Poster: Mr. Television
(see this users gallery)
Luis aired from September until October 2003 on Fox.
Bearded Luis ( Luis Guzman) had worked hard all his life and was now the owner of Park Avenue Donuts, a small food store in the Spanish Harlem section of Manhattan, as well as the building in which it was located. Although he was long divorced from his ex-wife, Isabella ( Diana-Maria Riva), she spent much of her time in the shop eating his doughnuts and reminding him, why they were no longer married. Although she denied it, she believed they would eventually get back together. Their daughter, Marly ( Jacklyn DeSantis), a teller at the East Harlem Community Bank lived in the building with her boyfriend Greg ( Wes Ramsey), a tall, free-spirited artist who had little success selling his paintings to pay his half of their rent. Others seen regularly werer Richie ( Charlie Day ), Luis' loyal assistant, who wished Marly would break up with Greg and start dating him; T.K. (Malcolm Barrett), the black neighborhood kid who tried to sell trash from Luis' dumpster to his customers; and Zhing Zhang ( Reggie Lee), the Chinese delivery boy who claimed he had been a cardiologist in his homeland.
An Article from USA TODAY
Posted 9/9/2003 11:05 PM
Hispanics finally break the TV barrier
By Gary Levin, USA TODAY
Kiele Sanchez is a blond, green-eyed TV actress who doesn't exactly fit the mold of Latina spitfire. "I was never Latino-looking enough to play the part," she says. "The roles out there are very sort of stereotypical, where you have to have dark hair and dark eyes."
So naturally, she's playing a white-bread woman in Kansas, no less on one of 36 new series this fall, the ABC sitcom Married to the Kellys.
It's a reversal from 40 years ago, when Natalie Wood donned dark makeup to play Puerto Rican Maria in the movie West Side Story. It's also a measure of progress on the small screen as programmers belatedly step up efforts to diversify their prime-time lineups.
An annual study from ad buyer Initiative out today reveals that the number of Hispanic actors on network TV has grown fivefold since 1990. Seven percent of regular actors on the major networks more than 40 in all are Hispanic, up from 4% just two years ago.
And two new Fox comedies, Luis and The Ortegas, reflect the networks' desire not only to put Hispanic faces on the air but also to find diverse programming with crossover appeal.
"This is probably the first year I can honestly say there has been a lot more observable effort to reach out and cast more minorities in programs," says the study's author, analyst Stacey Lynn Koerner.
"It's better than it has been," agrees George Lopez, whose self-titled ABC sitcom is one of the few crossover successes to date. Lopez cites diversity on series from CSI: Miami and NYPD Blue to Scrubs and That '70s Show. He says the new Latin-themed series "come as a direct result of us staying on the air. Our show is non-threatening; we don't try to correct all the wrongs that have happened to Latinos. We just try to be funny."
The improvement isn't altruistic: It's partly a response to protests from a coalition of minority interest groups, dating to 1999, that faulted the networks for casting mostly white faces in many shows even those, like Friends, set in the melting pot of Manhattan.
But it also reflects a major population shift. The Hispanic television audience is the fastest-growing, most underserved and now the largest minority in the USA:
Census data show there are 38.8 million Hispanics in the USA one of every eight Americans a startling 76% increase from 1990. Alone, they far outnumber the entire population of Canada.
Nearly half of U.S. Latinos are under 25, compared with just 34% of the general population, an especially riveting statistic for the youth-obsessed TV business. And most of those younger Latinos prefer English or are bilingual.
Hispanics watch 7% more TV, on average, than others. The gap is even larger among kids, who research suggests often wield the remote control in their homes.
"There's not an advertiser out there that hasn't taken notice of the demographic shift," ABC Entertainment president Susan Lyne says. "The Hispanic audience is so heavily skewed toward under-25-year-olds that if you're looking at the next generation of television viewers, all those numbers are significant now, but they make up a much larger percentage of the emerging audience."
Advertisers 'see green'
So, taking their cue from the music industry, where Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Christina Aguilera are mainstream hitmakers, TV is increasingly singing a multicultural tune. NBC even bought Spanish-language network Telemundo two years ago.
