Lopez vs. Lopez Review – George Lopez Injects Reality Into Old School Sit-Com Norms

Pictured: (l-r) George Lopez as George, Mayan Lopez as Mayan -- (Photo by: Casey Durkin/NBC)

Twenty years after George Lopez took a shot at building a sit-com with Hispanic culture taking center stage, he’s back but this time instead of centering things directly on culture or community, we’re focused on problems, shortcomings, and dropping a lot of salt into the sweet.

Starring with his real-life daughter, Mayan, Lopez plays a working-class man who only recently reconnected with his daughter, and the timing isn’t perfect because the pandemic took a real toll on his financial situation. What began as a kitchen renovation project with the daughter he has only been on good terms with for a few weeks suddenly turns into a lot of arguments and a father with nowhere else to live.

As you might expect from any sit-com, the establishment sets us up with a few neverending wells to hit as we move on. Mayan is not married to her son’s father, Quintin (Matt Shively), who George refers to as Quintin the friendly ghost and constantly belittles for not being “manly.” Between that, Mayan and Quintin’s “sex positive”… household? lifestyle? political position?, and the fact that Mayan’s mother, Rosie (Selenis Leyva), stops by to bust George’s chops with some regularity, there’s an easy engine whenever we might need a couple of gags in an episode.

But, however much Lopez might be addicted to talking about his mother throwing shoes at him, there is actually much more about this show that is trying to subvert the genre than there is that’s trying to be funny. At the same time, this is a situational effort that is also trying to throw all the way back to the ’80s for near-slapstick maneuverings.

The show’s first episodes are likely to prove disruptive to its ability to draw fans, because everything becomes buried in so much establishment and thematic treacle that there is little room for charm and laughs. Gags aren’t thought out, or better yet abandoned, because these episodes are Dagwood sandwiches already. It has the potential to be one of the biggest missteps in recent television because ten episodes in this is probably a truly funny show with heart, and lots to say, once we stop profiling everyone.

Pictured: (l-r) George Lopez as George, Mayan Lopez as Mayan — (Photo by: Casey Durkin/NBC)

Lopez’ is a fairly unique brand of comedy, one that relies on ripostes and charm, and it is best served when he has space to just roam around in a scene, or wander in and out of it. This series hasn’t mastered getting the most out of him yet, and the supporting cast start out in a “going through the motions” gear that gives you information, but doesn’t pull you in. It renders them somewhat wooden, especially since they have to stand next to Lopez while their doing it, and I’ve seen them give better. Al Madrigal is especially dying for the series to move into another phase, and when given a chance is a remarkable talent.

It’s balancing between a new version of wholesome and a younger generation giving Lopez what for, and that’s to it’s advantage, but it’s also trying to balance sit-com sensibilities that said younger generation couldn’t possibly make heads nor tails of. It has solid bites early on, not least when Mayan gives George a piece of her mind when it comes to why she doesn’t feel safe, but for now they are overshadowed and delivered in a way that feels overworked.

The honest assessment is that it really isn’t enough to recommend yet, but it will be once it can stop telling and selling and just show and breathe. The question is whether people stick around for the much better show that’s coming.

Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

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