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Midseason TV: '¡Rob!' Series Premiere Review

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Jan 12, 2012 | 6:45pm EST

Hawaii-Five-0Rob Schneider has small roles in most of his buddy Adam Sandler’s movies that inexplicably, and invariably, become blockbusters. Said movies are pretty much uniformly terrible (not including Punch Drunk Love and Funny People, which are entirely cut from a different cloth), crass, crude, easy, broad, occasionally vaguely racist, etc. Here’s where I’m going with this: Schneider’s new sitcom, ¡Rob!, makes any of those movies – even Jack and Jill – look like [insert your pick for the best movie of all time]. It is indeed SO lowbrow, SO altogether God-awful, it’s as though the Adam Sandler Movie Goons (aka the team of geniuses, including the Sand Man himself, responsible for conceiving and writing his “comedies”) farted out – or at least fart-noised out – the ¡Rob! idea and deemed it not worthy of exploring … and CBS came in and said, “We’ll give it a shot. Nobody seems to mind the borderline racism on 2 Broke Girls!”

In reality, the concept is Schneider’s, “loosely based on his whirlwind romance and marriage to Patricia Azarcoya Arce, a TV producer from Mexico," according to CBS. Schneider plays a "landscape architect" named, oddly enough, Rob, who in the first few minutes of the show has just married his ridiculously out-of-his-league girlfriend, Maggie (Claudia Bassols). What should be newlywed bliss turns into anxiety when Maggie says she wants to go tell her parents of the nuptials, in person. And there’s an even bigger problem: Maggie’s parents (Cheech Marin and Diana Maria Riva), and the rest of her family, are Mexican! Dun-dun-dun (or womp-womp-womp, as it were). Naturally, things don’t go well when Rob and Maggie meet the parents. It’s stuff we all go through, though: perpetuating broad racial stereotypes, winding up in a sexual position with a grandmother (Lupe Ontiveros). That’s right! True to Adam Sandlerian form, it doesn’t take long for the incredible hijinks to lead to Rob finding his way to “Abuelita’s” room, losing his pants, quasi-groping her from behind and getting caught by almost everyone. Comedy! The pilot episode is the equivalent of that gag, repeated between commercial breaks, punctuated by an attempt at tenderness to close the show. Which fails, but needless to say, is the best moment. Comic relief in the truest sense.

¡Rob!

is a bad show on two levels: The writing is horrendous, and it is genuinely mildly offensive and racist. We’re not prudes – culture clash is great fodder for awkward, subtle humor; see Modern Family, for one – but there’s a right way to churn laughs out of this subject and a wrong way. Smarter comedians (Louis C.K. comes to mind) might reference specific examples of something funny that happened to them; ¡Rob! and its star/creator, on the other hand, are very content to rely on and resort to caricatures of the people at whom they’re trying to poke "good-natured" fun. I mean, the mere mention of the word “guacamole” sets off the howling laugh track – as do lines like “It feels like I’m at a Julio Iglesias concert” (on a side note, it’s amazing to think how much doesn't make it past the standards people, but that one? No problem.) and “These people – they’re all Mexican?”

Schneider, too, has less than zero appeal as a protagonist – which isn’t to say he’s deplorable, but there’s absolutely nothing compelling, as has always been the case. If forced at gunpoint to find a bright spot, Cheech Marin (oh, poor Cheech) would be it almost by default. It’s sad to see him playing such a character on such a show, but at least he seems to be giving it his all, elevating the worst lines imaginable to … something barely above that. There’s genuinely so very much sad about this show. It’s bad; really bad. Maybe even too bad to become CBS’ next hit sitcom.

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