¡Rob! Is Re-Establishing Network TV’s Relationship With Latino Viewers

Two week’s ago, CBS debuted ¡Rob!, a sit-com about a lifelong bachelor played by comedian Rob Schneider who impetuously marries his Mexican-American girlfriend of six weeks in a Las Vegas ceremony and now must win over her tight-knit family. The pilot, though panned by critics, premiered with the time period’s best viewer and key demographic numbers since May 2010 according to a press release from CBS:

ROB (P) was first in households (7.9/12), viewers (13.48m), adults 25-54 (5.4/13) and adults 18-49 (4.1/11).  ROB posted the time period’s best delivery with a regularly-scheduled program since May 13, 2010 (SURVIVOR: HEROES VS. VILLAINS) in households, viewers, adults 25-54 and adults 18-49.

One reviewer described Rob’s wife Maggie as a poor woman’s Sofia Vergara, and that’s no wonder since it’s Sofia Vergara who kicked the network doors wide open for Latino comedic characters in 2009 after the phenomenal success of Modern Family. Though Modern Family is an ensemble comedy, there’s no secret Vergara is one of the driving forces behind the show’s critical and popular success. Just look at the insane amount of commercial endorsement deals she’s received since the show first premiered: Diet Pepsi, CoverGirl, State Farm and Kmart. The Kmart deal alone was rumored to be for $8 million, and she’s worth every penny. Just watch as the gorgeous bombshell convinces female viewers anyone can be as sexy as her if they shop at Kmart.

After the crash and burn of ABC’s Work It, which premiered just ten days before ¡Rob! and immediately raised the ire of Latino viewers after the episode made a joke about Puerto Ricans being natural drug dealers, things looked grim for ¡Rob! whose pilot relied heavily on Latino stereotypes for its humor. But with 13 million viewers tuning in, the audience seemed clearly split between reviewers and “regular people”. Comments that appeared below a USA Today review by Robert Bianco, entitled “What’s Wrong With Rob? The Whole Enchilada”, were just one example of that divide:

The offensive jokes. Ha. It just shows how much this writer knows of Mexican culture where the saying goes, ‘if you cannot laugh at yourself, then don’t bother laughing.

That sentiment seemed to sum up the opinion of the large majority of viewers defending the show. In other countries, they argued, people are not as politically correct as in America. Add to that the fact that mediocre television can bring in huge ratings, and you just might have yourself a hit vehicle that speaks to a large majority of American-dwelling Latinos.

To help matters, the second episode of ¡Rob!, which fell a “respectable,” according to TV By The Numbers, 12% from the premiere, dialed down the ethnic humor and focused on universal themes like the comedy inherent in dealing with in-laws. The show retained 85% of its premiere numbers, according to CBS, and that was against the season premiere of American Idol.

Cast members Cheech Marin, who plays Maggie’s dad, and Eugenio Derbez, who plays Maggie’s weird Uncle Hector, were allowed to flex their comedic muscles through dialogue as opposed to bawdy physical humor in the second episode. In fact, if there’s a new talent for commercial endorsers to discover on Rob, it’s Derbez who has regaled Mexican audiences for the past decade with his top rated shows. Here’s a sample of his wonderfully oddball delivery in that episode entitled “Second Wedding” in which Rob and Maggie decide to get married again so her parents can throw them a wedding.

Whether ¡Rob! will last more than one season is yet to be determined, but the show’s performance bears close watching because, if the current numbers are any indication, it will. And if that happens, ¡Rob! will be the first successful Latino family comedy since the cancellation of George Lopez in 2007. Either way, the incredible premiere of ¡Rob! is an important lesson for American media on how to communicate successfully with a large Latino audience.