Review: ‘House of Buggin’

Taped at Lifetime Television Studios, New York, by HBO Independent Prods. and Bregman/Baer Prods. Executive producers, John Leguizamo, Michael Bregman. Co-executive producers, Fax Bahr, Adam Small; producer, Nina Lederman; supervising producer, Peter Askin; line producer, Jodi Nussbaum; director, John Fortenberry; writers, Leguizamo, David Bar Katz; lighting design, Alan Adelman; Fox, with its once-unthinkable fourth network, tries once again to break new ground in TV fare with "House of Buggin'." But the premiere of the sketchcom comes off as a Latino version of "In Living Color" without the quality or biting insight of that groundbreaking series.

Taped at Lifetime Television Studios, New York, by HBO Independent Prods. and Bregman/Baer Prods. Executive producers, John Leguizamo, Michael Bregman. Co-executive producers, Fax Bahr, Adam Small; producer, Nina Lederman; supervising producer, Peter Askin; line producer, Jodi Nussbaum; director, John Fortenberry; writers, Leguizamo, David Bar Katz; lighting design, Alan Adelman; Fox, with its once-unthinkable fourth network, tries once again to break new ground in TV fare with “House of Buggin’.” But the premiere of the sketchcom comes off as a Latino version of “In Living Color” without the quality or biting insight of that groundbreaking series.

John Leguizamo — whose successful one-man shows “Spic-o-Rama” and “Mambo Mouth” transferred from Off Broadway to cable — clearly is talented, and his considerable skills save many of the show’s sketches from being too painful to watch.

While some viewers may revel in the social commentary blended with ethnic satire, most are likely to find Leguizamo to be an equal-opportunity offender.

Backed by a Latino cast, Leguizamo pushes racial boundariesby poking fun at a number of targets. But while promising over-the-top humor with a Latin edge, many of the attempts are about as bland as a Tofu taco.

His Kogi character, an arrogant Japanese talkshow host, misses the target, but a spoof on the Hair Club for Men (in which illegal aliens are transformed into more homogeneous members of society through truly awful makeovers) almost hits the bull’s eye.

Leguizamo is not a chameleon like Jim Carrey, but his ability to transform into his characters is among his strengths; his Latina showgirl is probably the most credible drag female since Flip Wilson’s Geraldine.

Supporting cast members Luis Guzman and Jorge Luis Abreu are particular standouts, while director John Fortenberry clearly, and wisely, takes his cues from Leguizamo and keeps the pace brisk by choosing shots that underscore the laughs.

But writers Leguizamo and David Bar Katz sear the short-attention-span sketches with too many bad jokes that are likely to leave viewers unfulfilled.

House of Buggin

Production

Fox, Sun. Jan. 8, 8:30 p.m.

Crew

Editor, Ray Miller; production designer, Loy Arcenas; art director, Tim Goodmanson; costume designer, Santiago; choreographer, Ken Roberson; sound, Paul Sandweiss, Fred Tator; music, Steven M. Gold, Adam Schlesinger. 30 MIN.

With

Cast: John Leguizamo, Jorge Luis Abreu, Waleska Coindet, Tammi Cubilette, Yelba Osorio, Sixto Ramos, Luis Guzman, Rosie Perez, Fisher Stevens, Reid Asato, George K. Gee, William E. Massof, Andrew Pappas.
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