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A.K.A. Pablo aired from March until April 1984 on ABC.
Norman Lear was the Executive-Producer of this short-lived comedy about a struggling young Hispanic comedian and his large, noisy family, who rooted for his success, while wanting him to treat his Mexican-American heritage with almost solumn dignity. Paul Rivera (Paul Rodriguez)-still called Pablo by his family-used a lot of ethnic jokes in his act, which sometimes offended his traditionalist parents Domingo and Rosa Maria ( Joe Santos, Katy Jurado). But every Mexican joke he used seemed to spring from his home situation, whether it was about sister Lucia and her swaggering husband Hector (Martha Valez, Arnaldo Santana), stuffy brother Manuel and his coquettish wife Carmen (Bert Rosario, Maria Richwine), or unmarried ( but anxious)sister Sylvia ( Alma Cuervo). Jose ( Hector Elizondo) was Paul's fast-talking but inexperienced agent, while the rest of the regulars consisted of the Rivera/Del Gato children They included Edie Marie Rubio as Linda Rivera; Antonio Torres as Nicholas Rivera; Claudia Gonzalez as Anna Maria Del Gato; Martha Gonzalez as Susana Del Gato; Mario Lopez as Tomas Del Gato; Beto Lovato as Mario Del Gato and Michelle Smith as Elana Del Gato.
An Article from The New York Times
NORMAN LEAR RETURNING TO SITCOM LAND
January 31, 1984,
Norman Lear is returning to television - as the creator of a half-hour situation- comedy series for ABC-TV in which almost every character is Mexican- American. He is negotiating with Showtime for a bawdy comedy set in Restoration England that would be the first situation-comedy series on pay-cable. And he has sold a situation comedy that indicts television, ''Good Evening, He Lied,'' to NBC-TV.
Norman Lear is returning six years older, six years balder, but not one ounce less liberal or less hopeful than the day he slammed his office door in February 1978.
The creator of ''All in the Family,'' ''Maude,'' ''The Jeffersons,'' ''Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,'' and ''One Day at a Time'' swore then that he was done with week-to-week television. He canceled himself, if not his series, while he was at the top of the Nielsen ratings.
The ''innovative writer who brought realism to television'' - the words the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences used to praise Norman Lear Jan. 21 when he became one of the first seven people inducted into its Hall of Fame - wanted to leave the world of 30- minute situation comedy that he had transformed.
After the debut of ''All in the Family'' on Jan. 12, 1971, the dandelion fluff that had been spun into hundreds of thousands of half hours of comedy was no longer enough. On ''All in the Family,'' toilets flushed for the first time on television and people were constipated, threatened with rape, homosexual, impotent, afraid of breast cancer. The premier dramatic writer of television's golden age, Paddy Chayefsky, said Norman Lear, ''took television away from dopey wives and dumb fathers, from the pimps, hookers, hustlers, private eyes, junkies, cowboys and rustlers that constituted television chaos, and in their place he put the American people.''
Bought Embassy Pictures
Although Mr. Lear has also been responsible for such interesting failures as ''Hot L Baltimore'' and Alex Haley's ''Palmerstown,'' and such disasters as ''All That Glitters'' and ''The Nancy Walker Show,'' television has made him rich. He has taken home a large share of the more than $100 million that the shows he created have earned in syndication fees.
Two years ago, with his partner, Jerry Perenchio, he bought a small movie studio, Embassy. Embassy Pictures is currently struggling for box-office successs; it has, however, distributed Ingmar Bergman's ''Fanny and Alexander.'' Embassy Television currently has five series on CBS-TV and NBC, with which Mr. Lear has not been directly involved. They include ''The Facts of Life,'' ''Silver Spoons,'' and ''Diff'rent Strokes.'' An Embassy subsidiary owns cable systems with 135,000 subscribers.
Why, then, is Mr. Lear bothering to return to the world of the sitcom?
''Because,'' he said, ''the world has turned 180 degrees in the last six years; 1984 is a foreign country. There are new things to say.''
He Discerns New Views
Because he has not looked at television during the last six years, the 61- year-old Mr. Lear is a mini-Rip Van Winkle, although with pointed wings of white hair on each side of his bald skull he looks more like a prematurely aged Bozo the Clown.
In 1978, he said, feminists were quipping that ''a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.''
''I had even turned Edith Bunker into a fledgling feminist,'' he said. ''There are two dozen women at Embassy who once thought they only wanted to be career women and who now want to find 'that special guy.' The most ardent feminists now seem to understand that the male-female equation is a necessary part of life. I don't see television reflecting these changes.''
There are other changes he does not see reflected on television: ''The 70's were a decade of issues, conflict and confrontation. I feel the theme of the 80's is the desire and need for connection, for belonging, which is manifested in the proliferation of fundamentalist preachers all over the tube.''
