BelSpeak: The Upcoming Premiere of CBS’s “Rob” has Latinos Talking

Commentary by Bel Hernandez

The 2011 fall season was not good to Latinos. With only two new Latino faces (and one Latina) added to the primetime network lineup; Eddie Cibrian in The Playboy Club and Hector Elizondo on Last Man Standing, it turns out that Elizondo is the last Latino “standing” when The Playboy Club was canceled in early October. Now the networks turn to their mid-season replacements and for CBS that means the premiere of their new sitcom Rob on January, 12, 2012 which stars actor/comedian Rob Schneider and an all Latino cast.

The sitcom is based on Schneider’s real life marriage to a Mexican American beauty. It has a stellar Latino cast including Cheech Marin (playing the patriarch); Diana Maria Riva (the mom); Lupe Ontiveros (grandma); Eugenio Derbez (as the undocumented uncle); Ricky Rico & Juan Martinez as young and older Pepe resectively; and Spain’s Claudia Bassols playing Rob’s real life wife.

Although CBS should be commended for greenlighting a show that employs seven series regulars, and sure to employ more Latinos as the show continues, Latinos are already burning up the social media, blogs and writing articles complaining about the show. The cynicism is not without merit. They have seen past shows with the “offensive jokes about pinatas, immigration and spicy food and women”. Even the exclamation points originally used in the title of the show were a subject of discussion. The exclamation points have gotten more press than the talented cast in the show.

If you check out the show’s teaser (WATCH HERE http://www.latinheat.com/videos/227/), it could be said the naysayers might well have a point. That once again this sitcom will make jokes at the expense of the Mexican American family portrayed instead of presenting a realistic – albeit funny — representation.

As we Latinos all know, the key to not writing a stereotypical show about Latinos is the writing staff. Do this writers know Latinos families beyond the ones they see in the movies or past TV shows; beyond their housekeeper or gardener; or the immigration news stories they see on Fox News or CNN?

Rob Schneider and his real wife Patricia

Looking through the writing credits, we find that the series writers listed are Lewis Morton and Robert Schneider. Of these two I think it is safe to assume that only Schneider can be said to really know a Latino family. Consulting producer Norma Safford Vela, might (research did not indicate if she is Latina), but she might have married into a Latino family. But then there is Schneider’s wife Patricia Azarcoya Schneider who is a consultant on the show…now here there are no if’s, she knows about Mexican families.

So can we all just chill until we get a chance to see the show before we make a decision on whether this show is your same old stereotype? We owe it to the talent to at least see their work and see what they can do with the material they are given. We owe it to the network for greenlighting a Latino themed show. We owe it to Rob Schneider and Patricia for sharing their life story, and to some extent, we owe the writers a chance to show us that they can do right by us. If not, as TV history has shown, this show will not be talked about by Latinos or anyone else!