Now and Then, the new time-hopping Apple TV+ show about a group of friends who reminisce about youthful indiscretions as new mysteries present themselves, is a noirish riff on The Big Chill and Stephen King’s It.
The bilingual series, which premieres Friday, showcases a great cast doing ruthless character work. And the creative team includes prolific and highly successful showrunners and writers Ramón Campos, Teresa Fernández-Valdés and Gema R. Neira.
With so much talent on board, it’s easy to fall into Now and Then’s lithe setting, sexy milieu and casual backstabbing.
Now and Then review
In their youth, a group of friends (played by Alicia Jaziz, Jack Duarte, Miranda de la Serna, Dario Yazbek Bernal, Alicia Sanz and Jorge López) were partying on a Miami beach when one of them started to drown. They fished Alejandro out and rushed him to the hospital as quickly as they could.
However, they didn’t make it. They got into a car accident — and didn’t help the woman they hit. Indeed, they left Alejandro in the car, for his dead body to take the rap.
In the present, the survivors are planning for their high school reunion, nothing having gone the way they planned.
A handful of survivors
One-time hopeful doctor Daniela (Soledad Villamil) is now a frustrated mother. Pedro (José María Yazpik) is running for office. He and his wife, Ana (Marina de Tavira), who married out of high school even after the events of that night, endure a strained relationship.
Sofia (Maribel Verdú) is in some kind of trouble with the law. Marcos (Manolo Cardona) is a plastic surgeon who married rich after an aborted relationship with Sofia didn’t work out.
Someone has been sending them all text messages asking them to meet at the reunion, which they otherwise all would have skipped. Now they think they’re being blackmailed.
There’s a tribute to Alejandro (López), the member of their crew who died that night. And then more messages arrive. Someone wants the five survivors to bring a million dollars to a soon-to-be-disclosed location at midnight next Friday. Everyone has the money, but nobody’s particularly keen to pay up.
Sofia stole her portion of the ransom from some bad people. To make matters worse, the detectives who were assigned to the case all those years ago are still around, and they haven’t forgotten that things didn’t add up. In fact, Detective Neruda (Rosie Perez) is the one on the scene when Daniela turns up dead … and Marcos is the one who calls the cops from Daniela’s hotel room. Seems he discovered that she was the blackmailer. But by the time he arrived to confront her, someone else had killed her and taken the money.
A standout cast
The idea of a reunion predicated around an alibi is nothing new, but that’s because it’s a great premise. I mean Apple TV+ recently renewed its truly terrible series The Afterparty, which was about the exact same thing.
Now and Then is far better than that — indeed it’s great trashy TV (not an insult). The show knows better than to rest on the laurels of its talented, charismatic cast. It easily could have, though. This is a real deep bench.
The idea of having Zeljko Ivanek, who plays Detective Sullivan, as a regular on a show like this is pure genius. (The milieu is not exactly in his wheelhouse.) Plus, Rosie Perez is a marvelous actor who’s basically been taken for granted for the bulk of her 30-plus-year career. Seeing her get such a fun showcase is a magnificent sight. She’s mesmerizing when doing little things — walking around crime scenes and offices interacting with her subordinates.
Casting Perez and Ivanek as grouchy, loving foils working the same cases is just excellent. Together they create a whirlwind of easy, sleepy chemistry.
They’re hardly the only ones working like the rent is due, though. The entire main cast is superb. I have a particular soft spot for Maribel Verdú, the siren from Y tu mamá también, who has been inhumanly gorgeous since before I was born. She’s always been a marvelous talent. But, here she takes full advantage of both her baggage as an actress and the fun you can have playing the sexual wild card femme fatale in an ensemble full of people tasked with playing things a little more straight.
Oh, and Joaquim de Almeida shows up here, too (!), playing Verdú’s loan shark.
… backed by a fine creative team
Ramón Campos, Teresa Fernández-Valdés and Gema R. Neira have been lighting up the small screen the last decade with hits like Grand Hotel and High Seas, hugely popular Spanish-language shows that wind up on streaming services that do nothing to advertise them.
Not they the streamers need to — these shows find their audiences anyway (good non-English TV tends to). But to say that it was shrewd of Apple TV+ to snatch them up is putting it mildly.
And man have they got a good thing on their hands. Though Now and Then is cloaked in the soft, hazy photography of modern American prestige TV, every beat is right out of a soap opera or telenovela.
The women marrying the men they widowed, the mistresses bedding down with the families of their boyfriends, the political campaigns about to be undone by murder and infidelity. It’s all delicious and has the heft of the best modern TV. I’m desperately excited to keep watching Now and Then, because so far, there’s nothing here I don’t like.
Watch Now and Then on Apple TV+
Now and Then premieres May 20 on Apple TV+. New episodes follow on subsequent Fridays.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.