"It doesn't matter what the color of the other person's face is; it's that they see green out there," says Alex Nogales, who heads the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
For years, Hispanic viewers have existed in a parallel universe. Separated by a language barrier (lessened somewhat by closed-captioning), they have flocked to Univision, the dominant Spanish-language broadcast network, and smaller outlets such as Telemundo, Galavision and Telefutura. Today, those networks still represent nearly half of all viewing by Hispanics. Univision's audience alone remains nearly as large as the Hispanic turnout for the six broadcast networks combined.
In effect, the Latino population in the USA is increasingly split. On the one hand, there's an older group of immigrants who prefer Spanish and gravitate toward addictive soaps, known as telenovelas, and throwback variety shows such as Univision's popular Sabado Gigante (Giant Saturday).
Then there's a burgeoning group of U.S.-born "new-generation" Latinos, who are "culturally very Latino but not solely defined by language, by using Spanish all the time," says David Perez of Lumina, a consulting firm. "This group is younger, with more spending power and more education, and is not specifically targeted by programmers at this point. There's no BET for Latinos. They're watching MTV, The Simpsons and Friends just like other kids their age." (And along with their Anglo counterparts, American Idol and Joe Millionaire, which harks back to those romantic novelas.)
Janet Villarreal, 30, describes a typical night in her Los Angeles home: Her parents "have their own TV, so they watch novelas in Spanish. I'm watching Fear Factor ... (but) I do watch news in Spanish." But her bilingual 9-year-old son "doesn't really watch Spanish at all. He'd rather just watch cartoons."
Says George Lopez, "I know that in these cross-culture homes, one TV will be on in Spanish, and one TV will be on in English."
Yet until now, mainstream TV hasn't targeted Latinos with culturally relevant shows. "They tend to fall through the cracks between Friends and Spanish-language programming," says David Chitel of producer LatCom Communications. "We call that a Latino media void."
Some Latino programmers are beginning to take notice of the lost opportunity. Telemundo's English-language Mun2 network, launched three years ago, is now available in 6 million cable homes, and competitor Si TV expects to start late this year. This week, Telemundo began closed-captioning two new shows in English for the first time.
Telemundo and Univision also are stepping up original production, instead of merely importing series from Mexico or South America. "We're trying to give the shows a point of reference for U.S. Hispanics storylines, locations, stars so it's more relevant to our audience," Telemundo president James McNamara says.
TV has moved far since The Cisco Kid and Pancho rode on horseback in the 1950s, Chico and the Man made a brief star of Freddie Prinze in the 1970s, and actors such as Jimmy Smits and Hector Elizondo began appearing, infrequently, in prime time a decade later.
Last season, The George Lopez Show became a modest hit as ABC's No. 3 comedy. Luis, starring character actor Luis Guzman as the owner of an East Harlem doughnut shop, is due next week, and The Ortegas, a hybrid of a family sitcom and TV talk show that's based on a British series about an Indian family, arrives Nov. 2.
But such efforts face the same long odds as other TV shows. Last season's Latin-themed newcomers, WB comedy Greetings from Tucson and NBC's drug-trade drama Kingpin, proved short-lived.
With the only Latino-themed series, ABC and Fox have made the biggest strides. Hispanic actors now account for 11% of their prime-time totals, up from 3% and 4%, respectively, just two years ago, Initiative's report says. But that figure is still below the 13% of the population that Hispanics now represent. Fox has long led English-language networks among Hispanic viewers, last season claiming the top three series.
Among new shows this fall, Fox's Skin centers on a love story between a Jewish-American princess and a Mexican-Irish teen, played by D.J. Cotrona. And ABC's rookie-cop drama 10-8 featuring three Latino actors, was created by Jorge Zamacona (Oz and Third Watch).
"We're not necessarily looking for a show set in the barrio, but (Latinos) want to see their faces" reflected in prime time, ABC's Lyne says. "The next wave of shows will not be all Hispanic; there's a bigger opportunity in a new Friends that has two Hispanics in it. It's multicultural programs that are going to have more opportunity."
Those that specifically address ethnic culture also must reach beyond that audience to succeed on a major network. Just 16% of George Lopez's audience is Latino, while one in four viewers of Damon Wayans' ABC comedy My Wife and Kids last fall was black.
"I don't think it's so much of an issue when you do shows that have wide appeal," says Fox Entertainment chief Gail Berman, who hopes Luis and The Ortegas can succeed with crossover audiences the way The Bernie Mac Show and Wanda at Large have done. "You don't get those kinds of numbers unless you reach out beyond the core audience to a universal audience."