With his response - a series called ''a.k.a. Pablo'' which will be shown on ABC Tuesdays at 8:30 P.M. starting March 6 - he is gambling that he can entice the necessary millions of television viewers into involving themselves with Hispanic people. Almost every series with Hispanic characters in leading roles has failed, including ''Popi,'' ''Viva Zapata,'' ''Condo,'' ''On the Rocks,'' ''A.E.S. Hudson Street,'' ''Freebie and the Bean,'' ''In the Beginning'' and ''9 to 5.'' Only ''Chico and the Man'' and the hard-action series ''Chips'' have been ratings winners.
'I Go by My Gut Instinct'
Starring Paul Rodriguez - who is in reality the son of a former migrant farm worker - as a young comedian trying to succeed in an Anglo world, ''a.k.a. Pablo'' is centered in the living room of a large Mexican-American family. The 15 family members who swirl around Pablo include sisters, brother, sister-in-law, brother- in-law, six nieces and nephews and Katy Jurado and Joe Santos as his mother and father.
''I feel people want to be part of a big family again,'' Mr. Lear said. ''I go by my gut instinct. I think most people are nostalgic for something they've never known. The airplane and telephone were supposed to make the world smaller. They've made it bigger.''
The walls of Mr. Lear's office are crowded with three-foot-high aphorisms, from Robert Louis Stevenson's, ''To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive,'' to Thomas Carlyle to Ralph Waldo Emerson. They are dwarfed by an Ed Ruscha painting of ''TRUTH,'' the word rising from the walls in flaming letters.
'My Grandfather Mattered'
As a 10-year-old boy, Norman Lear went to live with his grandfather for two years. It was his job to mail the letters that Shia Seicol, a Russian immigrant, wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, letters that always began, ''My dearest darling Mr. President.'' He said that four or five times when he went down three flights of stairs to the mailbox, he found letters from the White House.
''That my grandfather mattered made me feel every citizen mattered,'' he said.
By the time he was 15, he had found ''the biggest bargain in the world'' at Western Union. When he wanted his own soap box, he spent $2 to send the same 10-word telegram to every member of Congress. ''There was always a stunning response,'' he said, ''at least 50 letters.''
Now he uses thousands of words instead of 10. The ''Truth'' that Norman Lear is trying to work into the fabric of ''a.k.a. Pablo'' and ''Good Evening, He Lied'' is, he said, his concern ''over what television is doing to us.''
''It trivializes violence,'' he said. ''It trivializes the need for a quiet time, for thoughtfulness. It has decimated our ability to concentrate. It has weaned generations of kids who think life has only to do with winning and losiing, and if you're not a total winner you're an absolute loser.''
At 14, a Coney Island Barker
One episode of ''a.k.a. Pablo'' deals with the comedian's use of his family as the butt of his jokes on a talk show. ''Why does the audience's laughter give a comedian the right to talk about intimate details of people whose permision he hasn't asked?'' Mr. Lear asked. ''Good Evening, He Lied'' centers around a news director who must trivialize the news to improve his station's ratings.
Though he said he wonders ''what my father's hand is doing hanging out of my sleeve'' and if the pratfalls he takes to amuse people seem a little embarrassing in a man of 61, his optimism still keeps him warm on the coldest winter days. His need to care - to nurture any idea or person who demands care from him - is his most endearing characteristic and his greatest fault.
''He meets a kid in a train station, and all of a sudden Embassy has hired the kid,'' one of his vice presidents said. ''We've taped a sign to his telephone. 'DON'T SAY YES.' It doesn't work.''
Norman Lear fishes a scrap of yellow paper from pockets filled with similar scraps and quotes Aristotle. Then he quotes himself: ''We all deliver personal peace to ourselves. No maid or money does it. We do it, reaching toward excellence.''
A Review From The New York Times
NORMAN LEAR'S 'PABLO'
By JOHN J. O'CONNOR
Published: March 6, 1984
RETURNING to television after a voluntary absence of a few years, Norman Lear is once again trying to nudge open the boundaries of situation comedy. His latest project begins a weekly run on ABC tonight at 8:30.
In ''a.k.a. Pablo,'' a young comedian named Paul Rodriguez plays a young comedian named Paul Rivera who, at home in his parent's house, is ''also known as'' simply Pablo. Evidently, the fictional Rivera bears more than a passing resemblance to the real Rodriguez. Both are Mexican-Americans on the verge of success in show-business careers. that were launched in places like Hollywood's Comedy Store and developed on such standard circuits as television talk shows. The resulting ''biography'' is one of those fantasy- reality whirligigs worthy of a giddy French existentialist.
The first three episodes of the series indicate that a strong emphasis will be placed on generation gaps, especially the one between sassy, anything-for-a-laugh Pablo and his serious, man-of-the-house father Domingo (Joe Santos). Domingo is not elated over the fact that his 25-year- old son, the first member of the family to graduate from college, wants to spend his life telling jokes. Furthermore, like some of the Jewish fathers in Philip Roth's novels, Domingo is convinced that his son's ''ethnic'' humor will only reinforce the prejudices of bigots.
