The new show "Amsterdam" (now streaming on HBO Max) opens with a handsome long-haired man named Martín (Sebastián Buitrón) at a vibrant yellow industrial desk in the middle of the night. Surrounded by a sea of digital pianos and several Fender and Marshall amps, he bounces between a wine-red Rhodes piano and a sunburst Höfner bass. The room's walls resemble a lagoon, a deep shade of murky, downtrodden aqua.
Martín moves quietly, playing silently through headphones until he accidentally trips over a cable. The misstep awakens his partner Nadia (Naian González Norvind), and an argument revs up to a roar almost instantly. The viewer can immediately sense their relationship has curdled. What follows is a story of these two artists and the rich, creative lives they've built for themselves. "Amsterdam" touches on deep love, friendship, casual flings, and living the life of artistic pursuit. It all happens against the backdrop of gorgeous architecture and artfully appointed homes. Plus, there is an adorable stray dog.
After their argument, Martín shuts the apartment door behind him and walks into a pastel-pink courtyard with checkered ceramic floors. Plants are scattered around the space, and a 1970s Volkswagen Beetle is tucked under a stairwell. None of this looks very Dutch. Once out on the street, it becomes clear that we are not in Amsterdam. We soon learn the show’s title refers to Avenida Ámsterdam, a lush and leafy street that runs through La Condesa, a neighborhood in Mexico City. It doesn’t look like any version of metropolitan Mexico I’ve ever seen on television.
The funky building that Martín and Nadia live in is owned by López (Marcelo Subiotto), their landlord-turned-friend two decades their senior. A voracious man who loves to cook with fire, he talks and listens with passion and has a soft spot for good wine, sex workers, and candles. (Sometimes all three at once.) He is as youthful as his tenants, and his home is as wonderfully eccentric as he is—hundreds of books are stacked as a makeshift headboard in the bedroom. Throughout the next nine episodes, we get to peek into the homes of just about every supporting character.
Martín's older brother lives in a beautiful modernist house, neatly furnished in contrast to the homes of Martín and Nadia’s artsy friends. A member of Martín’s band lives in the former office space of his late grandfather, which he has converted into a rowdy bachelor pad while still keeping the midcentury furnishings. One of Nadia’s friends lives in a modest apartment with built-in shelves and booming glass windows in a contemporary complex. Each home offers further insight into these friends and family, even if it’s just a momentary flash into their own individual worlds.
It’s rare to see a show portray the homes of secondary characters in such detail. Each character is so wonderfully cast, and the wardrobe and set design only enhance their performances. More so than the story of Martín and Nadia, "Amsterdam" is a love letter to everyone who appears on the screen. To each of these beautiful bohemian spirits who chose to live their lives as an artist. To the hip and historic neighborhood in which they live.
So sweetly and deftly does writer and director Gustavo Taretto manage to do this that the show never veers into saccharine. A whimsical romantic comedy full of clever moments and stunning visuals, "Amsterdam" makes all the frustrations of love and of being an artist feel worthwhile. Everyone is living and creating a beautiful, picturesque, and art-filled life—their homes simply follow suit.