Nowhere has that been more evident than among the youngest viewers. Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer is the top-rated preschool series on commercial TV among all viewers.
Nick has scored with The Brothers Garcia, and Kids WB has Mucha Lucha, a cartoon series about Mexican wrestlers. And you won't find TNT or Lifetime among the most popular cable networks for Hispanics: Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon head the list.
"Dora is becoming an iconic character in the Hispanic world," says MTV Networks group president Herb Scannell, but it has far more Anglo fans willing to chant along with its bilingual songs. "I don't think ethnicity is a barrier to kids."
Among grown-up fare, "you have to see there's progress, but it's incremental," Nogales says.
Jeff Valdez, who produces Brothers Garcia and is the founder of Si TV, says, "Diversity of faces is one thing, but diversity of quality of stories has been lacking."
Blacks have been more visible on TV, "mostly because there are more programs that are African-American-centric on the schedule," including six UPN sitcoms, Koerner says. "Almost every ensemble cast out there has an African-American character, but you can't say the same thing about Hispanics."
Drug dealers and maids
Although grateful for the strides, Latino advocates complain that some networks continue to underrepresent them in their casts or relegate them to stereotyped minor roles as drug dealers, itinerant gardeners or feisty maids, as on Will & Grace.
They say that will be difficult to change so long as those who wield power remain white. A study by the Directors Guild of America showed just 2% of series episodes had Latino directors last season.
"In this world of fantasy, Latinos are a subculture and not equal," Lopez says. "To the mind of the producer, writer, creator, we're still the help. We're still the people who come to the house and raise their kids while they go off to Hollywood."
A Review from The New York Times
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
Published: September 19, 2003
A similar white slacker is made a fool of on ''Luis,'' Fox's shrewdly packaged show for Luis Guzman, which also has its premiere tonight.
Mr. Guzman, the short character actor whose eyes are connected by a deep crease across the top of his nose, plays Luis, a Puerto Rican who owns a building and a doughnut shop in Spanish Harlem. He also has a daughter named Marly (Jaclyn DeSantis), a bourgeois exemplar: ''My little capitalista, wearing a name tag from a real, live bank.'' Marly, for her part, has picked up Greg (Wes Ramsey), a lanky blond who looks as if he might have played lacrosse at Exeter. Greg, who is nominally a painter, is out of money.
''We love each other,'' Marly says. ''It doesn't matter who pays the bills.''
Her father takes a different view. ''He got to you,'' Luis says. ''That's the tongue of the sponge talking.''
Greg is not the only con artist on ''Luis.'' There is also Richie (Charlie Day), a wheezy half-wit who works the doughnut counter and leers at Marly; his spastic delivery, which suggests Bobcat Goldthwait, is inventive. A raggedy thief (Malcolm Barrett) who sells his haul in the doughnut shop is funnier still. Advertising his goods (''A waffle iron and a 'White Oleander' DVD -- Renee Zellweger is a damn triumph''), he might just steal this show.
Mr. Day and Mr. Barrett stand out because they're not obliged just to tell the corny jokes about race that are meant to prove that ''Luis'' minces no words. Elsewhere on the show, the rote delivery of blacks-and-Jews jokes is enough to make one miss even the most supercilious days of political correctness.
''I'd have a nicer building if you would have given birth to a shortstop, like a Dominican woman's supposed to,'' Luis tells his ex-wife, Isabella (Diana-Maria Riva).
''Oh, please,'' she responds. ''He'd be half Puerto Rican. He'd be too lazy to practice.''
Exchanges like this one may induce in some viewers nostalgia for the street-bigot gaspers of, say, Don Rickles. (Those were the days.) But nostalgia is no substitute for comedy.
In fact, whether racism is a fact of life or the ne plus ultra of social transgression, how did television writers forget how little comic potential it offered in the first place?
An Article from The Cincinnati Enquirer
Lots Of Latin Laughs
Two new comedies, one featuring a Delhi Township native, show Hispanic-Americans poking fun at themselves
By John Kiesewetter
September 20, 2003
Copyright 2003 The Cincinnati Enquirer. All rights reserved.
LOS ANGELES - After years of playing secretaries and assistants, Diana-Maria Riva finally can be who she is on TV - a loud, opinionated mother of Dominican descent.
"My spirit is much closer to her than anyone I've ever played before," says Riva, the 1987 St. Ursula Academy graduate who plays Isabella, the ex-wife of Luis Guzman in Fox's comedy Luis.
