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Chico and the Man
Chico and the Man title screen
GenreSitcom
Created byJames Komack
Directed byPeter Baldwin
Jack Donohue
James Komack
StarringJack Albertson
Freddie Prinze
Della Reese
Scatman Crothers
Bonnie Boland
Isaac Ruiz
Ronny Graham
Theme music composerJosé Feliciano
Opening theme"Chico and the Man" performed by José Feliciano
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons4
No. of episodes88 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producerJames Komack
ProducersHal Kanter
James Komack
Michael Morris
Ed Scharlach
Camera setupMulti-camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production companiesThe Komack Company Inc.
Wolper Productions
DistributorWarner Bros. Television Distribution
Release
Original networkNBC
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 13, 1974 (1974-09-13) –
July 21, 1978 (1978-07-21)

Chico and the Man is an American sitcom television series that aired on NBC for four seasons from September 13, 1974, to July 21, 1978. It stars Jack Albertson as Ed Brown (the Man), the cantankerous owner of a run-down garage in an East Los Angeles barrio, and Freddie Prinze (until Prinze's suicide in the third season) as Chico Rodriguez, an upbeat, optimistic young Mexican who comes in looking for a job. It was the first U.S. television series set in a Mexican-American neighborhood.[1]

Conception

Comedians Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong (better known as the comedic duo Cheech & Chong) have stated that series creator James Komack followed the comedians on tour for three months;[2][3] Chong wrote in his 2009 book Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography that Komack based the show on Cheech and Chong skits titled "The Old Man in the Park" and "Pedro and Man" and had acknowledged that fact to Chong after the television series' release.[3] Cheech and Chong have both stated that Komack had originally approached them to star in the show, but they turned down the offer, preferring to stick to films.[2][3]

Komack told the Associated Press that he first tried working with Cheech and Chong on a show about a Chicano and a Nisei.[4] Komack said he decided to make the show about a young Chicano and a "seventh-generation WASP" after he and the comedy team "couldn't get it together".[4]

The show was created by James Komack, who produced other successful TV shows such as The Courtship of Eddie's Father and Welcome Back, Kotter. NBC suggested someone like Jack Albertson as Ed/"The Man", and Komack approached him. Though not impressed with the pilot script, Albertson agreed on the trust of Komack's reputation. Freddie Prinze was discovered by Komack after a friend's recommendation who saw Prinze's appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in December 1973. Komack thought he would be perfect for the role of Chico Rodriguez. Though initially rejected by NBC executives, he stood out against two other finalists in testing.[4]

Synopsis

Jack Albertson and Freddie Prinze, 1976
Jack Albertson and Freddie Prinze, 1976

A hard-drinking Anglo widower, Ed stubbornly refuses to fit in with the changing East L.A. neighborhood and has alienated most of the people who live around him. He uses ethnic slurs and berates Chico, a Latino, in an effort to get him to leave when Chico comes looking for a job. Yet Chico sees something in Ed, and sneaks back in at night to clean up the garage and move into an old van that Ed has parked inside. As Ed sees all the effort Chico has put in, he begins to warm to Chico. Over the course of the show, Ed grows to see Chico as family, although Ed denies this on several occasions.

The chemistry between Jack Albertson's "Ed" and Freddie Prinze's "Chico" was a major factor in making the show a hit in its first two seasons. It debuted in the top 10 and remained in the top 30 for its second season.

As the show progressed, Chico's background was revealed as being Mexican on his father's side and Puerto Rican on his mother's side, and (in a nod to Prinze's faux-Hungarian ancestry) "... my grandmother speaks a little Hungarian!" (though Prinze's paternal ancestry was actually German, in his stage-act he would claim his father was Hungarian, thereby allowing him to comically refer to himself as "Hungarican"). Chico was revealed to have spent part of his childhood in Hungary following the death of his mother, being raised by his Aunt Connie (a character who appeared in two other episodes). Chico attempts to explain his situation to Ed by portraying it as the dilemma of his distant cousin in Hungary, torn between the farmer for whom he now works and whom he has grown to love, and another farmer who has offered him a better job. During this scene and this episode, the love between these disparate characters was made clear for the first time, which Chico's cousin Carlos (played by actor Richard Yniguez)[5] notes when he releases Chico from his promise. By the second season, Ed begins to see that he is a part of a bigger world, although he still complains about it. By this time he has found himself a girlfriend by the name of Flora (played by Carole Cook).

The theme song was written and performed by José Feliciano.

Freddie Prinze's death

After struggling with depression and drug use, Freddie Prinze shot himself on January 28, 1977.[6] He was taken off life support and died the following day at the age of 22.[7]

The last episode to star Prinze, "Ed Talks to God", was taped several hours before Prinze's death.

Post-Prinze episodes

After Prinze's death, the producers considered canceling the show, but opted instead to try replacing the character. To write Chico out of the script, they had the other characters comment that he had gone to visit his father in Mexico. The third season finished out with three Chico-less episodes focusing on the other characters in the show.

In the opening episode of the fourth season, a replacement for Chico was introduced. Instead of an adult, the producers brought in 12-year-old Raul, played by Gabriel Melgar. His first appearance came when Ed and Louie go on a fishing trip to Tijuana and find the Mexican orphan hiding out in their trunk on their return. At the end of this episode, Ed is putting Raul to bed and accidentally calls him Chico. Raul corrects him and Ed remarks, "You're all Chicos to me." Ed eventually adopts Raul, only to have Raul's overprotective Aunt Charo – played by actress/singer Charo – come from Spain and try to become a part of the "family", as well.

