George Lopez almost sounded like a political candidate when he spoke of “bringing change to latenight TV,” but as constructed, the most distinctive trait of “Lopez Tonight” involves the color of his skin, not the content of his comedy. That’s not to say the new TBS latenight talker lacks a polished feel, from the slick-looking set to the front-loaded marquee guests and cameos. Yet the comic will have to grow in areas beyond his stand-up comfort zone to bless this four-night-a-week affair with the elusive gift of longevity.
Opening with a Leno-esque (length-wise, anyway) 10-minute monologue that appeared to have been edited in places, Lopez pushed hard at the notion that his ethnicity represents a major breakthrough given latenight’s white-male profile. Eyeing his wildly appreciative audience, he said, “I see what America looks like” — saluting their multiculturalism, not the fact that many appeared as if they’ve been super-sizing their orders.
That opening sequence was shot with a constantly swiveling camera, designed to provide the material an edgier feel than Lopez’s opening-night act — a fairly staid rumination on matters like marriage, Mexican food and flatulence. The tone stayed crude when he segued to a man-on-the-street segment, as two audience members tried to guess how an Asian man, say, would respond to the question, “Do you have a small penis?”
Lopez kept billing the show as a “party,” but he needs to do a better job of facilitating conversation with his guests as opposed to merely fawning over them. Sure, Ellen DeGeneres walked on, Eva Longoria Parker looked gorgeous and Kobe Bryant popped in, but Lopez didn’t have much to say to any of them — seemingly moved that they showed up to help get the ball rolling. Fair enough, but as even early admirers of Arsenio Hall came to recognize, that formula can easily wear thin.
Credit the producers with laboring to invest the show with energy, from the house band to the sexy dancers who the camera pans past at the act breaks.
Lopez possesses a loyal following, and odds are the show will generate solid sampling. That said, the host clearly got a little carried by characterizing the arrival of “Lopez Tonight” with words like “revolution” — unless it’s in the context of noting that when it comes to latenight, there’s no reinventing the wheel.