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If You Don't Like It, Don't Look At It

George Lopez returns to the TV screen this season

By Carlos San Miguel
Published on LatinoLA: October 3, 2002


If You Don't Like It, Don't Look At It


When ?The George Lopez Show? first began airing on ABC back in March 2002 it was history in the making for a Latino to finally have his own sitcom again. And comedian George Lopez continues to make history by being renewed for the new ABC Fall TV Season. But aside from watching it at home every week, fans of the show also have an opportunity to go and enjoy the show live at an audience taping and it?s free too!

The show airs Wednesday nights at 8:30 P.M. and ABC is hoping for it to become a staple of America?s viewing habits, amongst Latinoa/os and non-Latina/os. The live tapings are scheduled (for now) on Thursday nights over on the Warner Brothers film lot in Burbank, but reservations are required.

It can be a fun event for a family outing or group of friends. There is a DJ playing corridos, hip hop and old school music to keep everything lively and George Lopez is always ready to talk to the audience before and during the taping to keep everyone involved. ?Other than carne asada, it?s almost like a party,? George jokes. A party that is long overdue.

George has been doing stand-up comedy for about 15 years and in that time he?s toured everywhere around the country, made two CD?s (?Alien Nation? and ?Right Now, Right Now?), was the first Latino to host a morning drive radio show in Los Angeles (in English) and now he?s the first Latino to finally have his own sitcom on network TV that has been renewed since ?Chico and The Man? back in 1974. Even with his now very busy TV schedule George continues to tour everywhere and will also be appearing in the award-winning film ?Real Women Have Curves? which is being released in movie theaters in October.

The TV show stars George Lopez who works as a recently-promoted supervisor at an airplane parts factory, Constance Marie (also starring on ?American Family?) as his wife Angie, Belita Moreno as his mother Benny, Masiela Lusha as his daughter Carmen, Luis Armand Garcia as his son Max and Valente Rodriguez as his best friend and co-worker Ernie.

George took time from his busy schedule on a recent morning to talk about his self-named TV show and his career.

George Lopez:
Producer Sandra Bullock and I were the first people involved in the show and she wanted the show to be what was in my act, about the little boy who always got rejected and slammed and there?s never enough for him. That was the theme we wanted to take and when we got with (producer) Bruce Helford, from ?Drew Carrey,? he?s like ?the guy.? He said on the first day, 'George, to tell you the truth I?m not that familiar with the (Latino) culture, so you?ve got to tell me where the line is.' And to this day he?ll always say, ?Let?s run it by George and see if it crosses the line,? so it?s great in that capacity.

Warner Brothers has always been supportive and ABC incredibly supportive, because they gave me literally the best time slot at ABC, Wednesday?s at 8:30 P.M. after ?My Wife & Kids? it?s like following ?Sienfeld? or ?Fraiser? because at ABC it?s the number one comedy.

I think from the beginning, we treated this show like it was going to be around for a long time. I never had it in my mind that this week could be our last week. With that approach we?ve managed to give the show some depth, the characters are interesting. It?s not going to solve any problems, but it?s entertaining.

Question:
Can you talk about how you felt when you found out the show got picked up?

George:
It really is the most thrilling thing that could happen to me professionally, not only to have a show, but to have it named after me and have it be so connected to me and stories of my life. I am George Lopez and I?ve always struggled to become ?George Lopez.? I was this anonymous kid in school, I worked in these factories and I always felt I should ?be somebody? and here I was getting my opportunities through years of hard work, and it felt good. I appreciate every moment and I spend almost everyday, all day over there [at the studio].

Question:
What do you hope the audience gets from the show?

George:
What I hope to get is that we create a show that is entertaining to people no matter who you are or what you are. In order for this show to survive, you hear ?cross-over,? but it doesn?t have to cross-over anything, I never had to cross-over anything, I?m from here [the U.S.].

All it really is conditioning people to think that we are entertaining and we?re not all tragic figures and not all a certain way.

Question:
What do you feel about the show that it will succeed?

