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Flick Fix: 'East Los High' is Spanish soap opera meets American high school teen drama

By BY CAROLINA ASTRAIN
June 26, 2013 at 1:26 a.m.

Jessie (Janine Larina) and Jacob (Gabriel Chavarria) start dating and their chemistry starts to heat up but fizzles out after her cousin, Maya (Alicia Marie Sixtos), enters the picture in "East Los High."

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If you've already seen "East Los High," then check out some of these other similar television shows and movies. But to be honest, I think it's going to be hard to find anything like it. Know of anything comparable? Shoot me an email at castrain@vicad.com or tweet me @carolinastrain. I'd love to check it out.

"Quinceanera," 2006 "Sonadoras," 1998-99"Glee," 2009-present"Teresa," 2010-11"Maria Full of Grace," 2004"Ugly Betty," 2006-10Source: Internet Movie Database

"East Los High" brings another flavor to high school teen drama I've only ever tasted with the Spanish telenovela.

The series begins at the winter formal, where Jessie and her best friend are drooling over their east Los Angeles high school's Winter King, Jacob.

But he's dating Vanessa, who's busy cheating on him in the parking lot shortly after being crowned Winter Queen.

During Vanessa's treasonous act, Jessie goes in for the kill and ends up dancing with the king.

After the end of her Cinderella moment, Jessie returns home to find a stranger in her house - her estranged cousin, Maya.

"East Los High" is a unique show because it combines the elements of style found in an American high school teen drama, while also taking some queues from the Spanish telenovela.

Directed by Carlos Portugal, "East Los High" is exclusively available to Hulu Plus subscribers.

Portugal teamed up with the California Family Health Council, Advocates for Youth and Voto Latino, and through those partnerships garnered a safe sex message that appears within the story and the show's social media postings.

It's a message similar to the work of one of Portugal's former colleagues, Tyler Perry.

Although some of the acting during the first few episodes of "East Los High" falls a little flat, the film production and editing keeps you connected with the characters and story line.

The show opens with graphic design and a whistle blow at the start of each episode that's reminiscent of Ryan Murphy's "Glee."

And during some of the innocent romantic scenes between characters, a Spanish love song will instantly start playing, much like a Spanish soap opera.

As a Latina myself - and I'm not afraid to admit it - it's comforting to see people who look like me on television.

Back in the winter of 2010, when Hulu launched its Latino portion of its website, I was overjoyed.

I got to get back into my Spanish soap opera addiction and branched away from my usual appetite of "Grey's Anatomy," "Revenge" and "Ugly Betty."

Not because I prefer Latinos particularly over other kinds of people (that's called racism), but because most of my favorite American shows are usually entirely composed of non-Latino issues and characters.

When I first started watching "Ugly Betty" back when I lived in Minnesota - or the "Great White North," as I like to call it - it was comforting to know I could come home and eat dinner with my very own televised Mexican family.

America Ferrera's issues on "Ugly Betty" did sometimes fall under extreme ethnic stereotypes, but some did strike a chord.

In some of the episodes, Betty is alienated and teased by her white co-workers and friends whenever she tries to introduce a part of her culture.

While some of it could be taken as harmless teasing, it's important to be confident about being able to share your culture with others.

And also having the strength do so.

Thank you, Carlos Portugal, for doing just that.

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