Chico and the Man
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|Chico and the Man|
Chico and the Man title screen
|Created by||James Komack|
|Directed by||Peter Baldwin
|Theme music composer||José Feliciano|
|Opening theme||"Chico and the Man" performed by José Feliciano|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||4|
|No. of episodes||88 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||James Komack|
|Running time||22–24 minutes|
|Distributor||The Komack Company Inc.
Warner Bros. Television Distribution
|Original run||September 13, 1974– July 21, 1978|
Chico and the Man is an American sitcom which ran 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 (until his suicide late in the third season) Freddie Prinze as Chico Rodriguez, an upbeat, optimistic Chicano young man who comes in looking for a job. It was the first U.S. television series set in a Mexican-American neighborhood.
Comedians Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong (better known as the comedic duo Cheech and Chong) have stated that NBC president Brandon Tartikoff sent series creator James Komack to follow the comedians on tour for three months;  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. 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.
Komack told the Associated Press that he first tried working with Cheech and Chong on a show about a Chicano and a Nisei. 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".
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 ten and remained there for the first two seasons.
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. Freddie Prinze was discovered by Komack after he appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in December 1973. Komack thought he would be perfect for the role of Chico Rodriguez.
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 Carlos 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).
Freddie Prinze's death
The last episode to star Prinze, "Ed Talks to God", was taped several hours before Prinze's death.
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 episodes focusing on the other characters in the show.
Early in the fourth season, a replacement for Chico was introduced. Instead of an adult, the producers brought in twelve 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 that, "You're all Chicos to me." Ed eventually adopts Raul, only to have Raul's overprotective aunt Charo – played by the 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.
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 get into show business, and lived in Chico's old van while awaiting her big break. Chico and the Man did not pull in the ratings it did in previous seasons. The show's ratings declined after Prinze's death, and the show was canceled at the end of the fourth season.
The show also had a veteran and talented supporting cast. Scatman Crothers portrayed Louie Wilson, Ed's friend and garbage man; 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
Other notable guest stars included:
- Cesar Romero as Chico's absentee father
- Tony Orlando as Chico's look-alike, the ex-fiance of a hostile woman he wants to date
- José Feliciano, who wrote the theme song, as Chico's womanizing famous-singer cousin Pepe Fernando
- Sammy Davis Jr. as himself
- Herbie Faye appeared as Bernie in the 1975 episode "Louie's Retirement"
- Shelley Winters (reuniting with Albertson, with whom she'd costarred in The Poseidon Adventure) as the owner of the local bakery, Shirley Schrift (her real name)
- Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., three guest-starring roles, including Hector Ramirez in "The Third Letter" (1977)
- Jim Backus as Ed's friend who uses him as a beard, pretending to be playing cards with him when cheating on his wife (Audra Lindley)
- Silent-film actress Carmel Myers as a former star who has fallen on hard times, brings in her car for repairs, and stays in the garage while looking for work
- George Takei as Ed's supposed long-lost son from his time in Japan during World War II
- Cesare Danova as Aunt Connie's Spanish aristocrat boyfriend, the Count de Catalan, in the second episode in which she appeared
- Comedian Joey Bishop as an inept robber
- Bernie Kopell as a plastic surgeon
- Rose Marie as a CB radio enthusiast with whom a lonely Ed connects on New Year's Eve
- Penny Marshall, as a waitress
- Football star Rosey Grier as himself, Della's date for a charity benefit dance
- Larry Hovis as a customer in the second episode of the first season
- Jim Jordan (of radio's Fibber McGee and Molly) as a mechanic who used to be a big businessman, until he was victimized by his own company's retirement-age mandate
Additionally, Jeannie Linero appeared in several episodes as one of Chico's more constant girlfriends, nurse Liz Garcia.
In Canada, the show previously appeared on the now-defunct Sun TV (CKXT-TV) in Toronto.
Selected episodes of the show are also available online on sites including AOL's In2TV.
Warner Bros. released a 6-episode Television Favorites compilation of the series on DVD in September 2005. However, no full seasons have been released, nor is it known if any seasons will be released, and the Television Favorites DVD is now out of print.
- 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.
- Presenter: Neal Conan (2010-01-28). "Cheech And Chong Reunite, At Long Last". Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123074365. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- Chong, Tommy (2009). Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Autobiography. Simon and Schuster. p. 159. ISBN 1439153523.
- "'Chico' Had Rocky Beginning". Lakeland Ledger. Associated Press. 1975-04-28. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- "Freddie Prinze: Too Much, Too Soon". Time Magazine. February 7, 1977. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
- The Show Must Go On: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected Television, Douglas Snauffer, Joel Thurm. Mcfarland Press. p. 73.
- 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.
- 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.
- "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. Retrieved 2007-06-10.
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