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‘Nightmare’ Arrest Puts ‘Larrymania’ in Limbo

The arrest of Larrymania star Larry Hernandez has put the NBCUniverso series, one of Spanish-language television’s most successful unscripted programs, into best-of mode.

On Sept. 25, the regional Mexican music star was prevented from boarding a Southwest Airlines flight from Ontario, Calif. to Denver by airport police who received a warrant for his arrest. The warrant, issued in South Carolina, accused Hernandez of kidnapping, assault, and assault and battery causing injury.

Hernandez is one of Latin music’s top regional Mexican artists, fueled by his controversial “narco corridos” featuring lyrics and themes tied to Mexico’s drug-trafficking subculture. Larrymania — billed as an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the star’s life — recently started its fifth season on NBCUniverso, with tales of a surprise trip to Hawaii, following a romantic trip to Paris for Hernandez and his now-fiancée, Kenia.

Larrymania is the No. 1 Hispanic cable-TV program among viewers age 18-49 and one of Spanish-language television’s most successful unscripted programs. It wrapped up its third season in August of 2014 with an average audience of 117,000 18-to-49-year-olds tuning in each Sunday at 9 p.m.

In fact, Larrymania’s popularity helped it outlive the network it launched on  — the youth-targeted mun2 — which was rebranded into the general-interest NBC Universo in February of 2015.

By late October, media reports offered further details of what Hernandez is being charged with: Wrapping a man in plastic sheeting; forcing him into his hotel room with “several associates of Hernandez”; and beating him when Hernandez wasn’t paid in full for an August performance in the small agricultural town of Newbury, S.C. Some 9.5% of Newbury’s 10,600 residents are Hispanic.

At first, NBC Universo’s communications team, which had relentlessly promoted every episode of Larrymania with weekly press updates in both English and Spanish, declined comment on Hernandez’s legal situation. When contacted in mid-October by Hispanic Television Update, NBC Universo VP of communications Peter Dobrow said: “NBC Universo continues to air reruns of the series. However at this time we are not commenting on future plans for the series.”

On Nov. 3, NBC Universo affirmed its decision to stick with best-of episodes, noting in a statement that it would air “special programming” each Thursday from 9 to 11 p.m. featuring “many unforgettable moments from the hit reality series’ last four seasons.”

The specials began airing on Nov. 5 and will run through Dec. 3. The programming is in response to “loyal fans that have demonstrated support for their idol,” the network said.

The announcement from NBC Universo came just days after Hernandez broke his silence on YouTube, the media platform that first brought him notoriety. Freed on a $200,000 bond some three weeks after his arrest, Hernandez appeared to be back in his Southern California home.

In the video, Hernandez said: “It’s not, as some in very bad faith have said, because I’m looking to sell an exclusive interview. My interest at no time is one of economic gain for an interest that narrates or reviews what has been a nightmare for me.”

Up next for Hernandez: A Dec. 31 court date to discuss probable cause.

NBC Universo has offered no visibility past Dec. 3 on what it intends to do with Larrymania. But new episodes could be back on the air sooner rather than later, thanks to a new twist in South Carolina.

José Andrade, the alleged victim in the case, was arrested in early November amid accusations of fraud tied to financial loans. While this case is unrelated to that of Hernandez, Andrade’s legal difficulties could greatly hinder the case against Larrymania’s star.

Meanwhile, Hernandez is back in action as a performer: He officially returned to the stage Nov. 13 in Dallas, following a Nov. 5 appearance on Estrella TV’s Premios de La Radio awards show. There, Hernandez was nominated for Best Performer of the Year and as the hottest social-media star of 2015.