Love Is on the Beach: A Review of HBO’s Preamar

Total depravity is hot right now – at least if we’re talking TV. Breaking Bad dramatically […]

Will McDavid / 6.25.13

PreamarTotal depravity is hot right now – at least if we’re talking TV. Breaking Bad dramatically covers a guy who hits rock-bottom with a diagnosis and then, (un)surprisingly, continues bottoming out in a series of ever-increasing grabs for power, wealth, and influence, using his chemist skills to begin a long ascent through the world of crystal meth-dealing. Game of Thrones is fascinating in the same way as a train wreck, and HBO’s Newsroom is, right now, the only genuinely optimistic (while still critically-acclaimed) show on TV.

Enter Preamar, a Brazilian show that, like Breaking Bad, starts with a fall – João Ricardo Velasco, a wealthy banker a year into his “sabbatical”, has kept the truth from his family: he was fired from his hotshot position at a leading bank for investing money in (of all things) Bernie Madoff’s fund. Over the course of season one, his family will begin discovering the truth of their impending bankruptcy, and their fall will force them to acknowledge each other, reckon with each other’s faults, and develop a closeness that had eluded them in days of success.

But it’s not so much the plot as the mood of Preamar which makes it stand out. The show moves a snail’s-pace for American viewers, but is always compelling, even captivating, in the small details. It moves with a barely-suppressed energy and joy, with decadent pans of João’s apartment (“supear-chic”) and the trilling petty commerce of Rio de Janeiro’s beach. The stark apartment scaffolding the family’s distant, disinfected intra-relationships is set off by the lively beach, the place where the tide always stands ready to bring surprises, new life, “news from across the sea.” João starts wandering the beach at the beginning of the series, looking for something new in his life, and he discovers a world of doing business on the beach, a place where he can both use his knowledge and partake of the carelessness, the freedom and spontaneity of the beach-goers and his laid-back business partners.


Achievement, and freedom from achievement, take center-stage in the show. João’s professional disgrace frees him to pursue the beach-commerce which actually makes him happy and, incidentally, a much better father than ever before. João’s wife, by contrast, finds out they’re near bankruptcy and begins scheming for any way she can to make money and keep her status – and the show’s writers punish her for her ambition by making her one of the most genuinely loathsome characters I’ve ever seen on the small screen. The family’s Faulkner-esque housekeeper, Da Guia (thinly-veiled “the guide”) is the family’s moral anchor; like The Sound and the Fury’s Dilsey, she exudes grace, instinctually knowing that she cannot provide balm for their pain, nor countervail their sporadic waywardness (spoiler alert – theft, drugs, an affair, etc). She is the watcher, the figure of God dwelling among us, hopeful but non-forcing, knowing what’s in the human heart and knowing with a pang her own powerlessness to change it, to do anything other than listen and stay close, ready to hear confession but demurring to speak advice.


The ocean is the symbol of gratuity: one day it washes up a shark prowling kid-infested waters, another day it washes up a dead body; another, humans sacrifice to its god, Iemanja, in a casually pagan show of respect for the sea that gives. In contrast to the stale social climbers and careerists, carefully captaining their small, underwhelmingly significant ships, mastering their domains, the beach is the place of surprise, gratuity, etc.

Perhaps now we’re overanalyzing – and there couldn’t be a worse mistake for looking at Preamar. It’s a show that worships the god of small things, the everyday pulse of life that underlies every day, though we’re usually too blind with ambition and achievement and compulsive control to feel it. The slow tempo and rich, protracted camera shots reveal that Preamar is primarily about taking this pulse, as we see the world through the newly-clear eyes of João Velasco. Grace abounds in the world, but it takes the death of ambition, and perhaps a few long, pointless walks, for our selves to be opened up to it. All that to say, Viva Iemanja!


