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TV Land Series Doesn't Capture George Lopez's Swagger, Our Critic Says


Comedian George Lopez takes the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" route tonight with his new sitcom called "Lopez" about a comedian named George Lopez. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says the new show on TV Land is the latest from the comic that falls just short of memorable or groundbreaking.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: From the opening scene of George Lopez's new TV comedy, battle lines are drawn. Lopez plays a put upon, semi-famous Latino comic named - you've got it - George Lopez. He endures a constant stream of humiliating and absurd situations thanks to his wealth, his fame and his ethnicity. Here, Lopez is dealing with a clueless white guy neighbor and his wife who want Lopez to trim the trees on his property.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) I bet you could trim these up really nice right now.

GEORGE LOPEZ: (As George Lopez) You know, you wouldn't have even been able to afford to move into the neighborhood if I hadn't had moved in first and lowered the property values.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) That's racist.

LOPEZ: (As George Lopez) Wait a minute, how's that racist? I mean, to you people, everything is racist.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) You people.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) All right, all right, all right, the issue's not George's racism...

DEGGANS: No, the issue, at least on this show, is all the odd situations faced by a Latino celebrity with enough wealth to move around in a mostly white world. Like, this scene where the fancy private school his daughter attends wants to ask a favor.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character) So at this year's fundraising ball we want to auction you off as our celebrity assistant. The highest bidder gets to have you do whatever they want for a day.

LOPEZ: (As George Lopez) Slave for a day.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) No, George, we don't call it that anymore.

DEGGANS: And when he tries to refuse, a little controversy from Lopez's real-life past comes back to haunt him.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) Can I be honest with you?

LOPEZ: (As George Lopez) You haven't been?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (As character) When you took your wife's kidney and then divorced her, it didn't really help you with the Bragmore (ph) community.

DEGGANS: This could have been a groundbreaking combo of insightful riffs on race, class and show business. If only sitcoms like "Black-ish" and "Episodes" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" hadn't got there before and better, which brings us to the central problem with George Lopez. He's a talent that TV just doesn't know what to do with.

Too often he's shoehorned into television shows that rarely gel into quality. He's had five TV series over the past 14 years. Nearly all of them have his name in the title, including a talk show for TBS, "Lopez Tonight," and a comedy on FX called "Saint George." But his greatest success came on the 2002 ABC sitcom "George Lopez," which also featured him as a dad with a spoiled daughter.


MASIELA LUSHA: (As Carmen Lopez) I only need money for ski stuff. It shouldn't be more than, like, $500.

LOPEZ: (As George Lopez) Five-hundred (speaking Spanish) 500 (unintelligible).


LUSHA: (As Carmen Lopez) How about you don't get me anything for Christmas?

LOPEZ: (As George Lopez) You're still $480 short.


DEGGANS: Not one of these series captured the edgy, energetic swagger that Lopez brings to his stand-up comedy. Like this bit, reacting to politicians criticizing Latino immigrants.


LOPEZ: When hotel rooms can clean themselves...


LOPEZ: ...When food can cook itself...


LOPEZ: ...When little white babies can raise themselves...


LOPEZ: ...Then maybe we'll leave this country. The only question you need to ask yourself is what can brown do for you?


DEGGANS: Some critics question whether he spreads stereotypes or lampoons them. But at a time when Hispanics are severely under-represented on TV, it makes sense that Lopez would get more than a few chances to develop a quality show.

But like too many of his TV projects that have come before, this TV Land series just isn't insightful or funny enough, which leaves George Lopez trapped, yet again, in a show that isn't nearly as good as he is. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.