Programming

Left Coast Bias: Lopez Show Won't Be Par for the Course

Why George Lopez's upcoming late-night talk show on TBS has a real chance. 3/28/2009 02:00:00 AM Eastern

George Lopez is responsible for one of the best moments in my life, not including my marriage, kids' births and especially the Minnesota Twins' World Series titles. So I probably shouldn't be writing about his upcoming TBS late-night talk show.

It was last year at Ray Romano and Kevin James' celebrity (plus me) golf tournament. The day started with me walking out to the practice range and hitting a shot so awful that (name drop alert) Adam Sandler walked over and said, “Wow, you suck; I'm going to warm up by you.”

But the real fun came after the tournament, during which I got paired up with Lopez. The post-event banquet featured a joke-telling contest judged by Romano and James, and yours truly has always wanted to try standup, despite minor obstacles like a major league lisp and not being particularly funny.

But Lopez helped me get past the nerves, walk up on stage and take runner-up prize for the night with an old joke that if repeated here would have HR tossing me out of our fancy 29th-story offices. So in the interest of journalistic integrity (hey, there's a first for everything), I probably should recuse myself from writing this column.

But objectively, I have witnessed two occurrences that make me think his show has a real chance.

The first was that day on the golf course, where he had me laughing my ample posterior off for most of the round, mostly with off-color stuff. Now anyone who knows me can tell you that I don't tolerate swearing, but Lopez made it work. As for his new show, it was originally pitched as a syndicated late-night offering to stations, but Warner Bros. couldn't get the necessary cash from station groups like Fox or Tribune, and ABC was never interested.

I think that's for the best, and so does Lopez. TBS has a standards-and-practices division that is closer to a broadcast outfit's, but he can still have much more wiggle room on cable.

“Yeah, it's a pure blessing,” Lopez told me when we talked on the phone last week. “I can take some liberties. And that can make jokes funnier. On my [sitcom], the S&P guy was great, but I couldn't say 'ass' more than once per episode and anytime I said something in Spanish, he got nervous. It was like Pleasantville.”

The other time Lopez stood out for me was when I was sitting down the row from him at a recent championship fight featuring Mexican-American slugger Antonio Margarito. When Lopez was shown on-camera, the pro-Margarito arena in Los Angeles went absolutely nuts, and when Lopez hammed it up by standing on his chair later during a break, you would have thought the entire crowd had paid to see him.

Lopez's talk show got sold off a pilot shot last August on the Warner's lot. There was no desk, and a crowd was gathered around him; guests included Eva Longoria and Samuel Jackson. TBS will launch the series in November so it can promote the living hell out of it during the MLB playoffs a la Frank TV (may it rest in peace).

The press release said the show will feature an outdoor street-party atmosphere. I don't know what that means for a talk show, but I know what it implies in New York. So I asked Lopez if it meant I was in danger of getting pickpocketed if I came to a taping.

“Yeah, you might,” he said. “You better get there early.”

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ben.grossman@reedbusiness.com

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