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Archive for Thursday, January 12, 2012

‘Rob’ exhumes old-school comedy traditions

January 12, 2012

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“Rob” (7:30 p.m., CBS) is not as horrible as I had feared. And that’s saying a lot.

Rob Schneider (“The Hot Chick”) plays the title character, a fussy, obsessive-compulsive landscape architect and bachelor who impulsively marries Maggie (Claudia Bassols) in Las Vegas. There’s little chemistry between the two leads, who are supposed to be madly in love.

Comedy ensues when Maggie feels compelled to integrate Rob into her large Mexican-American family. Cue the ancient, lame ethnic jokes. It’s a little sad to see a network comedy fumbling so awkwardly around Hispanic-American culture 60 years after Lucy married a Cuban bandleader on “I Love Lucy.”

The chief tensions on “Rob” are between Rob and his in-laws, Fernando (Cheech Marin) and Rosa (Diana Maria Riva). Ethnic jokes! In-law humor! It feels about as fresh as a Dean Martin roast.

For its many faults, “Rob” is a rare comedy that actually admits that grown-ups have extended family ties, tensions, affections and responsibilities. Devoid of any discernible ethnicity, Rob is a perfect symbol of rootless contemporary TV characters. He complains about his mother’s insistence that he see her “almost every Christmas.”

If “Rob” survives (and it could just thrive), it’s because Cheech Marin has the potential to play Archie Bunker to Rob’s Meathead. Clearly aimed at a large and growing Hispanic audience, “Rob” would do well to downplay Rob and put the accent on Maggie’s disapproving family.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Jenna’s celebrity irks Tracy on the season premiere of “30 Rock” (7 p.m., NBC).

• A cryptic message, written in blood, on “Bones” (7 p.m., Fox).

• Carter becomes a witness on “Person of Interest” (8 p.m., CBS).

• Andy finds a sales goal daunting on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).

• A delicate separation on “Grey’s Anatomy” (8 p.m., ABC).

• A divorce lawyer’s murder yields plenty of suspects on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).

• Mitch must take one for the team on “The Firm” (9 p.m., NBC).

• A frisky quartet adjusts to single life on “Private Practice” (9 p.m., ABC).

• “Independent Lens” (8 p.m., PBS) begins a five-part history of apartheid, “Have You Heard From Johannesburg?”

Cult choice

A downed airman (David Niven) cheats death, then challenges a heavenly tribunal in the 1946 fantasy “A Matter of Life and Death” (11:30 p.m., TCM).

Series notes

Penny offers advice on “The Big Bang Theory” (7 p.m., CBS) ... “Wipeout” (7 p.m., ABC) ... An unwelcome milestone on “The Vampire Diaries” (7 p.m., CW) ... Leslie’s major event on “Parks and Recreation” (7:30 p.m., NBC).

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