When Alex Met Bruno
Bringing Up Baby
Begin the Beguine
All Hearts Come Home for Christmas
One Degree of Seperation
Five Minutes Before the Countdown
The Red Thread
Smiley has absolutely no right to be as good as it is. This funny, heartwarming and emotional romcom takes all the usual tropes you’d expect and transports them into an LGBTQ+ series that’s an absolute must-watch.
The humour is absolutely on-point and right the way through to the final frame of the finale, the show never takes itself too seriously. However, it also knows when to slam on the brakes with its comedy and lean into the melodrama, which this series gets the balance absolutely spot-on for. There are some genuinely touching segments that’ll hit you right in the feels.
The show itself is very simple but the memorable characters are part of the reason this works as well as it does. Alex is a hunky bartender with perfect looks and an envious gym bod. Desperate for more than just a fling, when he sends his latest one night stand Lolo a smiley face emoji in the morning, the lack of a reply sends him into an angry rant.
Alex sends all of this in a voicemail to Lolo’s phone, letting him know exactly how he feels. Only… it’s not Lolo’s phone. He has the wrong number. The number in question belongs to hopeless romantic Bruno. A man who spends most of his time watching romcoms and wanting to find “the one”, he and Alex immediately hit it off on the phone and meet for a blind date.
Of course, things don’t go to plan and it soon becomes clear that the universe is conspiring against these two. From forbidden kisses and misunderstandings abound, through to both characters being whisked away on individual romances, the drama does an excellent job capturing their conflicted feelings throughout the 8 episodes.
Rounding out the cast are a number of unforgettable players that have their own romantic woes. There’s transvestite Javi who’s also looking for his perfect partner, while Albert and Nuria already have the perfect marriage…at least on the surface. Underneath that façade, the pair have marital issues they need to try and work through.
If that wasn’t enough, Alex’s bartending buddy Vero has her own relationship problems with girlfriend Patri. Despite being together for years, Vero is torn over whether to take a new gig in Ibiza and move forward or embrace her ties with Patri, leaving things on a precarious knife edge.
Each of these relationships bring something new to the fold and seeing the way these transpire over the course of the season will keep you watching until the end.
What’s particularly impressive here though is the way Smiley keeps things visually creative through the chapters. The first introduces a split-screen view, capturing Bruno and Alex’s individual feelings. Episode 7 introduces a ticking clock for New Year’s, which shows up sporadically across the 30 minute chapter, while episode 4 features an array of cutaway dating app videos for each of our characters as a way of showing what they desire.
I mentioned the tone of Smiley before and it’s worth reiterating it here. In a way, this feels very similar to other holiday romcoms like Love Actually, which manages to get that balance between humour and emotion just right. Well, Smiley does the same thing and some of the humour here is genuinely laugh out loud funny, which is great to see. On the flipside, there are some moments that’ll have you close to tears, especially during one particularly poignant moment with Albert up on stage.
Smiley is a well written and wonderfully produced romcom. It’s very tropey and not particularly original, but hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right? And Smiley purrs like a well-oiled machine from start to finish. The journey may be familiar, but it’s one you’ll definitely want to jump into before the year is up.
Verdict - 8/10