Saint George: TV Review

Byron Cohen/FX
"Saint George"
Despite a decent turn by Danny Trejo as Lopez's uncle, canned jokes and uninspired writing define the series, which also doesn't fit in with FX's other programming. 

The broad and charmless comedy stars George Lopez as a fictionalized version of himself, struggling to balance his American life and Mexican heritage.

What viewers can expect from Saint George, a new half-hour comedy series starring George Lopez, comes not from a description of the show, but from FX's expectations of it. It's the second time the network has used the 10/90 model (usually a broadcast prerogative), meaning that if the first 10 episodes get decent enough ratings, the series is automatically given another guaranteed 90. It's a choice that sets a network up to churn out comedy series that are financially viable to produce in the long-run, and will likely play well in syndication. Business-wise for FX, it makes sense. It's also something the network has already done with the Charlie Sheen series Anger Management, which premiered in the summer of 2012. But when it comes to FX's other programming -- Anger Management aside -- Saint George doesn't fit. 

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With Anger Management, there was at least a morbid fascination with Sheen at the time, given the travails of his personal life. Lopez, despite a recent incident that found him arrested for public drunkenness, doesn't have that same pull, though FX is likely encouraged by the fact that his sitcom, George Lopez, which aired from 2002 to 2007, found success in syndication.

Playing a fictionalized version of himself, the George of Saint George is a successful businessman who is recently divorced from his "ray of sunscreen" (i.e. white) wife Mackenzie (Jenn Lyon), though the two are still abnormally close, partially because of their 11-year-old son, Harper (Kaden Gibson). Since the divorce, Lopez has been living with his overbearing, and often just plain mean mother Alma (Olga Merediz), as well as his freeloading uncle Tio (Danny Trejo) and goofy cousin Junior (David Zayas). 

Since Anger Management ended up making enough of a go to earn its full episode order, FX seems to be taking a chance on another similarly broad comedy, to see if that model will again stick. Still, the idea of FX, purveyor of so many great, gritty dramas and irreverent, occasionally masterful comedies, as the home to a series like Saint George makes one wonder: is something unexpectedly cool, subversive or interesting about to happen with it, or did FX just decide to try on CBS's hat for a day? 

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Most of the premiere episode -- the only one available for review -- focuses on George "getting back out there" when it comes to dating. The show, which employs a laugh track, is aggressively without subtly. George is pursued by an Assistant Principal, Concepcion (Diana Maria Riva), in a way that would normally be grounds for endless sexual harassment lawsuits. (George teaches history at a local Los Angeles night school to "give back" to the community, much like Sheen did with his prison work in Anger Management). Discussing, unprovoked, the state of her pubic hair, she says, "I'm more hardwood." A grimacing George replies, "I'm now the opposite of hard wood." If that wasn't obvious enough for anyone (couldn't he have just stopped at "opposite" and let viewers fill in the rest?) Concepcion says to him several minutes later, "just let me hit that." That's about as clear and combatively sexual as could possibly be. It's also base, broad and extremely lazy writing. Not to mention unfunny, which Lopez looks like he actually knows during some of the worst gags. So why not make it better?

While most of the interactions feel canned, or are just cheap jokes about Anglo versus Mexican culture, there are occasionally a few moments that break forth with genuine humor, mostly thanks to Trejo and Zayas. A foul father-son duo, Tio and Junior are also the most animated participants in the cast, and there's a certain humor to the large Junior always calling Tio "Daddy," and with Tio telling George he's not being Mexican enough ("listen to Daddy!"): "You should have children coming out from all over the place, knocking on your door with luggage." He then explains the benefits, "they can do everything for you -- answer the door, get you a cigarette," etc. Uncle Tio even knows that "if the nail on [a woman's little toe] falls off, they just paint the skin!" That fact, presented with childlike wonderment, is probably the biggest thing anyone can get out of the premiere, though Trejo's portrayal of Tio is most certainly the stand-out of Saint George, and a reason that those who are initially curious about the series might keep coming back.

Lopez has his fans, and FX is surely hoping that enough of them tune in to make that 10 turn into a 90. But even for them, much less for the typical FX viewer, Saint George is just as jarring an inclusion to the network's comedy roster as Anger Management, and probably even less likely to find a following. In fact, many may take the premiere's episode title as a suggestion: "Won't Get Fooled Again."