The Electric Commentary

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Benefits of Diversity

The Slate's Brendan I. Koerner pens an interesting piece about one of the most famous Spanish language programs of all time:

The appeal of El Chavo del Ocho, the most popular sitcom in the history of Mexican television, might seem mystifying. The show, which first aired in the 1970s, follows the allegedly humorous exploits of a street urchin who lives inside a barrel, played by then-fortysomething comic Roberto Gómez Bolaños. His pals, including the spoiled Quico and the crafty La Chilindrina, are similarly played by adults, who shriek inane catchphrases while bouncing around a set befitting a community theater production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. The gags usually involve someone getting bonked in the head with a hammer or brick.

If you're thinking that this sounds like The Sipmsons' Bumblebee Man Show...

So when they switch over to broadcast stations like Univision or Telemundo, or cable alternatives like Galavision, Hispanics crave the sort of programming they can't see on ABC or Fox—shows that provide a cultural fix, or at least a sweet reminder of bygone days. And that means lots of telenovelas, or melodramatic soap operas, and vintage Bolaños comedies like El Chavo and El Chapulín Colorado. (Bolaños' performance in the latter show inspired the Bumble Bee Man character on The Simpsons.) Television viewers generally look to cable for comfort programming—TNT's incessant Law & Order reruns always do well—but not nearly to the extent that Spanish-language viewers do; sports aside, the cable ratings are usually dominated by wrestling, Lifetime Original movies, and mature fare like Nip/Tuck.

And here I am with no cable like a sucker. (Actually I get 3 Spanish language channels on the rabbit ears, all with better reception than the "Big 3," but none that carry this show. They do, however, carry Sabado Gigante.)


  • Is that the show starring the guy with the heart on his chest? I think I got that right. It was bewildering.

    By Blogger Mike, at 2:16 PM  

  • Is that the show with the old guy in the suit and the really well endowed attractive woman who is always wearing what is basically a formal bikini?

    By Anonymous Phil, at 2:54 PM  

  • You don't have cable? Shocking.

    Also, why do you always call Slate "The Slate"?

    By Blogger MDS, at 3:11 PM  

  • I don't have time to watch that much TV. I miss ESPN, but that's about it. I get HBO shows on Netflix if I really want to see them.

    Someday I'll have the Sunday ticket though.

    As for the Slate, I remember a time, back in the day when looked like an actually slate, like you'd use in a colonial era schoolhouse. They still use that form as the mechanism for looking at past article by an author. For instance, if you read this account of Paris under siege,

    at the bottom, you will see "the slate" with past articles by David Wallace Wells contained within.

    So I have this impression of slate referring to the actual chalkboard-like device from whence it takes its name, and my brain converts that to "The Slate." Like ABC's the Note. Which I realize is actually called "the note," but you get the idea.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 4:09 PM  

  • In the old TMQ days it really looked like a slate.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 10:34 AM  

  • I was without cable for two years, and I didn't miss it much. But, I eventually tired of watching the NFL in bars, and wanted to have English soccer again. Now that I'm out of school, I have more time to watch.

    By Blogger Mike, at 10:53 AM  

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