38 responses to “Love Is on the Beach: A Review of HBO’s Preamar

  1. Will McDavid, just receive your review through a friend and share it with actors and crew.
    We wrote with many of your analysis in mind but never letting it be bigger than the story. Really nice to hear it all from you.
    Estevão Ciavatta

  2. Lynn Delaney says:

    I love this show so so much. When will it come back – just watched the last episode of Season 1.
    Thank you creators – author(s?), director, actors and so on…
    Please return soon,
    Lynn Delaney

  3. I highly recommend to the world. One of the best shows out there. Great actings, directing, screenplay, cinematography. Realistically done and not a boring moment.

  4. Jody Ward says:

    I love this show! Very intricate and well-written. I didn’t think the pace was slow at all. I would love to see them bring a version to the regular HBO in America–with subtitles!

  5. Christine Allard says:

    I accidentally stumbled upon this show and 13 episodes later, I cannot wait for Season 2 to begin. The writer’s did a wonderful job in the development of these characters. Who doesn’t want Joao to end up with Paula? This show definitely sets a mood with the scenery, the filming and the music. I also “trust” this show. Although it is not without some violence, it never shows the viewer too much. And who designed that apartment? More please.

  6. Indigo says:

    Love this show. Saw all 13 episodes. I’m on pins and needles waiting for second season. BTW when is the second season.

  7. Biggs4life says:

    I personally love Joao’s wife and hope he doesn’t end up with Paola. She has her faults but she is also a badass who will do anything to preserve her family and wealth. See how she walked into that pawn shop place and got her money at the point of a gun? Badass. That scene however was also a bad thing in my opinion because it felt a bit rushed and contrived. I love this show but my main gripe with the whole thing in contrast to this review is it felt rushed to me. It didn’t seem slow at all. The wife finds out they are near bankruptcy and the first thing she does is rob her closest friends. There was no period of despair really, no dealing with it. Unlike Breaking Bad’s Walter White there has been no gradual transition from normal to badass…we are presented immediately with what these people are capable of and that to me is a bit of a letdown in an otherwise great show.

  8. Rachele says:

    I was browsing HBO on demand and came across Preamar…so I previewed it. Captivated by the diverse characters and the Ipanema summer
    culture, I watched all 13 episodes within one week.

    Subtitles never intimidated nor discouraged me from watching a prime film…but I will say that the color of the subtitles (in yellow) were very
    difficult to read against a light background such as the beach.

    So looking forward to a Season 2!!!!

  9. Barbara says:

    This show is awesome! I came across it by accident also! I have watched nine episodes in two days leaving the last four for tonight because today is the last day. I love the characters, and each actor/actress plays their part beautifully!!!
    I agree that it is very fast moving not slow at all! Wish subtitles were in another color so you could see them easier.
    Can’t wait for Season Two, anyone know when it will start?

  10. lynn delaney says:

    Mr. Ciavatta or someone who knows, Is this true that there is only one season of Preamar? The person who answers the phone at HBO told me you decided not to continue…
    Lynn Delaney

    • Dear Lynn Delaney,
      For sure, i’s not true.
      What i going on is that HBO used taxes to produce the series (instead of paying it to brazilian government, HBO payed Pindorama to produce the series) and through brazilian law HBO can’t be the only owner of the product. So they don’t want to produce more seasons of something that is not their property.
      Unfortunately it is like this. If HBO changes it’s mind, it would be great because I created the series for, at least, 5 seasons. I’m really sad about that.
      Thanks for your message.
      Estevão Ciavatta

      • Barbara McKenna says:

        Mr. Ciavatta, your show is wonderful! I was really looking forward to Season Two.
        That is really a shame about HBO & Brazilian law, is there no way around it?
        Perhaps another Network like Showtime would pick up the remaining Seasons.

        Will the other Seasons be available on DVD formatted to work on DVR’s in the the USA?
        I would buy ever Season you have if that were the case!

        Please keep trying!
        There are not ,many shows that are so completely addicting!!!!

        Wonderful work and congratulations to you!

      • Jamie Laird says:

        NOOOOOO !!! I love this show, I would be crushed if it did not come back :(((((( Please release on dvd !!!!

  11. Paulo Torres says:

    Please please make another season this series is without a doubt a classic. The writing, the story and the acting would clean up at Emmy’s in the US!!!!!!