A two-part episode ran in the final season in which Raul discovers Chico's belongings in a closet. Ed catches Raul playing Chico's guitar and Ed smashes it on the van in anger. Raul believes Ed does not love him anymore and runs away to Mexico. Ed goes after him and finally explains to Raul that Chico died, but did not say how, putting a measure of closure on the fate of Chico in the series.

In January 1978, after one further episode, NBC placed Chico and the Man on hiatus. The show returned in June, and the unaired episodes were broadcast through the summer of 1978, although one episode remained unaired during the final network run.

Toward the end of the show's final season, actress Julie Hill was added to the cast as Monica, Ed's attractive 18-year-old adopted niece. She had come to Los Angeles to break into show business, and lived in Chico's old van while awaiting her big break. Chico and the Man was cancelled at the end of the fourth season. The show's ratings declined steadily after Prinze's death and never recovered.[8]

Episodes

Main article: List of Chico and the Man episodes

Season Episodes First aired Last aired
1 22 September 13, 1974 (1974-09-13) March 14, 1975 (1975-03-14)
2 22 September 12, 1975 (1975-09-12) March 3, 1976 (1976-03-03)
3 21 October 1, 1976 (1976-10-01) April 8, 1977 (1977-04-08)
4 23 (1 unaired) September 16, 1977 (1977-09-16) July 21, 1978 (1978-07-21)

Supporting cast

The show also had a veteran and talented supporting cast. Scatman Crothers portrayed Louie Wilson, Ed's friend and garbageman; Bonnie Boland played Mabel, the mail lady; Isaac Ruiz portrayed Mando, Chico's friend; and Ronny Graham played Rev. Bemis. Also, Della Reese played Della Rogers, Ed's neighbor and landlady.

Notable guest stars

Avery Schreiber (center) is a very unsuccessful fortune teller Ed and Chico try giving a hand.
Avery Schreiber (center) is a very unsuccessful fortune teller Ed and Chico try giving a hand.

Other notable guest stars included:

Additionally, Jeannie Linero appeared in several episodes as one of Chico's more constant girlfriends, nurse Liz Garcia.

Broadcast history and Nielsen ratings

Season Time slot (ET) Rank Rating[9]
1974–75 Friday at 8:30-9:00 PM 3 28.5
1975–76 Friday at 8:30-9:00 PM (Episodes 1-16)
Wednesday at 9:00-9:30 PM (Episodes 17-22)
25 20.8
1976–77 Friday at 8:30-9:00 PM Not in the Top 30
1977–78 Friday at 8:30-9:00 PM (Episodes 1-12, 14-22)
Friday at 8:00-8:30 PM (Episode 13)

Syndication

The series fell short of the 100 episodes most syndicators desired for a full rollout, and Prinze's death caused a sudden shift in the series that further made the show undesirable for reruns. The series was only shown in syndication in a few markets and only for a relatively short period. NBC broadcast repeats of Chico and the Man briefly on weekday mornings from May 9 to December 2, 1977.[10]

Nickelodeon’s TV Land network also aired reruns during 2001 as did ION Television in 2007.[11] AmericanLife TV Network also aired this series previously, as well as WGN-TV in Chicago which aired first at 5 p.m., then later on moved it to 5 a.m.

In Canada, the show previously appeared on Sun TV (CKXT-TV) in Toronto.

From 2005 to 2009, episodes of the show were available on AOL's now-defunct video website called In2TV.

Home media

On September 27, 2005, six episodes of Chico and the Man were released on DVD as part of Warner Bros.' Television Favorites compilation series and the episodes are as follows:

References

  1. ^ McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide To Programming From 1948 To the Present (4 ed.). Penguin Books. p. 161. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
  2. ^ a b Presenter: Neal Conan (2010-01-28). "Cheech And Chong Reunite, At Long Last". Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
  3. ^ a b c Chong, Tommy (2009). Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography. Simon and Schuster. p. 159. ISBN 1439153523.
  4. ^ a b c "'Chico' Had Rocky Beginning". Lakeland Ledger. Associated Press. 1975-04-28. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
  5. ^ "TV listing". The Bakersfield Californian. April 20, 1975. Retrieved January 8, 2015 – via Newspapers.com. Ed Brown reacts explosively to Chico's plans to move to New York and the crisis continues until Cousin Carlos (Richard Yniguez) arrives at the garage.
  6. ^ "Freddie Prinze: Too Much, Too Soon". Time. February 7, 1977. Archived from the original on January 30, 2008. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
  7. ^ The Show Must Go On: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television, Douglas Snauffer, Joel Thurm. Mcfarland Press. p. 73.
  8. ^ Snauffer, Douglas; Thurm, Joel (2008). The Show Must Go on: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television Series. McFarland. p. 78. ISBN 0-7864-3295-0.
  9. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth Edition). Ballantine Books. p. 1687. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  10. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle F. (2007-10-17). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present (9 ed.). Ballantine Books. p. 250. ISBN 0-345-49773-2.
  11. ^ "ION Media Networks Announces Programming Agreement for Extensive Line-up of Theatricals and Television Series from Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution" (Press release). Ion Media Networks. 2006-07-27. Archived from the original on 2006-10-16. Retrieved 2007-06-10.