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It could just as easily refer to a generational conflict in television comedy itself, not necessarily between the instincts of co-creators George and Mayan (with Debby Wolfe), but between a ’90s/’00s version of a broadcast sitcom — heavy on the obvious punchlines, playing to the back row of the studio audience — and something more nuanced, in the ’70s/Norman-Lear vein or recent emulators like The Carmichael Show or One Day at a Time.
Lopez vs. Lopez
Cast: George Lopez, Mayan Lopez, Selenis Leyva, Brice Gonzalez, Matt Shively, Al Madrigal
Creators: George Lopez & Mayan Lopez & Debby Wolfe
Through the two episodes sent to critics, Mayan is kinda winning within the show — she’s Gen Z, so she’s the future, and whatnot — but the broader version of the sitcom is clearly in control on a formal and tonal level. There are enough interesting topical elements trying to find a platform to indicate some potential, but I’m more likely to check in at midseason or in a hypothetical season two than to see which show is breaking through on a weekly basis.
As Mayan explains in one of several poorly integrated TikTok videos — she’s Gen Z, so everything she does is a TikTok at heart — her father was never around. He gambled, cheated on her mother (Selenis Leyva) and other stuff. She’s had years of therapy. He’s had some recent adversity. And now he’s renovating her kitchen and trying to reconnect, all the while tormenting her beta-male hubby Quinten (Matt Shively) and getting quality time with grandson Chance (Brice Gonzalez). Rounding out the core ensemble is George’s stoner buddy Oscar, played by Al Madrigal.
Wolfe’s credits include One Day at a Time and ABC’s The Conners, so she knows the rhythms of the modern Lear-inflected multi-cam. You spend maybe 10 minutes making the most predictable jokes possible around a topic; five minutes ideally refining those jokes to a more interesting place; and then the last five minutes acknowledging the seriousness of the episodic premise, hopefully but not necessarily getting one or two additional laughs in the process of teaching the characters and maybe the audience A Very Important Lesson.
Even if it’s a format that tends toward clunkiness, it’s a format I respect, and when Lopez vs. Lopez is in that mode, the series is decent if unremarkable. While we don’t see Mayan doing any therapy other than her TikToks, the background themes relating to de-stigmatizing mental health, explored both generationally and specifically within the Latino community, are well-intentioned and passably executed. Being forced to treat key beats seriously lets George Lopez tone down his natural and career-long tendency toward schtickiness and encourages the same from the less experienced Mayan Lopez. When Mayan says something like, “Some people pass down wealth. We pass down trauma,” it’s a sentiment that has some resonance, even if the show lacks the time or desire to really unpack it. The serious elements aren’t exactly good, but there’s a believable poignancy between father and daughter.
Their actual comfort is much clearer in the comic scenes, so it’s a pity that almost all the humor in Lopez vs. Lopez is so predictable and hacky. It’s mostly a lot of Mayan saying something that the writers think a “young” person would say (or Quinten saying something a young or white person would say) and George misinterpreting in a way that, if you paused your TV after the set-up, would allow you to predict the payoff every time. Like, did you know that young folks use “trigger” one way, but if you’re older you might think it’s gun-related? Yawn. The show can’t decide if it wants to play to George’s fans or to Mayan’s demographic and, instead, settles limply in the middle.
The only thing that’s clear is that whatever its intended audience happens to be, Lopez vs. Lopez has no confidence at all in that audience. Take, for example, Mayan’s early declaration, “Why would I take social media advice from you? You thought ‘Instagram’ was a weed delivery service.” It’s not a great line, but… it is what it is. Here, though, first Mayan has to pronounce the social media platform as “Insta GRAM,” with pause and emphasis no human has ever used when saying “Instagram,” just so that the audience is able to make that “gram” leap. And then George has to follow all too proudly with “Sometimes it is!” to elongate the limited laugh or maybe assure the audience that it was a punchline in the first place. It’s a flaw in writing and performance at once and it’s repeated throughout.
On a basic level, both leads are fine. Mayan Lopez is actually a more immediately comfortable actor than her father was when he was starting out, though she tries too hard to sell some flimsy bits. George Lopez, for his part, makes his character’s weariness seem earned, if rarely funny. My only real chuckles in either episode came from the fairly reliable Madrigal, but this sort of wacky fifth banana role — Mayan calls Oscar “Leach & Chong” because he likes weed and he’s generally around and purposeless — is a step back after his straddling of comedy and drama in Showtime’s I’m Dying Up Here felt like a real career turning point.
The reality is that even if almost everything Mayan says in Lopez vs. Lopez is “right,” the show neutralizes it with a lack of real interest in Mayan’s causes or social media behaviors — and with the tacit awareness that almost nobody in Mayan’s demo is watching broadcast TV on a Friday night. While the title may point to a confrontation, and I can imagine an OK show somehow eventually emerging, so far “viewers” aren’t coming out on top.
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