The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia (TEUOAG or simply Ashley Garcia) premiered on February 17, 2020 to very little fanfare and promotion. Netflix has a tendency to hype specific shows thereby almost guaranteeing success to those shows, while giving other shows either lackluster promotion or simply none at all. I don’t recall seeing any promotional trailers for Ashley Garcia, and we at the Mustache and the Beard would have completely missed it, if not for the Beard’s daughter, Jeanette Figueroa otherwise known to me as Jammy or Jam Jam.
When Jammy first mentioned it, I dismissed it because the Mustache and the Beard is about genre entertainment. I went so far as to actually tell the Beard, “Too bad we can’t cover it because it’s a comedy. It’s out of our scope of practice.” We watch horror, science fiction, kaiju, anime, superhero, cartoons, espionage, action, thrillers. Those are more of what we find fascinating, but I decided to watch the show because my queue was loaded with stuff I’m watching with the Beard, and I’m obsessive compulsive about finishing what I’ve started before moving on to something new.
I figured let me watch something light to break up my horror/sci. fi. diet. Ashley Garcia seemed to fit the bill. So I watched the first episode, and I was hooked. Let me tell you a little bit about The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia and why I feel it’s the perfect fit for the Mustache and the Beard especially during Women’s Empowerment Month.
Ashley Garcia (played by 17 year old Paulina Chavez) is a genius. She is also a teenager who has spent her childhood years engrossed in study. Despite being 15, she has PhD’s in Robotics and Applied Mathematics. She has been living with her Mom in Massachusetts who is one year away from tenure at Wellesley, but has been given an opportunity to work for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory making robots for the Space Program.
When the first episode begins, Ashley is speaking into the camera. She says that she is going to post the video to social media in rebellion to her mother. She’s unafraid of Mom, she says, and when Mom asks from off camera, what she’s doing, she responds that she is packing loud. Clearly, she’s afraid of her mother. She tells the audience that she is moving to California to live with her Uncle (Tio) Victor (Jencarlos Canela) ostensibly to begin her new job with NASA, but also to get away from Mom.
Ashley is surprisingly sociable and easily makes friends. To help her do this is her childhood best friend Brooke Bishop (Bella Podaras). Members of the cast include: Tad Cameron (Conor Husting) who is the captain of the football team and Ashley’s crush; Stick Goldstein (Reed Horstmann) the equipment manager of Tio Victor’s football team and crushing on Ashley. Mario Lopez is Nico, Tio Victor’s friend and co-creator of the show. Lastly, Ava Germaine (Chelsea Kane) is Ashley’s adult friend from MIT and Tio Victor’s love interest.
Ashley Garcia is a geek. However, she is multi-faceted, and clearly someone that people want to know. It’s not just her smile. She’s enthusiastic and confident, except that sometimes she’s not confident nor enthusiastic. She’s not just one thing. The reason she has gone to California (so far away from her mother) is because she wants to become a little more balanced, but you know what, in these first eight episodes, we get a really well-balanced kid.
She’s smart and she’s funny. She is wise, and yet sometimes makes mistakes. The teen is not perfect, but the show is filled with heart and manipulates your emotions the way good family comedies do. This is good family comedy.
In the first episode, Tio Victor has forgotten that his niece is arriving on a specific day. He has a date over at his home, anticipating an “adult” sleepover. The woman says she is unaccustomed to coming over to a man’s home on the first date. It’s new for him too, he says. However, he has a remote that dims the lights, ignites the fireplace, and romantic music begins to play from a CD player. He obviously is no novice to the art of seduction. Ashley shows up before he can seal the deal, but he is a little annoyed by the interruption.
Later, Tio Victor is shown at a furniture store looking to buy Ashley a bed. He wants his niece to be comfortable, and above all else, his sister, Santina, Ashley’s mom, doesn’t believe he can actually behave as a responsible parental figure. She expects him to fail so quickly that she flies out to California expecting to pick up the pieces of this disaster. Even when the saleswoman throws herself at Victor, he opts to do the right thing. Tio Victor changes because his niece inspires him to change. No spoilers, but by the end of Season One, Victor is very different from the beginning of Season One.
Last thing I want to say is that the title of the show, the Expanding Universe is a play on the model of the Big Bang Theory in which the universe is believed to be expanding still, until one day it will reach its end, and contract and collapse. Ashley’s universe is expanding in disparate ways. I even believe that the creators want viewers to make the connection between this show and The Big Bang Theory which have similar elements.
Ashley is becoming (I would even claim that she already is) a model woman not just in intelligence, but in empathy (she helps her friends), in civility (in spin the bottle, she chooses not to take advantage of a situation in her favor), and respect (she doesn’t yell at her mother or uncle even when they were mistaken.) To my mind, Women’s Empowerment is all about women like Ashley Garcia.
She models everything you would want in an adult, human being. She is honorable and decent. She is funny and inspiring. She does it with a vibrant smile on her face and extreme dignity. Plus, she’s a Latinx spark plug that will make you laugh and maybe make you cry. I think this show is what women’s empowerment is all about. Oh by the way, the first seven episodes are directed by women including: Melissa Joan Hart and Eva Longoria. If you haven’t seen the show, I believe you’re missing out on something special. Check it out. Tell me what you think.