1 9 7 4 – 1 9 7 8 (USA)
88 x 30 minute episodes
Created by James Komack and Alan Sacks (the same creative duo who developed Welcome Back Kotter) Chico and the Man focused on the unlikely duo of Ed Brown and Chico Rodriguez.
Ed (The Man) was a Caucasian garage owner in the barrio of East Los Angeles, and Chico was the energetic, enterprising kid who talked his way into a job at Ed’s small, run-down garage.
A lonely widower, Ed first fought Chico’s determined efforts to help him make the business work. But Chico cleaned the place up, moved into a beat-up old truck in the garage, and brought in business.
As often as Ed complained about Chico, and as often as he made token efforts to get rid of him, he felt an attachment that he would never publicly admit.
Frequently seen were Louie the garbage man, Mabel the mailwoman, and Chico’s friend Mando.
Later, the cast added the holy rolling Reverend Bemis and Della, a lunch wagon owner. Della also happened to be Ed’s landlady, and the verbal duels between old crank Ed and feisty, civic-minded Della soon became a highlight of the show.
Chico and the Man became an instant hit when it debuted on NBC on Friday 13 September 1974 (the same night the network premiered The Rockford Files). It just as quickly drew fire from prominent members of the Mexican-American community.
For one thing, “Chico” is an insulting term akin to calling an African American man “boy.”
Furthermore, stand-up comic Prinze wasn’t Chicano – he was of Puerto Rican and Hungarian descent – and he delivered his lines like a stereotype rather than the high-school graduate his character was supposed to be.
Adding insult to injury, the show’s flamenco-flavoured theme song was composed by Puerto Rican musician Jose Feliciano (and flamenco music is as foreign to the Chicano as bagpipe music).
Worst of all, the Ed Brown character was written as an Archie Bunker-type, given to flinging racist comments at Chico, like: “Get out of here and take your flies with you.” Activists assailed the network with complaints, which prompted NBC to fix the show fast.
Fans of Chico and the Man mourned after hearing the news that Freddie Prinze had committed suicide on 28 January 1977.
Prinze had spent the night calling his estranged wife, friends and associates, then put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger in front of his business manager, killing himself. On a note found in his apartment, he’d written: “I can’t take any more. It’s all my fault. There is no one to blame but me.”
Executive producer & creator, James Komack, started shooting the series as a solo show for Albertson, and when the show returned to the airwaves for the 77-78 season, it was explained that Chico had left to launch his own business with his father, played earlier in the series by Cesar Romero.
Thus Ed was paired with a cute 12-year-old Mexican boy – Raul Garcia (Gabriel Melgar) – who hid in Ed’s trunk during a Tijuana fishing trip.
Ed adopted the cheeky boy and they were soon joined in the garage by Raul’s Aunt Charo (yes, that Charo), giving The Man a daffy new sparring partner.
It didn’t work, it just wasn’t the same show and NBC cancelled the series in the summer of 1978.