Rob Premieres to Record Ratings in Spite of Critics

(l-r) Cheech Marin, Diana Maria Rivas, Eugenio Derbez, Lupe Ontiveros and Rob Schneider in the middle

By Bel Hernandez

One can never predict what audiences will watch.  That is certainly the case with CBS’s new sitcom Rob, which is the only Latino themed sitcom to make it onto the small screen from the 2010-2011 line up.  However the critics, almost unilaterally panned it and the initial buzz from the Latino blogosphere was a resounding nay.

Basing their criticism of the show on the trailer, the blogging began early December 2011. First up was a blogger on NBC Latino who who only last year was in the same situation of being criticized for a pilot she was producing before anyone even had a chance to see it. That got Facebook buzzing. Following up were the FOX Latino and The Huffington Post Latino Voices bloggers, with the popular Latinorebels.com blog, who were already busy battling ABC for their misguided sitcom Work It (the Puerto Rican character actually had the line: “I’m Puerto Rican, I’d be great at selling drugs.”) joining in full force.

Rob, which stars and is executive produced by Rob Schneider (Deuce Bigalow, SNL ) and an all Latinos cast including, Cheech Marin, Diana Maria Rivas, Lupe Ontiveros, Claudia Bassols, and Eduardo Derbez, is based on his real life marriage to Mexican producer Patricia Azarcoya Schneider, was under intense scrutiny.

The trailer was enough for bloggers to cry foul. They would not stand for the same tired stereotypical jokes at the expense of Latinos! On the other hand, the television critics who did get to watch the show before it premiered, hated it. They labeled it racist and unfunny, calling it the “worst show” among the batch. Still others said:

  • “The show revels in racial stereotypes” – Salt Lake Tribune
  • Rob plays like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” after seven or eight tequila shots. – Los Angeles Times [isn’t this, in itself a little racist?]
  • “…a bunch of leaf-blower and illegal- immigrant jokes—ensues”…TIME Magazine

One critic proclaimed it “dead on arrival”!

But darn that unpredictable audience.  They not only watched, they watched in such numbers that it propelled the premiere of Rob to deliver CBS’ highest ratings in the Thursday 8:30 PM time slot in almost a year.  It premiered with a 4.1 rating among 18-49-year-olds, helping give the network a 3.5 rating in the key demo for the night and an average audience of 14.3 million.

So what happened?   Did the audience tune in because of the controversy or in spite of it?  One thing for certain, social media had a hand in this.   But another curious factor was that this time around you had multiple Latino organizations sending out e-blasts encouraging their constituents to give the show a chance and watch.  And they did.

Among the organizations that supported the watching of the Rob were MALDEF (Mexican-American Legal Defense Educational Foundation), and later on the Media watchdog National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC).  Even Dolores Huerta, labor leader and co-founder of the United Farmworkers Union, got behind the show.  This is the kind of support Latinos in the entertainment industry have been searching for a long time. These organizations made a difference and more importantly this is the kind of support that could prove to be very powerful for future shows.

So all in all every player had a part in making Rob a ratings a hit,, (cast included) initially anyways. The second episode that aired last week did drop some but was still a respectable rating.  Time will tell if the audience will hang in there, if the show does not fall into the predictions of the bloggers, and if we can look forward to the continued support of the Latino organizations to help get, and keep the positive images of Latinos we all yearn for, on the small screen.

Note:  Next we tackle the Anatomy of the Sitcom.  From greenlight to premiere.  Stay tuned.