández (adapting a novel by Sandra Barneda) do serve up in spades is the coziness of a community in which everyone knows each other and looks out for one another. In that sense, it fits neatly alongside other Apple TV+ comfort watches like The Big Door Prize or Shrinking, in spirit, if not in plot.

For Julia, this closeness is not entirely a comfort, at least at first. Having left La Muga four decades earlier under a cloud of ill feeling, she finds that the women who remember her, including little sister Mariona (Gloria Muñoz), still scorn her as a promiscuous troublemaker — while the men who once knew her, including Mariona’s husband (Pep Anton Muñoz) still seem half in love with her.

Gala fares little better. She makes her first enemy before she even hits the town square, by destroying an entire day’s haul of grapes from the local vineyards when she crashes her car into a tractor driven by Amat (Santiago Cabrera).

That Gala and Amat will spark to a mutual attraction, despite that inauspicious introduction, hardly seems a spoiler. Nor does the eventual emergence of a Mamma Mia!-esque subplot about the true identity of Gala’s father. Or the gradual realization by Gala, Julia and Kate that all they truly need is each other, that life in this picturesque corner of Spanish wine country might be healing in ways that New York never was.

Land of Women might be studded with secrets and big reveals, but nearly all are obvious from a mile away. That’s okay: the fun here is not in being gobsmacked by twists but in letting the narrative developments wash over you, with easy laughs and minimal tension.

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Desperate Housewives alum Longoria is a bright, game presence who’s not above making herself look silly, as Gala so often does, stomping around dusty vineyards in sky-high stilettos. But she grounds her performance, too, in a sincerity that helps gloss over some of Gala’s more cockeyed decisions, or ease the show’s tilts into earnest sentimentality.

Meanwhile, the biggest laughs come from Julia. Maura plays her as less sultry than playful, an incorrigible flirt who walks into a confessional booth to admit that she’s sinned a lot but, “unfortunately, not that much lately.” She’s a woman who enjoys prodding at life’s rules just to see what happens — with occasionally bittersweet consequences, as revealed in intermittent flashbacks.

In contrast, the characters around Gala and Julia are far less defined. Amat makes for an ideal rom-com love interest with scruffy good looks, a sensitive air and an endless succession of henleys. But his interiority and backstory are apparently being tabled for a potential second season.

Kate’s one major storyline in six hourlong episodes revolves around her frustration that once people know she’s trans, “everything is always about that.” This is ironic, seeing as Land of Women doesn’t know what else to do with her either, despite giving her a girlfriend (Layna Sheppard), a new possible crush (María de Nati) and a hobby (painting).

And even as the family settle in, with Gala snagging a job alongside Amat at the winery, the townspeople remain a largely undifferentiated mass of snarky glances and amused gossip. Which, in turn, undercuts the poignancy of the bonds that the series rests upon.

As wine connoisseur Gala knows, though, it takes time for a bottle to mature into the most perfect version of itself. Land of Women isn’t there yet at the end of its initial six hours; it’s a little too mellow, a little too flat, with too few surprises. But what’s there is already plenty sweet and pleasant — and best of all, it has the potential to evolve into something deeper and richer as the years go on.

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