Aisle Of Wit

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Lopez Vs. Lopez Vs. Logic

I’m sure George Lopez has some very redeeming qualities.  Sandra Bullock, known as one of the sweetest and most accessible “big name” stars around, saw enough in his potential to build a sitcom around his stand-up act with him as it’s lead.  She and Warner Brothers took full advantage of a struggling and castigated ABC to sell the idea to them, where it performed adequately for five seasons before running out of gas in 2007.  During its run, Lopez was a frequent honoree and fund raiser for numerous charity events, many of which supported causes for Mexican-Americans who at the time saw him as a leader.

When ABC did cancel it Lopez was furious, bitterly complaining that their choices reeked of racism.  One of their inexplicable pickups was a show called CAVEMAN, loosely based around a character which starred in insurance company ads of the day.   “They have room for s caveman, but not a Chicano?”, he lamented.

The aggressive sales team at WBTV took full advantage of this hue and cry and found a willing buyer in Viacom, which saw his ABC show as a natural extension of the family-friendly formula and an inclusionary cast that THE COSBY SHOW demonstrated as a reliable performer on several of their networks. GEORGE LOPEZ reruns became a surprising hit for both Nick-at-Nite and TV Land and opened up new opportunities for him.

But two different original cable network sitcoms and a variety show all failed to make it into a third season, each effort less well received than the prior.  Each time a new show would launch Lopez would be front and center promoting the need for diverse comedy snd citing the original show’s track record.  Each failure made Lopez still more bitter and reactionary.   He would cite personal experience that audiences wanted to see themselves better represented and that his track record made him a natural choice for it.

And now he’s got yet another crack at it thanks to NBC and their own desire to bring back bygone eras where they dominated weeknights with lineups of must see TV comedies (none more successful than THE COSBY SHOW).  In the same era, ABC carved out its own path with “TGIF” and a slew of family-centered shows similar to FULL HOUSE, multigenerational lighthearted shows ideal for families to begin their weekend with.

It is in that vein that his latest effort, LOPEZ VS. LOPEZ , appears to be targeted, and it is being aggressively promoted on SNL and SNF as it prepares to kick off next month.  NBC is well off enough on every other night with Dick Wolf dramas and reality competitions, and the current state of Friday night TV, especially theirs, is one that screams “why not”?  Its current early evening Friday effort, COLLEGE BOWL, trails its competitors with a 0.2 A 18-49 rating; the time period leaders are at a 0.4.  It features Lopez and his real life daughter Mayan as co-stars, and is improbably the ONLY  new sitcom being attempted by a broadcast network this fall.

Yet this narrative parallels that one  which I worked on five years ago when ABC was chasing similar ethnographies and histories   DR. KEN was anchoring a Friday night lineup that teamed him with a show featuring Cristela Alonzo.  Alonzo’s show bad obvious dogwhistles to Lopez’ hit launched fifteen years prior—a multigenerational family-appeal show with a Latino comedian as it’s lead . And Ken Jeong was as hungry for a bit and willing to promote it as was Lopez in his day and, for that matter, Alonzo was.

But DR. KEN never broke the 0.9-1.o rating ceiling despite promotion as aggressive and targeted as what Lopez is attempting now.  Promotion aimed at football fans.  Promotion targeting his past success with COMMUNITY fans and, of course, fans of THE HANGOVER.  Promos from a familiar, well-liked lead with a favorable history   With a theoretically low bar for success.

But DR. KEN, or for that matter CRISTELA , did not succeed,  SHARK TANK has.  DATELINE does for NBC for the balance of Friday evening.  Wrestling has outperformed the likes of LAST MAN STANDING, a formulaic Friday family comedy which ran its course for both ABC and FOX which LOPEZ  VS LOPEZ also seems to channel.  And likely drew parallels to to help the research NBC may have seen to help sell it in.

I’m sure many would see me as anti-woke yet again to be as as snarky and down on Lopez’ right to have a chance to succeed this fall.  Particularly with such little downside. After all, at a 0.2 the fall to the ocean floor isn’t that far, right?

I just don’t see anything beyond pious hope that justifies a belief that the upside is evident.  The promos I’m seeing so frequently are, to me, neither original nor funny.  I’m not the target demo, to be sure, but I’m much closer to Lopez’ demo than  that of his target audience.

I’m open to being proven wrong.  Lately, many think I’m horribly off base    But on this one, I’ll make a bet I might be more right than those hoping to resurrect their past will be.

And just maybe I’ll be able to resurrect mine. Sigh.