  12. IrisJune says:

    I am so discussded that Preamar is off the air. It was the new best series on tv. and I am not Brazilian, but love it anyway. Better than Boardwalk Empire.

  13. andre says:

    Fantastic job! . I have to say, the first 2 episodes I was bored to tears, and only being entertained by the vistas of Rio however the more I watched the more I got into it. I am not brasilian but lived in rio for a while and I have to say that subtitles are spot on (that never happens aka. Capadocia). I am glad to hear there is material for 5 season s and I hope hbo fixes its problems. Blakie and Pri look like a nice couple!. Also Rei needs to develop his character more rei and manu?. Joao is a great actor and we can guess if preamar was a american show they should pay any money to Clooney to play his character,but talking about good actors: Sheriff eats the show alive . Great lines and bigger than life personality. Keep up the good work. I can call Dilma if you need help with the next seasons!

  14. Indigo1969 says:

    I’m having withdrawls! when is the 2014 season coming! Stop playing, I want to see more. Love, love, love this show.
    An American, from Tampa,Florida.

  15. Joao says:

    I’m Dominican now residing in NYC and I must say this is one of the greatest show I’ve seen, would never dare to watch it in Spanish, they way ppl talk in Portuguese captivates my appetite to visit RIO very soon. This show is amazing, love the acting, plot and the location where its been filmed.
    About future seasons it is so typical that HBO will want to own all rights to the series but if they are making good money even sharing it with a local company wouldn’t hurt if you only paying the local company with the taxes your are due to pay….To HBO, Mr. Ciavatta is giving you a great show so pay the Brazilian government their taxes and get the show going, we pay good money here in the US to watch the same idiotic movies run for 3-4 months at the time, stop the nonsense and get season 2 rolling.

    Joao Ali

  16. Franceen Mebane says:

    LOVE this show!!!!!! Found it totally by accident and then couldn’t wait for the rest!!!! Andy btw, why is there not a soundtrack????? I want more of the show and a soundtrack!!!!! Please, we need Season 2. I’ve told so many people about the show and they are all hooked as well. MORE MORE MORE

    • lynn delaney says:

      Call HBO. I did. No problem. Their number is on their website. Tell them the director wrote here that he has four more seasons in mind!

  17. Elyse says:

    Help! where can I watch or download with english subtitles?

    • lynn delaney says:

      Call HBO. I did. No problem. Their number is on their website. Tell them the director wrote here that he has four more seasons in mind!

  18. Paul Glenn says:

    Bravo, Estevão Ciavatta. I’ve never watched a better presented or more engaging series. I was captured within the first few minutes. I had a hard time explaining to my wife why the show captivated me and so thought I would try to explain it here to share the explanation with others.

    Firstly, the beach scene is captivating in its beauty, the simplicity on the surface and the complexity once you take a closer look. It simply draws you in when you start paying attention to the details. Secondly, the actors add flavor and spice without artifice. They each flow seamlessly into the series without any awkwardness you often find in series; it is as if the actors were made especially for this script as they fit within the collage of images perfectly. Thirdly, the story line is engaging in its twists and turns and even though you can see obstacles and tragedy on the horizon you get the sense that Velasco (and his family) will somehow fix things. And of course he does in an exquisite manner. And his wife, what a unique character in that her naivete and newly discovered fierceness allows her to travel outside the boundaries of normal human behavior that is required by the social circle in which she resides. There is so much more that could be said about each character, the plot(s) and images but I’ll end my assessment here and apologize in advance for It would take hours to write in a way that truly honors your work.

    Thank you so much for the wonderful story you shared with me.

    Paul Glenn

  19. lynn delaney says:

    Thank you Paul Glenn. So well put! I suggest everybody call HBO and tell them we want it back! I did. No problem. The woman who answered appreciates it too.

  20. Heather says:

    I am going to call! This show is really really fun to watch. Escapist and great characters. As a Californian, it is a glimpse of the place and culture of Rio and had changed my perception of the city (positive). The actors and writing are phenomenal. More!!