The Dominican Isabella and Puerto Rican Luis - plus Fox's Mexican-American sitcom The Ortegas - give this fall season a distinctively Latin flavor.
Along with ABC's George Lopez Show, viewers will see a trio of comedies aimed at America's expanding Hispanic population.
"We are the fastest growing population in the country, so they have to put something (on) for that group," says Jaclyn DeSantis (Road Trip), who plays Riva's daughter. "It's a huge audience."
Viewers this fall will see a colorful variety of Latino characters from different cultures poking fun at each other, not unlike the way Ohioans make fun of Southerners, says Riva, who grew up in Delhi Township as Diana Uhlenbrock. She took the maiden name of her mother, who was born in the Dominican Republic, when she began acting professionally here in 1995.
In Luis (8:30 p.m. Friday), the Spanish Harlem donut shop owner Luis (Guzman) complains that his Dominican ex-wife should have given birth to a highly-paid shortstop.
Isabella retorts: "Oh, please! He'd be half Puerto Rican, so he'd be too lazy to practice."
Riva, whose credits include Kim Delaney's Philly, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Mel Gibson's What Women Want, says her Isabella "can be as big, and colorful and as loud as I want to make her. And I'm pretty loud and pretty colorful, and I've got big hair," she says.
"I have family in Ohio, and you don't see Dominicans or Puerto Ricans really there, so you're not really accustomed to it (But) it's very comical and exiting and fun to watch," Riva says.
Close to home
Guzman, born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York, says Luis also comes close to home.
"I grew up with Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Central American people," says the actor, whose credits include Out of Sight, Carlito's Way, Oz, Boogie Nights, Traffic and Anger Management.
"I get to portray how I grew up, and how I related to people, and how people related to me. It's a wonderful thing. I mean, for me, it's a no-brainer," he says.
In the show, Luis expresses his disappointment that his daughter has fallen in love with a starving artist. "Of all the white guys in the world, you found the one with no money," he says.
On The Ortegas (8:30 p.m. Sunday), based on a British TV hit, a young Mexican-American (comedian Al Madrigal) hosts a TV talk show in his backyard studio.
Co-hosting the show-within-a-show are his immigrant parents (Cheech Marin, Terri Hoyos) and grandmother (Renee Victor), in this half-hour program that's part scripted, part ad-lib.
"There have been other Latino shows, but this is the first one incorporating improv," says Hoyos, daughter of Mexican actor Adolfo Hoyos and wife of Greenhills native John Donovan.
Hoyos as Esmeralda Ortega has the best line in the pilot, when she asks talk show guest Howie Mandel: "If you are Canadian, and you are Jewish, can you eat Canadian bacon?"
In the scripted part of the show, before the "talk show" begins, the three generations of Ortegas joke about their favorite Mexican foods and about having a 30-year-old son still living at home.
"Latinos have a wonderful sense of humor about themselves," says Hoyos, who has appeared in Bulworth, Family Law, Touched by an Angel and Diagnosis Murder. "We love joking about our culture."
Until George Lopez premiered in spring 2002, Hispanic series could only be found on PBS (American Family) and cable (Resurrection Boulevard, The Brothers Garcia).
ABC has been so pleased with George Lopez that it will anchor the network's new T.G.I.F. ("Thank Goodness It's Funny") lineup at 8 p.m. Friday this fall.
CBS show in works
By next fall, CBS could have a Latino comedy on the air. CBS has "a wonderful script that includes a Hispanic family, but we couldn't find the right cast. Unless we have the right cast, we're not going to do it," says Nancy Tellem, CBS Entertainment president.
Guzman thanks Fox "for being very supportive, by adding Luis and The Ortegas to the TV picture.
"It's about time there are more Latino shows," says Victor from The Ortegas, a veteran actress, singer and choreographer (Two Days in the Valley, Assassination Tango). "Black shows have been prevalent for a long time."
"I think we're headed in the right direction, but we've got a long way to go" Riva says.
"You know that the networks tend to keep up with the Joneses," she says. "Maybe they'll start keeping up with the Lopezes."
For more on Luis go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_%28TV_series%29
For a Review of Luis go to http://www.entertainyourbrain.com/luisrev.htm
� Date: Mon May 19, 2008 � Filesize: 33.5kb � Dimensions: 340 x 425 �
Keywords: Luis: Luis Guzman