I Ain't Mad at George
The Chicano comedian, not the Commander in Chief
Al Carlos Hernandez
"The George Lopez Show" debuted on network TV last week to mixed reviews. Some people liked, others hated it, and like most Latino issues in this society, many people just ignored it.
Published on LatinoLA: March 31, 2002
The axiom in Hollywood regarding comedy is simple, ?If they say it's funny, it's not. If they laugh, it?s funny.?
I say it's funny.
Vocal Latinos -- read "player haters" -- demonstrate an arrogant sense of entitlement and propriety regarding any Latino representation in the media, and they like to dredge up the issue of stereotyping when it's convenient. They have no idea what it takes to get a property like "Lopez" on prime time.
Getting anything that is American Latino to prime time is much harder than getting funding for the counseling of transgender killer whales.
The most important thing about the Lopez show is that the least-watched TV show in history -- which hopefully isn?t George?s -- is watched by more people than the most popular feature film in history. This means that bringing G-Lo into prime time is a demographic victory in itself.
The show is based on George?s real life as a factory worker, in the sitcom tradition of "Roseanne", "Home Improvement" and "Everybody Loves Raymond". Sitcoms are based on an industry formula that is based only on the comedic perspective of East Coast, non-ethnic writers.
We as American TV viewers have been programmed to enjoy a certain style of TV humor, pioneered by the late great Milton Berle and Steve Allen. Norman Lear altered the TV comedy paradigm.
Sitcom means situational comedy. The objective is to put a sympathetic character -- someone we like and identify with -- into a weekly situation that forces him or her to deal with friction. Steve Allen writes that, ?Pain plus time equals humor.? Milton Berle?s Mom said, ?Go big. They don?t know either.?
In George?s case, he assumes the Presidency, then goes to war, after actually losing the election by the popular vote.
My bad. Wrong sitcom.
In Lopez?s case, he is promoted to manage a company where he worked on the line for 15 years, with a buster of a Mom as an employee. He is caught between the pressures of family and his factory job, while dealing with two what the industry calls ?shape-shifters?, people who can be your friends one minute and a ?nemesis? the next.
Belita Moreno plays his Mom; his buddy Ernie is played by Valente Rodriguez. They both feature painfully embarrassing Spinglish accents -- Ricky Ricardo-like vocal impersonations which will come back to annoy you when you listen in on non-Latinos conversing at Spanish-themed restaurants.
While the humor is occasionally didactic, comments about Mexicans swimming, gastronomic problems based on diet, and an employee staff that drinks beer at lunch, not to mention the Enron scandal?oops, wrong George again.
The delivery of the lines is sincere, yet over-acted. The rhythm of stand-up comedy is set up, set up, and joke. George seems to maintain that type of pacing, and tends to wait for the laugh before moving on. It is not his fault he is constrained by a script written by a committee.
The wife, played by Constance Marie, is a fine actor given very little to do while dressed as eye candy in a bathrobe and slip for most of the program. I was hoping that she would attack George?s mom, mentioned as a life-long smoker and textbook "vieja mala."
ABC, the slowest network to boost racial diversity, is using the show?s racial pedigree in an effort to bring greater ethnic color to programming and that is a very good thing. Their commercial agenda underscores ABC?s desire to tap into an undeserved but growing niche audience, those of us who frequent Latino web sites. (That's right! - el editor)
Disney (the parent company, not the frozen guy) who owns ABC, just needs one or two hit shows to put it back in the ratings race. They have mounted a bilingual marketing campaign for Lopez, including ads on Spanish TV as well as Spanish simulcasts. There may be a logistical problem in over-dubbing the programs generous English laugh track into Spanish "?Ajuas!". The process of adding taped laughter at precise times to a TV show is called "sweetening"; the Lopez show almost gave me a toothache.
ABC might consider painting ?The George Lopez Show? on the back of Oscar De La Hoya for his next fight with Fernando Vargas. This would figuratively nail the demographic on the head, so to speak.
I believe that "The George Lopez Show" is a good idea with significant pioneering potential. It is questionable if it will ?play in the sticks? -- be received in the Midwest, a critical indicator if the show hopes to have a long run.
Many are hopeful that upcoming episodes are funny, based on situation rather segregation. If the writers can skew the Lopez show into a more of a Bill Cosby-styled family comedy, race being a non-issue, this may not be just a flash in the pan.
Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a screenwriter who thinks he can fix The George Lopez Show.