While the network TV landscape remains relatively pale, Nickelodeon breaks new ground with the first English-language sitcom to feature an all Latino cast and creative staff. “The Brothers Garcia,” something of a Hispanic “Wonder Years,” chronicles the life of an American family through the eyes of 11-year-old Larry Garcia (Alvin Alvarez).
Writer Jeff Valdez fondly evokes the magical as well as more trying moments of childhood with poignancy, as an adult Larry (voiced by John Leguizamo) recollects on life in present day San Antonio. Although Valdez makes a point to pepper the script with the words, traditions and cuisine of the Latino culture, the joys and struggles of the Garcia family are universal.
Pilot episode serves as a general introduction to the clan centering on a big wrestling match that comes to town. There’s no monumental action, but seg does offer insight into family life and the melding of so many different personalities. Young Larry is clever; Carlos (Jeffrey Licon), the oldest, is athletic; George (Bobby Gonzales), the middle child, is sweet and smart; and Lorena (Vaneza Leza Pitynski), Larry’s twin sister, has a gift for the dramatic.
Dad Ray (Carlos La Camara), a history teacher, surprises the boys with tickets to see their favorite wrestling star the Astro Nut. But when the main hair dryer in the salon owned by mom Sonja (Ada Maris) breaks down, they have to sell the tickets to pay for a new machine.
The three boys, with the help of Lorena, decide to hold their own backyard wrestling match to raise the additional money. Their entrepreneurial spirit pays off, but the trip to the match doesn’t exactly go as planned.
Alvarez is immensely appealing as Larry while Leguizamo brings a much-needed depth of character to such a relatively young and inexperienced cast. Performances here are a little stiff, as if the whole idea of a family sitcom is groundbreaking, not just the ethnic flavor. But the cast appears plenty capable and should grow into the roles with time.
Directors Mike and Gibby Cevallos experiment with sight gags and clips, keeping most of the action at kid level, and move the story along at a crisp pace with the help of editors Jeffrey Scott Runyan and Eric Westerlund.
Technical credits are polished with special attention focused on Candi Guterres’ detailed set and flavorful music by Rick Kocor and Diego De Pietri.