January 13, 2012

TV: Rob (CBS, Thu 8:30)

Rob Schneider stars as Rob (never an encouraging sign when the lead actor can't be trusted to remember a name that's not his own), who has just married Maggie (Claudia Bassols) after a quick 6-week relationship. Maggie is significantly younger and more attractive (in standard sitcom fashion), and is nervous about introducing Rob to her large Mexican family.

That's the setup for half an hour of ethnic jokes that I thought had gone out of fashion 30 years ago (Oh, look! The Mexicans like the guacamole!). Maggie's parents are played by Cheech Marin and Diana Maria Riva, and it is their sheer skill and determination that produces the few laughs to be found here.

We also meet Uncle Hector (Eugenio Derbez), who seems to be up to something shady in the garage and keeps hitting Rob up for a "loan" of $7,200; and Abuelita (Lupe Ontiveros), who speaks only Spanish (and doesn't say much even in that language) and has turned her bedroom into a shrine to her late husband.

(And why would you bother to hire an insanely talented actress like Lupe Ontiveros if you're not going to allow her to speak, or to get laughs, or to do much of anything but shuffle around the house in a tattered robe?)

Now, you could make a funny show about a nervous white guy who's not particularly close to his family, and his struggles to deal with his in-laws, both in terms of their close-knit nature (to him, bizarre clinginess) and the culture shock of the ethnic difference. But to do that, you'd have to rise above cheap Mexican cliches (Rob on entering a crowded room, filled with Maggie's extended family: "I feel like I'm at a Julio Iglesias concert."), tired henpecked husband routines (with both Schneider and Marin as the victims), and offensive sex jokes (Rob's caught looking as if he wants to rape Abuelita! Ho, ho, ho!).

Even if this sounds like something that might appeal to you, I wouldn't bother getting attached; it's not going to be around for long.

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