George Lopez has made a career out of playing different iterations of himself—some fictionalized, some not—on television (see: Lopez Tonight, Saint George, Lopez). Now, more than 15 years after the end of his eponymous ABC sitcom, the Mexican-American actor and comedian is returning to network TV with—you guessed it—another comedy named after him and his family. (In case you forget who you’re watching, the show drops the following catchphrases early on: “There’s a right way, and then there’s the Lopez way.”) This time around, he’s teaming up with his real-life daughter, Mayan, in Lopez Vs. Lopez for NBC.
Created by The Conners’ Debby Wolfe, who has produced some of the best Latino-led projects in recent years (One Day At A Time, Love, Victor), Lopez Vs. Lopez stars the father-daughter duo as fictionalized versions of themselves as they rebuild their dysfunctional relationship after years of estrangement. The series is, and feels, largely autobiographical; Mayan has openly admitted to having a fractured relationship with her father after her parents went through a very public divorce a decade ago, before mending their relationship in the early months of the pandemic.
Many of their personal issues, such as George’s struggles with sobriety and gambling, are addressed head-on in the show, which strikes a balance between the predictable clash of old-school and new-school attitudes but, like most of George’s comedy, eschew subtlety in favor of spelling things out for audiences. Those creative choices don’t hurt the world-building of the early episodes, but if the show wants to find a way to cut through the noise of today’s TV landscape, the writers will need to trust the intuition of their audience.
The series begins with a recurring TikTok gag that was part of the original genesis of the show: Mayan introduces her father to the app’s users with a string of honest admissions that are read by an automated voice—and then proceeds to twerk. The gag works to varying degrees; the videos’ blend of physical comedy and cheesy sentimentality in the pilot feels clever and heartfelt, whereas the TikTok in the second ep feels cringe-worthy. Since the writers seem insistent on saddling the show with contemporary concerns, they will need to find a way to incorporate TikTok as a plot device without letting it hinder the story being told.
It’s only been six weeks since the fictional George and Mayan have begun to hang out again, with George—the owner of a moving company who, for some reason, always seems to have a beer in his hand or within reach despite a history of alcoholism—offering to help his daughter renovate her kitchen as a way to bond. Insisting that the two-hour drive between their homes wastes valuable time and energy, George asks Mayan if he can stay with her until the renovation is complete—when, in reality, he’s been in financial ruin since the start of the pandemic and has been secretly sleeping in his car. Mayan—who wants her adorable young son, Chance (Brice Gonzalez of EnkyBoys on TikTok), to know his grandfather—reluctantly accepts after consulting with her boyfriend and son’s father, Quinten (Matt Shively), who has a hard time standing up to George and serves largely as the show’s sweet but predictably toothless comic relief.
While they excel much more in the light-hearted moments than the dramatic ones, the Lopezes, as co-leads, play effectively off of each other, making it easy to wonder which storylines have been mined from conversations in their own personal lives and which ones have yet to be had. The show’s scene-stealing character, however, doesn’t even live in Mayan’s house. That title belongs to Rosie (Selenis Leyva), the tart-tongued but loving mother of Mayan and ex-wife of George. (How much does she love them? Well, she’s still willing to tolerate her ex’s antiquated antics and now frequently makes jokes about the mistress[es] George had during their marriage.) One might expect Rosie to be a fictionalized composition of the real woman in George and Mayan’s life, but Leyva has made the character her own, consistently delivering delicious one-liners (“Pobre viejo estúpido”; “Oh, honey, Mayan’s never respected you”) that are genuinely funny.
When The George Lopez Show was canceled in 2007, the actor lashed out at ABC, most likely because there were more stories that he wanted to tell. In some ways, Lopez Vs. Lopez feels like both a natural continuation and a different version of that story, with another George cracking many of the same kinds of jokes—only now, he finds himself in the wise-cracking grandparent role that was played by Belita Moreno in George Lopez. But in the 15 years since that show went off the air, there has still been a puzzling dearth and lack of longevity for Latino-led projects—let alone sitcoms—and it remains to be seen if this new iteration, which is hoping to combine nostalgic appeal with a more modern sensibility, will find an audience in its freshman run.