ABC (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m. ET)
The father is a grouch, a blue-collar flag-waver, a sexist, a shouter…but he’s really just a crusty marshmallow once you get to know him. Mama obeys her husband, but rebels once in a while; she’s smarter than she lets on. And the kid’s called a bum. It sounds all too familiar: All in the Family Eat Frijoles, Maude Goes Mexican. It is another Norman Lear creation, his first sitcom in five years. This one’s set in the Los Angeles barrio. Mexican-immigrant-gardener Papa (Joe Santos) is ashamed that his son Pablo (Paul Rodriguez) is a comic who makes Mexican jokes. He’s also afraid for the kid. “I don’t want Pablo to end up like Freddie Prinz,” Papa says. They fight. They argue politics: “You know why Papa voted for Reagan?” Pablo says. “Because he likes his hairdo. He thought he was Chicano.” (That’s a joke Rodriguez repeated on the Tonight Show.) But father and son always end up hugging. The family is huge and loud. The characters are all likable, especially Rodriguez, a comic find. Judging from the first few episodes, Pablo can catch your attention and emotions and, more than once, your laughter, just as All in the Family did. But that’s the problem; it’s a show concocted from a formula—Lear’s own. It’s a shame to see Lear turn his creativity into clichés.