Brown Is the New Green



8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12
KCET Los Angeles

If the full title is confusing ("Brown Is the New Green: George Lopez and the American Dream"), at least it accurately reflects the multiple themes of this one-hour documentary.

Through facts, interviews, film clips and clever graphics, it explains Latinos to non-Latinos as it weaves in and out of the personal story of comedian George Lopez. Here and there, useful nuggets of information come to the surface, mostly in a haphazard way.

For example, the docu, produced and directed by Phillip Rodriguez and funded in part by Latino Public Broadcasting, says at the outset that Latinos, 44.7 million strong, are America's largest minority. Curiously, most don't consider themselves part of that group but, instead, identify with their country of origin, according to this program. The docu asserts Latinos are lumped together for the convenience of the federal government and marketers. They also are lumped together by Rodriguez, who draws no distinctions among Latinos during the rest of the program.

Interviewees include Bill Dana, whose Jose Jiminez character was considered demeaning to some. Along with the Frito Bandito and others, we get a sampling of the thoughtless depiction of Latinos 30 and 40 years ago. What's puzzling is why clips from the Dana interview keep popping up throughout the hour.

The docu celebrates the success of "The George Lopez Show" on ABC only to close with a footnote that the sitcom was canceled in May, to be replaced by one about cavemen. That's true, but slightly disingenuous because -- like Lopez's show -- the cavemen comedy, regardless of how well it comes off, also explores societal prejudice with humor.