That's the serious undercurrent running through ''a.k.a. Pablo.'' The bulk of the programs deals with more typical sit-com material. The Rivera home in Los Angeles is a family beehive that, with assorted spouses and grandchildren, encompasses 16 full- time members, not including Ramon, the parrot. Half of tonight's premiere has Pablo's doting mother Rosa Maria (Katy Jurado) trying unsuccessfully to keep everybody quiet so that he can get some sleep after his appearance the night before at the Comedy Store.
While mama finishes his laundry - Pablo insists she's a member of a secret cult called the Sock Ironers - the rest of the family begins gathering to watch his appearance on television's ''Entertainment Tonight.'' Everybody is happy and excited except papa who says that he does not want Pablo to wind up like the late Freddie Prinze, television's Hispanic ''Chico'' who was destroyed by drugs. But the truth is more complicated.
Papa is afraid of losing his position of authority within the family. Pablo, now the center of attention, gets a check from the ABC network to develop an idea for a comedy series. He is puzzled about his father's glum reaction. Mama recalls the Spanish saying ''la verdad es en el bosillo (the truth is in your pocket).'' She explains: ''What does your father have in his pocket? Lint.''
The basic situation in this new series is certainly servicable, right down to the details that include watching daytime ''novelas'' or soap operas and having a portrait of John F. Kennedy, painted on blue velvet, displayed in a prominent place. With Hispanic-Americans well on their way to becoming the nation's largest minority, ''a.k.a. Pablo'' represents an admirable effort to bring them into the mainstream of popular entertainment as far more than a convenient excuse for a ''funny'' accent. However, at least in these early stages, the show has its problems the most glaring, awkwardly enough, is Paul Rodriguez. He may be a very funny performer but he is also a terribly wooden actor. His more dramatic scenes are rather painful. And he is nearly always outclassed by the veterans surrounding him, especially Hector Elizondo as Pablo's agent.
Created by Mr. Lear and Rick Mitz, ''a.k.a. Pablo'' does take the kind of chances that merit encouragement in a medium best known for timidity.
A Review from The Washington Post
Lear's 'a.k.a. Pablo,' A Sitcom with Heart
By Tom Shales March 6, 1984
"A.k.a. Pablo," the first new Norman Lear comedy series in half a decade, is full of life and full of lives. It isn't precisely full of laughs at this point, but there are a good number of them, and the series has a warmth and festivity that have been missing from situation comedies since--well, perhaps since Lear stopped making them.
The ABC series premiere, at 8:30 tonight on Channel 7, introduces no fewer than 16 continuing characters, most of them members of the same Mexican American family of whom young Paul Rivera (played by likeable newcomer Paul Rodriguez) appears the most upwardly mobile. He has chosen a career as a comedian, but the jokes he makes to get laughs often contain barbs aimed at his own ethnic heritage.
This leads to the primary conflict of the first program, one between a proud, unyielding father (Joe Santos) from the old country and the irrepressible, restless son from the new. "Of course I make jokes about our people, 'cause that's what I know," Paul tells his father in the second act of the premiere. "And because I'm not ashamed of them."
Like any other program in which Lear has personally been involved (he cowrote tonight's script with Rick Mitz and is executive producer and "creator"), "Pablo" mixes social commentary with broadly played, high-decibel domestic comedy. At first encounter, the mix does not seem perfectly harmonious, yet the program is brimming with possibilities. Since it is not only a team effort but a teeming one, there is an almost limitless potential for character interaction.
By the same token, the high population may make the program seem confusing to some viewers, although the script is so methodical about introducing each person and his or her dominant personality trait, and the direction by Joan Darling (of "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" fame) is so fluid and smooth, that the story and character development hurtle forward with invigorating velocity.
"Pablo" is produced on tape, as were the Lear classics of old, and as many as eight (and no fewer than six) cameras are used on each episode; four is the norm for a regular taped show. Lear consulted "Cheers" director Jim Burroughs for advice on how to keep an ensemble program staged on a large set moving along swiftly. On the surface at least, "Pablo" is a beautifully functioning, well-oiled machine.
The cast includes Hector Elizondo as young Paul's agent and, in her first series television role within active memory, Katy Jurado as Paul's mother. Jurado is perhaps best remembered for playing Gary Cooper's other love in "High Noon." She is larger now. And more maternal, appropriately enough.
Ironically (or nearly ironically), "Pablo" replaces, at least for a few weeks, "Happy Days," the Garry Marshall comedy that ushered in a parallel era of mindlessly reactionary sitcoms just about the time Lear revolutionized the form with meaningful topicality. Lear's name is associated with topicality and richness of characterization, but one other important thing his best shows had is, simply, heart. "Pablo" has it, too, and that gives it an advantage over every other comedy series on the air except "Cheers."
This, in a TV season of numbing diffidence and mendacious inanity, is cause for hope.
For more on A.K.A. Pablo go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.k.a._Pablo
For an episode guide go to http://ctva.biz/US/Comedy/AKAPablo.htm
For some A.K.A. Pablo-related interview videos at the Archive of American Television go to https://interviews.televisionacademy.com/shows/aka-pablo
To watch the opening credits go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G--m0JFgG0
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Keywords: The Cast of A.K.A. Pablo