    • Dear Paul, Lynn, Heather and all the writers,

      Thanks for your time and your words. We worked hard and had great pleasure creating and filming it. It’s been a huge success all over Latin America (in Mexico HBO is releasing a DVD box). As I mentioned, I’ve created this series for, at least, five seasons.
      These days I was discussing with them a possibility for the situation with the Brazilian agency. If you call, it will help!
      I suggest you also get in contact with HBO Brasil at

      Here I translate the topics:

      Nome:* – Name
      Sobrenome:* – Surname
      Local – Place
      País: * – Country
      Assunto – Subject
      Referente ao canal: * – Witch channel = choose HBO
      Você precisa de ajuda para: * – You need help for = choose the first option
      Referente a: * – It reffers to – choose the first option, then will appear another field – you write PREAMAR
      Descrição detalhada: – Description = write what you want….



  21. Susan says:

    This was a very well true to Brazilian culture series. I’m from California but part Brazilian and have lived in Bahia and Rio. Loved this and good for my Portuguese. I’m hooked so WHEN IS SEASON 2???

  22. Judy Marlin says:

    No, no, no! Tell me it’s not true! There won’t be any more seasons of this show? I’m crushed!

  23. Karl says:

    This is a a total masterpiece. A show that shows true class in every aspect of it’s production. It gently sucks the viewer into it’s addictive web of beauty & honesty. If HBO can’t work something out it will be completely THEIR loss.
    Hopefully Netflix, Amazon, Showtime or AMC will pick it up. The continuity of this show is certain to boost profits for one lucky network. In an American version I can only imagine George Clloney or Mark Rufallo playing the lead with Christina Hendricks (Mad Nwn) playing the semi sensitive & full on bitch role.

  24. Lucrece says:

    I sent the following through the website Mr. Cuavatta kindly provided:

    “Please allow further production of this series. I am a Venezuelan exile in Miami, and this program is not only of great interest to people from a Latin American background, to whom I constantly recommend a program, but it is also a very sympathetic show to American viewers who recently went (and are still undergoing) an economic shakedown.

    This show has such warmth and exquisite execution. The cast chemistry is amazing, the direction of this show is every bit as deserving of recognition alongside shows such as Mandrake.

    Please allow this show to continue. Many loyal Latin American viewers as well as Americans have been invested on this wonderful show.

    Most importantly, this show puts out to the world what some of Brazil’s finest productions are! It is one of the best promotions you could have of the country and its people. Do not waste the opportunity to allow this amazing show and cast to garner the recognition it so rightly deserves.

    Sincerely written from a loyal HBO customer. Please continue the show, it’s a big part of my reason for subscribing.”

    I really hope they listen. HBO has broken my heart before by not continuing beauty such as The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency amd Enlightened. I seriously hope they make the right call with Preamar and don’t alienate their Latin American and some American Preamar fans and subscribers over some bureaucratic mess.

    Please don’t break my heart again HBO. Give Mr. Cuavatta and company the rightful chance to continue to tell their breathtaking story.

  25. Lucrece says:

    To which I got a response:

    “Dear Sergio,

    Thank you for visiting our site and for your email.

    Unfortunately the HBO Laitn America original series Preamar, has been canceled and we have no further information to offer.

    Thank you for being a loyal subscriber.

    Customer service Online”

    Really disappointing ;(

  26. James says:

    So sad, we are only on episode 7 (just discovered it) and love it. I have Brazilian friends (from Minas Gerais) and they keep telling me how much better the series is than the novellas they are getting on Global.

  27. Anita says:

    NOOOOO! This show is the best and I’m not Brazilian. I live in the US. I love this show. My husband and I discovered it by accident. HBO is a fool if they cancel this show. The writers, directors and actors are amazing. I tell everyone about it. Please bring it back.

  28. Karen Appel says:

    I agree… We are U.S. HBO watchers and discovered Preamer….now we are so disappointed to learn of its cancellation. We loved it! We spoke little Portuguese words around the house and hummed the title song, it was such a lovely little series…and we aren’t ones to do subtitles, but this was lovely. We are super disappointed there is no 2nd season…

  29. Lynn Delaney says:

    Here we are 2018, Where is Season 2? 3? 4? 5?
    HBO, you lost us.

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