George:
I think that this show works, because the guy wants to be a father to his kids, when he didn?t have a father. And wants to be a better husband, when he grew up emotionally unavailable and he?s trying to prove to his mother, that he is a man and he does except responsibility and he isn?t 10 years old anymore. In those three things, any show would have life and have colorful stories to tell, not just this show because it?s Latino.

One of the things that amazes me now that really stands out, because of the creators and the people involved on this show are Latinos, is how anybody has the audacity to think they could create a show involving Latinos, when they?re not Latinos themselves. I mean, I wouldn?t write a book on Paris, because I don?t live there.

Having them [Hollywood executives] relay who they think we are, through their nannies and their gardeners, and stories they tell each other at the country club, isn?t deep enough for people to watch a show. And that?s what you get with ?Good Morning Miami? and ?CSI: Miami?, it?s like ?bullet Miami,? now it?s Miami.

In any show that involves Latino characters there have to be Latino people involved, because otherwise you have no governor, nobody to say, ?that?s not right, we wouldn?t do that.? We do it to ourselves in the writing room. And I hired Latinas, because they don?t have that machismo that guys have.

Writer Luisa (Leschin) is like the soul of the show, because she?ll say, ?This is not right, and they wouldn?t do that.? And there?s a joke that we?re going to do about Halloween, I even think I might have pitched it, about how Mexicans take Halloween to the next level and dress up as skeletons and it?s the only time of the year that we?re thin. I like the joke, because I?ve struggled with my weight all year, heck my whole life. It?s those kind of jokes that people might take the wrong way, just like in the pilot episode where my daughter cuts swim class and I say ?Why does she need to know how to swim, we?re already here.? We did another joke that?ll end up in another episode, where my son says ?Does the dog have papers dad?? and I say ?No I don?t think it?s right for the dog to have papers and some of our relatives not to.?

It?s a smarter thing, but it depends on who you are, with that type of stuff. I?ll take the heat for whatever type of uprising or things people have that upsets them. Because I think it?s funny and that?s the bottom line about this show, if I think it crosses the line then we don?t do it, and if I think it?s funny then we do it. And it?s not ?The Latino Family Show? it?s ?George Lopez? and his life and his stories and all of these characters on the show are alive and living, they weren?t created in some Tudor Mansion in the Hollywood Hills. I lived with all these people.

Question:
What do you feel about any of the criticism that have gone against the show?

George:
One of the criticisms that this dude wrote, this guy who works at NBC, Vic Cabrera, who works in the News Department, he wrote the L.A. Times when the show first came out and said it wasn?t his family, and it wasn?t indicative of a Latino family. And he used the word ?wrong,? ?wrong? the mothers aren?t like that, ?wrong? the fathers don?t? do that. And you know what nothing is ?wrong? only breaking the law is wrong, but my interpretation of how my family is isn?t wrong. I couldn?t tell somebody ?Hey man, you?re wearing red shoes and you?re wear ?em on each feet, that?s wrong.? You do whatever you want to do. And like I always say, if you don?t like it, don?t look at it.

It?s just like when the ?Cosby Show? came on, people said ?a black doctor married to a black lawyer, they?re not black,? it?s that ridiculousness all over again.

Regarding complaints that the show isn?t Latino enough: We don?t concern ourselves with that, because it?s easy to stand on the outside and say it isn?t this and it isn?t that. But you know what it is, it?s prime time TV and it?s on the air and it got picked up. Are those people going to console me when I get cancelled because I did a thing about splitting a goat in half in the backyard? Where are those people going to be then? Or ?I don?t like the show because they drink in the backyard all day.? Well you know what, Latinos do drink in the backyard on weekends, not all of them, but there?s a certain percentage that they drink and they party. This guy [the character of George] doesn?t drink to get drunk and he doesn?t drink with his friends in the backyard in front of his kids. We?re very protective of the people and it?s very unfortunate that I would take criticism not being enough one way or not being enough the other way.

Question:
What are the plans for storylines on the show?

