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A scene from an episode of the American sitcom "Rob, " starring Rob Schneider as a lifelong bachelor who, after a whirlwind romance, marries Maggie (Claudia Bassols). (CBS)
A scene from an episode of the American sitcom "Rob, " starring Rob Schneider as a lifelong bachelor who, after a whirlwind romance, marries Maggie (Claudia Bassols). (CBS)

John Doyle: Television

And then there's 'Rob': How can this abomination be a hit? Add to ...

Jeepers creepers, where to start today? With the creepy.

The mother of a five-year-old star of TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras series is suing several media outlets, claiming they tried to sexualize her child’s performance in a Web video. In the video, the child is seen dancing while a DJ plays the song I’m Sexy and I Know It.

Get your head around that.

Toddlers & Tiaras is about child beauty pageants and on the show the child is dressed and cosmetics are used to make her look much older. In the lawsuit, the mother claims that other media outlets “have thrust these false and vulgar characteristics” on the child in question.

Indeedy. The consensus on vulgarity now is that there is no consensus. It’s hard to believe that Toddlers & Tiaras even exists and has a large audience.

And then there’s Rob (CBS, 8 p.m.), which is both an abomination and a hit show. So far, anyway. It’s creepy and it’s vulgar at a level rarely seen on network TV.

Rob is the creation of Rob Schneider, once of Saturday Night Live, several bad movies and the terrible NBC version of the Britcom Men Behaving Badly. In fact, that show’s title is Schneider’s career in a nutshell. He has always specialized in celebrating the Neanderthal that supposedly exists in every man – the guy who never grew up and is shameless about his little-boy sexism and irresponsibility.

In recent years, Schneider married a woman from Mexico and one of the results is this sitcom about a guy who marries into a Mexican-American family. It isn’t slick and it isn’t funny. In the pilot (which airs on Thursday, followed by the second episode at 8:30 p.m.), we get the gist, good and hard.

Schneider plays Rob, a landscape architect who has just married a tall, fiery Mexican Amazon named Maggie (Claudia Bassols, who, as CBS points out, was named Spain’s sexiest woman alive by Esquire Magazine a couple of years ago). They haven’t told her family yet. The family comes over to say “hi” and stuff happens.

Stuff like Rob’s greeting to the large, extended Mexican family that descends on his home: “This is a big family. Now I know what’s going on during all those siestas. Sorry, this is a big family because you’re all Catholic. You don’t use protection.”

Other stuff happens. Such as Fernando, Maggie’s father (Cheech Marin), expressing his views on immigration laws: “They ought to put a giant wall across the border and patrol with cannons. I don’t need any more competition!”

And then there’s the scene in which Rob accidentally feigns sexual intercourse with Maggie’s grandmother. Oh, the laughs are milked in that scene. In truth, pretty much every cultural stereotype about Mexicans is milked, and then women are mocked. To make sure the laughs keep coming, Catholics get a good daub of mockery too.

Rob has received reviews that are utterly contemptuous – from both the mainstream and the Hispanic media in the U.S. Such phrases as “horrendously outdated” and “culturally insensitive” have been used. Yet when the show got a heavily promoted sneak preview on CBS recently, it got a huge viewing audience.

The question is, “Why?” Is it the sad cliché of the Rob character, a short boorish guy, having a tall and fiendishly attractive partner who spends a lot of time standing in the kitchen showing off her bosom in that pink brassiere? Is it the Rob character’s glee in mocking Mexicans? Is it the fact that the Mexican characters are shown to be right-wing Republican types?

More likely, the vulgarity of Rob is enjoyed because it is a form of release for people who think and talk much like the character Rob Schneider created. They can’t proclaim their outdated views outside a small circle of friends or family who think much the same. Watching Rob Schneider channel their inner jerk is a blessed relief. Yeah, that must be it.

As for Toddlers & Tiaras, you’re on your own.


8th Fire (CBC, 9 p.m. on Doc Zone) is an admirable, four-part series that tries to dispel many of the misconceptions held about aboriginal people. Essentially, it’s an update on the various key issues that matter to native Canadians, and an exploration of how these issues matter to all Canadians. Also, it asks Canada to revisit old issues with a new perspective. Thursday’s episode, Whose Land Is It Anyway?, aims to explain, clearly, the biggest sticking point in the relationship between aboriginal people in Canada and various governments. Who owns large parcels of land and what does ownership mean? More important, who will benefit from the ownership of resource-rich lands? Visually sumptuous and concise in dealing with issues, the series is as vivid and evocative as it is educational.

Check local listings.

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