In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, TV Land
There was a time when watching stars play fake versions of themselves in comedies, particularly eponymous comedies, was almost daring. Gasp! They’re mocking themselves! Gasp! They’re doing bad things! Gasp! He’s roped in all his mates to do the same thing!
I can’t remember exactly when that time started – The Larry Sanders Show, maybe? – but if you think about how much fun Patrick Stewart was in Extras, for example, you’ll know what I mean. However, it’s pretty much definitely finished now. Thanks to the likes of Hoff The Record and Donny!, just the sight of an eponymously titled show makes we groan inwardly. Can’t they think of anything new to do? Do they think this is still daring? Can’t they think of some actual lines or funny situations that don’t rely on the star playing themselves to yield the laughs?
Certainly, that’s how I felt going into Lopez, TV Land’s new comedy series starring George Lopez. I mean, I’d not even heard of him, so how funny was this going to be?
Surprisingly, the answer is quite funny. Not hilarious, but still funny and in fact frequently incisive. As you might have gathered, the shows sees Lopez, the star of many previous eponymous shows including George Lopez and Saint George, playing a version of himself who’s rich, famous and living the celebrity lifestyle in Los Angeles. He sends his daughter to an expensive private school – so expensive, it actually has its own valet service – and he has lots of similarly rich and famous friends, including Snoop Dogg (or should that be ‘Snoop Dogg’ in this instance?).
He’s also got problems with his white neighbours who think that everything he says is racist. He’s got problems with the esteemed former mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa (‘Antonio Villaraigosa’?). He’s also got problems with Snoop Dogg, as well as a black friend of his, who doesn’t want to bid for him in a ‘celebrity assistant for a day’ auction to raise money for the private school.
In a summary, that doesn’t quite work and that’s in part because the writing is more about details. Sometimes, it’s simply knowing what it’s talking about in detail, such as when Lopez has to deal with his young manager as they negotiate for an endorsement from a young Vine star
Manager: I’m trying to see if he can go from 6 to 15.
Lopez: I don’t understand that.
Manager: 6 seconds is how long a Vine video can be, 15 is how long an Instagram video can be – I want to see if he can still hold the audience’s attention.
Lopez: You’re kidding?
Manager: You’re right. 10 might be better – I should consider Snapchat.
It’s when Lopez’s spoilt daughter is objecting to his appearing in the auction (“Can’t you just give them a château or a private chef like all the other parents do?”). It’s the references to black and Mexican culture and the various societal rules (“I can’t bid for you in an auction: that would be like that Disney cartoon where Goofy owns a dog”). It’s the meaningless phrases that Snoop Dogg comes up with that baffle everyone, but they assume are just street slang.
To some extent, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Lopez is a lot better than you might have suspected – it’s created and written by John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, who co-created Silicon Valley and King of the Hill. And there are sufficient laughs for me to definitely consider watching more. It’s also a lot more than yet another old guy gets angry at the world for its various perceived slights against him and is a lot warmer and nicer than those potted bits of comic misanthropy.
However, for you UK readers, the biggest problem is that watching it, if you’re like me, you’ll feel like how the average American must feel when they watch Downton Abbey – aware that there’s a lot of cultural niceties that the native audience understand instinctively but which are going over my head, yet not quite sure what they are. On top of that, Lopez himself is almost completely unknown here, so again, it’s like those episodes of Extras in which Ross Kemp or Les Dennis played themselves.
So although I’d say Lopez is actually pretty good and worth trying, I’m not sure I feel compelled to watch it in the same way I would with a more universal comedy. Give it a try, though – it might surprise you, particularly if you’re American and so might get a lot more from it.