The 7-episode series packs with sickle-sharp comedy.
With Samantha!, its first Brazilian sitcom, Netflix continues to make significant strides into the South American market. The title character (Emanuelle Araújo) is a has-been child star, who’ll do almost anything she can scheme up to hang onto her evaporating stardom. Providing balance to Araújo’s opportunism, Douglas Silva (City of God, City of Men) co-stars as a former soccer star and ex-con. The seven-episode series builds into a charming, if unoriginal, take on a D-list celebrity’s seeking of redemption that nails most of the right satirical notes.
The setup is straightforward and predictable: The viewer learns of Samantha, a stereotypical child ego-monster whose earned her (again, stereotypical) comeuppance. Now a low-level lounge singer in her 30s doing old kiddie TV songs, her agent urges her to give up or take the porn route following a particularly sad performance.
Undeterred and desperately pursuant of an opportunity in any way possible, the next night brings an opening as Dodói (Silva), her ex-athlete husband, gets out of prison and arrives at her house with Rio de Janeiro’s paparazzi set on his heels. Samantha locks in on the moment and talks with the press—setting forth a chain of ridiculous (but tragically convincing) satire that takes on various aspects of modern notoriety and what’s necessary to maintain public standing.
The show packs in much information in seven episodes. It capably blends her past and present, as she slowly understands that not everything in life is about her. Her relationship with Dodói runs through the well-worn checkpoints, from them antagonizing each other to an inevitable rekindling. Of course, children are involved. Sabrina Nonato and Cauã Gonçalves, respectively as Cindy and Brandon, offer quality performances in their preteen angst.
Samantha! ultimately works because its satire and absurdity dominate the show. The story arc is predictable, and straight on, yet the script doesn’t commit in any particular direction. Everything builds into absurdist gags—a “caged kids” talent show, or Samantha’s fluky and unearned luck—and the comedy has sickle-sharp teeth. American viewers will understand these celebrity follies all too well.