Chico, don't be discouraged. Last week I mentioned in CHILD OF TELEVISION: The 2006 TV Land Awards. that, "For me the highlight this year was José Feliciano performing the theme to Chico and the Man." Since then I have heard from fans of Chico and the Man expressing their love for the show. But I am amazed that now there is a whole generation of people now who had never heard of the show. If I asked this same generation, "Who is Freddie Prinze?" the answer I'd get is, "Freddie Prinze Jr’s father?" Although that’s the correct answer, I tend to get the answer in the form of a question.
I remember in the fall of 1974 NBC premiered a new show that followed Sanford and Son. The show was called Chico and the Man. It stared Jack Albertson and "Introducing" Freddie Prinze. The show was set was a broken down garage in the barrio of East Los Angeles. The garage was owned by, The Man, a cranky old bigot named Ed Brown (Albertson). Ed liked yelling as his customers and neighbors who were mostly Mexican. Enter Chico Rodriguez (Prinze) a young Chicano, Vietnam vet who comes to Ed's garage looking for a job. In the first few minutes Freddie Prinze steals the show. I was blown away by his performance and thrilled to see a fellow Puerto Rican on TV. (Freddie Prinze actually was of Puerto Rican and Hungarian decent. He referred to himself as "Hungarican". I am of Puerto Rican and Swedish decent, making me a "Swedearican".)
Over the first three seasons, the relationship between Ed and Chico went from adversarial to partners to father and son. Here is my historical television perspective. If Norman Lear opened the door to a new type of television comedy with All in the Family, Chico and the Man was one of the first shows that was not produced by Norman Lear to go through that door (The show was created and produced by James Komack). The show did face some controversy since few Mexican-Americans were actually involved in the production. Freddie Prinze and Jose Feliciano were Puerto Rican. The name "Chico" was considered a derogatory nickname to Chicanos. Chico’s catch phrase "That's not my job" (Used in Freddie Prinze’s his stand up act) was seen as perpetuating the lazy Hispanic stereotype. The catch phrase was later changed to "Looking Good". On January 28, 1977 Freddie Prinze took his life. The show did go on and it was explained that Chico went to work for his father. In the fall of 1977 the show returned with a new Chico (Whose character’s real name was Raul Garcia) played by twelve-year-old, Gabriel Melgar. Coincidentally this was the same time that Fonzie jumped the shark on Happy Days. There are many shows that I grew up with that are being shown to a whole new generation on channels like TV Land. I wish that Chico and the Man was one of them. There are many stars that left us way too early who are getting fans who were not born when they were alive, thus giving them immortality. I want Freddie Prinze to be one of them and thanks to people like George Lopez, Jay Leno and Freddie Prinze Jr that might be possible.
To quote the Theme Song Lyrics,
Chico, don't be discouraged, The Man he ain't so hard to understand.
Chico, if you try now,
I know that you can lend a helping hand.
Because there's good in everyone And a new day has begun
A diamond in the rough! Jack Albertson and Freddie Prinze make a dynamic duo of polar opposites tearing down cultural barriers to eventually warm up to each other. While it is a recurring sitcom, the show progresses over its tenure. See for yourself!
I would have to put this show among my personal favorites as well as put it in the top ten most underrated show list. Jack Albertson (Grandpa Joe to all you Willy Wonka fans) as Ed Brown and Freddie Prinze as Chico Rodriguez make the most unlikely pair of characters yet they work together to put on a great show that is still funny now as it was then. The "single stage" technique (using only a single set for most shows--ala Barney Miller) allows for the characters to explain themselves and the outside world and leaves much for the imagination (while at the same time saving the show's budget). I cannot think of many television shows in the 1970's that portray the urban Hispanic community in such a realistic manor while at the same time sending up stereotypes as icebreakers to cold bigoted hearts (ala All in the Family). By highlighting back-stories of many characters, both main and guest (The Cesar Romero episode is especially touching), the audience is treated to episodes that are both funny and serious. This show deserves more attention, and if more people knew about it they probably would get into it much like myself (I found it watching a weekend-long TV Land marathon years ago). It's a show you can even watch while being "half in the bag" (Just like Ed Brown is most of the time--the show's running joke) because the show moves at the pace one could expect from a 70's sitcom (not much deep thinking involved). I at least wish it could be on TV in reruns if the "powers that be" are unwilling to put it on full-season DVD sets (It might be on a local TV network somewhere but I haven't seen it on a national cable network for years).
' Chico and the Man ' was a classic series which starred some of the biggest talents in Hollywood. Jack Albertson as the Man, Scatman Crothers as Louie, Della Reese and Della and of course Freddie Prinze as Chico.
This show was funny and you could not help but love this series and it's characters. Even with the tragic death of Freddie Prinze, the show survived and even went as far as to mentioning the loss of that character.
' Chico and the Man ' is one of those shows which a network like TVLand should always have on the air as it was and always be a true classic.
The show CHICO AND THE MAN was good tv it was before its time,but the photo you have here is of MIAMI VICE.One thing ,VICE had one black guy ,one white guy.On CHICO there was one puerto rican guy and an a old white guy.GET IT TOGETHER !