George:
When we got together during the summer and we started to think of what direction we wanted to take the show, since Bruce (Helford) and Robert Borden, the co-creators with me, they did ?Roseanne,? and I loved ?Roseanne? and I loved what that show was doing. So we?re trying to go in that ?don?t be afraid of tough territory? thing. And one of things about my life, is that I never knew my father, he left when I was two months and there?s a whole story about what I think happened and what my grandmother tells me.

So we wanted to do this thing that my whole life [on the show] Benny (my mom on the show, played by Belita Moreno) has been telling me my father was dead, and I find out by running into a woman at Costco, which did happen in real life, my father is alive and not dead and living in Northern California. Although the sisters lost touch with him and nobody knows where he is. And I have to deal with finding out that my Mom lying to me about one thing, but lying to me about my father being alive, the unforgivable lie.

So I don?t think you see that in half-hour TV.

The season opener is going to be with Esai Morales and is about me telling bedtime stories to my son Max about this idealistic father that I?ve created in my own head. Who is nothing what my Dad was like and I don?t want to tell my son that, so I make up these stories. And Esai plays my ?perfect Dad.?

Also Sandra Bullock will be coming back during sweeps month. And Cheech Marin will also be appearing as a guest star. And we?ve added Carl Anthony Payne to the regular cast, who previously starred on ?Martin.? He?ll be playing a engineer in the factory where I work.

My wife Angie the ?Queen of Lost Causes? (played by Constance Marie) gets herself overly involved in everything such as bringing home a mangy dog nobody wants, signs our daughter up for things at school and is always trying to help.

Carmen (Masiela Lusha) has to deal with growing up and doing the right thing in choosing to stay with her best friend since they were kids or go into the clique of the popular kids and other social things. High school is going to be tough for her.

But it?s all done in a way that it?s not too heavy, we always want laughs. Bruce is the one, he?s brilliant when it comes to driving stories and situations in the [writing] room.

Question:
Any last comments?

George:
This show is an underdog, it?s not like other shows that there have been a hundred variations of the same idea. This show is like that piece of grass that grows through a concrete floor, and you ask how did that grass get through that thing? We?ve fit ourselves in and have done everything the right way and it?s really out of our hands. All we can do is what we?ve been doing which is what we consider to be entertaining, funny shows. And ultimately America will have to decide if they want to see us or not. If they don?t, it speaks to us as a people, that they?re not ready yet, when you?ld hope in 2002 they would be ready and embrace us. I know that wrestling is the number one show watched amongst Latinos and it?s a little disconcerning to me. I understand it but we were number six, right after the Simpsons, and I?m thinking, chingao you?d rather watch cartoons than watch human Latinos? We really are in trouble.

I think the show should be completely supported by Latinos and if you do have an opinion about it voice your opinion, but still support the show. And if you don?t want to watch it, don?t watch , but don?t kill it either.

For more information about the show or to email ABC in support of their decision to renew this promising and long overdue Latino TV show, go to:

http://www.abc.com or email: netaudr@abc.com
Also: http://www.georgelopez.com

To attend a taping of ?The George Lopez Show? tickets are free but reservations are necessary and the minimum age requirement is 16 years old, I.D. is also required upon arriving at the Warner Brothers studio gate. Free parking is available.

Currently the show is scheduled to tape at 5:30 P.M. on the first three Thursday nights of each month until December at Warner Brothers Studios, 4210 W. Olive Ave., in Burbank.

For more information, including schedules (which do change on occasion), group tickets, studio maps or anything else about getting tickets (for almost any TV taping in Los Angeles) go to:

http://www.audienceunlimited.com

or call 818/ 753 - 3470

If you are interested in ?The George Lopez Show,? then also check out ?Greetings From Tuscon? which is a new show airing on the WB Network about a Latino teenager named Pablo and his family living in Tuscon, Arizona. ?Greetings From Tuscon? will air Friday nights at 9:30 P.M. on the WB and audience tapings are scheduled for Tuesday nights.

This story originally published for LA Times.com Noches del Pueblo at http://www.latimes.com/extras/noches/whatshot/index_lopez01.html






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