Advocacy groups pushing for more Latinos on TV may hang their heads after watching “Luis.” Fox’s laffer indeed puts a Puerto Riqueno front and center, but the show pastes together every possible cliche — race- and sitcom-related — at the expense of sophistication and, more seriously, the advancement of minorities on series television. Weak punchlines come fast and furious, and so do plenty of off-color jokes that take this half-hour in the wrong direction.
Having built a monster career playing second and third bananas, Luis Guzman has become a cult favorite among filmgoers and filmmakers; he has been a terrific supporting thesp for, among others, Steven Soderbergh, in “Traffic” and “The Limey,” and for P.T. Anderson, in “Boogie Nights” and “Punch-Drunk Love.” But a lot of “Luis” is too much, with his streetwise teddy-bear persona not inviting enough to carry an entire show.
Here, Guzman plays a loud and lewd doughnut store operator in Spanish Harlem who meddles in the lives of everybody around him. His main concern is daughter Marly (Jaclyn DeSantis), an aggressive beauty who loves her dad but wants him to butt out of her relationship with flaky artist (and Caucasian) Greg (Wes Ramsey).
Debut is one big introduction fest — from wacky streetwise employee Richie (Charlie Day) to Luis’ fiery ex-wife (Diana-Maria Riva); nothing of any significance transpires, while Luis trades insults with old ladies and street hustlers.
Given that Fox has never been known for sensitivity and narrative high roads, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that “Luis” is far from subtle and hampered by a one-liner mentality. While there is some flavor to it — it is nice to see a Latino-heavy cast — the potential is muted by invective and laughtracks.
As for the leading man, Guzman’s wolfmanlike appearance and tough-guy-with-a-heart demeanor has served him well over the years. But “Luis” isn’t the right project, too much a boilerplate addition to what is already a crowded field of so-so half-hours.