Rob (Thursdays at 8:30 on CBS)
It seems like all the major networks are competing for who can air the worst midseason comedy. ABC was the winner, but it faces stiff competition from NBC with Are You There, Chelsea? and now from CBS with Rob. Which one is worst will depend on your personal opinion of what type of humor is most offensive.
Rob (Rob Schneider) met Maggie (Claudia Bassols) only six weeks ago, but they have just gotten married in all-night chapel in Vegas. Rob sent his parents a text message to share the great news, but Maggie insists on being a human and telling her family in person. So the newlyweds go to break the news, only to have Rob met with disdain.
The story is inconsequential, as it often is in sitcoms. The pilot sets up the running gag or ,theme the show will follow and introduces the characters. There is nothing new here: newlyweds! fish out of water! cantankerous in-laws! It's nothing more than a vehicle for Rob Schneider, a former SNL cast member and "movie star" (the term is used loosely, as he's mostly reviled by intelligent movie watchers). He is surprisingly tame, considering this is the man responsible for Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and the unwatchable The Animal. But he's also not engaging or terribly likeable. Ditto Bassols (a Spanish-language actress), the blandest sitcom wife in recent memory, and Cheech Marin as her father, a welcome presence who doesn't actually add anything to the proceedings. The entire cast sleepwalks through the pilot, hitting marks and spewing awful jokes but not really acting at all.
Speaking of the awful jokes, whatever happened to shows that were funny because they're funny? It seems like every sitcom on the air now has to be predicated on some very specific type of offensive humor: gender jokes (Work It, Last Man Standing, Whitney), drunk jokes (Are You There, Chelsea?), and now racist jokes. Can't people just be funny being people? My favorite sitcom, Will & Grace, featured gay characters but it was never predicated on gay jokes. Shows like this one, however, are predicated on nothing more than throwing every specialized joke at the viewer. Every negative stereotype about Mexicans you can possibly think of is reiterated in the pilot of Rob: they have large families, they cross the border illegally, they have shrines in every corner of the house, they work low-wage jobs, they can't afford housing, etc ad nauseum. The entire foundation of the show is built upon the premise that it's funny for white people to make fun of Mexican stereotypes. Work It is funny because men make fun of female stereotypes. Why can't people just be funny? The only truly funny moment in this entire episode is one that has nothing to do with race, but two people who are nothing alike and don't understand each other. Rob has spilled hot wax on his pants and his wife's grandmother finds him in his underwear, so she screams; to try to keep her quiet, Rob puts his hand over her mouth and when everyone walks in they are in a precarious position. There are more layers to humor than simply, "Haha, you're a dirty Mexican!" The humor in sitcoms used to rely on the relatable, on the outrageous happening in everyday situations. If this entire episode were about Rob not being able to communicate with his new family or how families in all culture are ultimately alike, it might have come across better.
Once Rob moves beyond the myriad of racist jokes, it's just mundane. I know that there were certain lines that were supposed to be jokes, and certain scenes that were supposed to situationally funny because of the laugh track; had that not been there, I never would've known. The humor is so run-of-the-mill that it's nearly nonexistent. The dialogue is banal, the entire setup dull, the jokes and performances almost entirely unfunny. How do shows like this not only get made but put on the air?