January 13, 2012


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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ROB – Thursdays 8:30PM on CBS – Change the Channel
We live in a Dickensian era of situation comedies, the best and worst combined on every network.  ABC is the home of both Modern Family and Work It; NBC contains Parks & Recreation and Whitney; FOX has New Girl and I Hate My Teenage Daughter.  And at CBS, the same network creative team presents us with How I Met Your Mother and the new ROB, a dismal piece of work that debuted this evening.  It’s inconceivable that the networks aren’t aware of the differences between their highs and lows; it’s as though they periodically run out of energy and just stop caring what fills in the empty slots on their air.  Rob, in this context, is less a comedy than it is grout.

Rob is, at least, less actively unpleasant than most of the terrible sit-coms on its fellow networks.  It’s not trying to simplemindedly shock viewers, or to be cutting-edge with hostility.  It’s just a slow, obvious, unfunny piece of work with little promise.  The basic plot–and so far, that’s all there is–goes back to the stone age of sitcoms.  Written by Lew Morton and Rob Schneider, who stars and is a Co-Executive Producer, the story is inspired by Schneider’s own life:  he, like the “Rob” of the TV show, is married to a tall, young, gorgeous Hispanic woman from a large family.  (Although the cynical might note that Schneider is a movie and TV star and not the landscape architect of the show’s “Rob”.)  In the show, she’s named Maggie (Claudia Bassols), and her family (father Cheech Marin, mother Diana Maria Riva, grandmother Lupe Ontiveros and uncle Eugenio Derbez) does not approve of Maggie’s short, clumsy,, unimpressive, middle-aged husband, whose only notable attribute is a mild case of OCD.  He tries to win them over; they warily decide to accept him for their daughter’s sake; that’s the show.
Sometimes a series gives the game away with a single joke, and when Rob, seconds after meeting Maggie’s family, says that he feels like he’s at a Julio Iglesias concert, it tells you everything you need to know about Rob.  It’s not mean-spirited, but it’s carelessly humorless.  The jokes take every obvious subject–illegal aliens, sangria, guacamole, shrines to dead grandfathers–and throw something witless in its direction, without any imagination, let alone insight.  When it finally gathers itself for what’s supposed to be the show’s big sight-gag (Rob, through some idiotic contrivances, is caught grasping grandma from behind with his pants down, but hey, it’s not what it looks like), the result is less offensive than pitiful.  Combined with the old-fashioned mode of lengthy scenes played out on large, multi-camera sets, the 22 minutes crawl by.  
The cast tries.  Marin manages to draw a couple of chuckles, and Derbez practically contorts himself trying to get laughs from his loser-con man uncle.  Bassols is certainly gorgeous, and probably benefits from the fact that since her character is the straight man, she doesn’t bear the burden of bad punchlines.  Ontiveros, for no apparent reason, has no dialogue.  Schneider overdoes it, but he’s been worse.  
Rob is so rudimentary that it’s like a 1950s training film on how to make a sit-com.  Anyone who badly wants to see a show like it is better off switching to TV Land.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."