Mexican-American comedian and actor Paul Rodriguez had a three-year run of delivering the same sitcom pitch to networks, which he wrote and wished to star in alongside his son Paul Rodriguez Jr. and longtime friend and actor Edward James Olmos.
The recurring real-life scene for Rodriguez went like this. Starting in 2013, he would walk into a network’s office where he said at first, they treated him kindly, making sure he was comfortable, offering him a glass of water. They even complimented the sitcom’s video pitch, “We saw the sizzle reel, and we thought it’s wonderful.”
But the interaction would quickly transition into a question and answer session.
“Now, what did you plan to do with this?” a network executive would ask.
“Well, we plan to do a television series on your network,” Rodriguez said.
“Yes…and how would you go about this? What kind of things would be funny?”
Rodriguez, who has more than 30 years of experience in comedy, rattled off the
series of questions the networks would ask him as if he had them memorized.
The premise of his show was three generations of Latino men living under the same roof, all related by blood, but who didn’t really know each other. Rodriguez also made it clear he wanted creative control of the show because he’d seen several series fail when he relinquished it. Even though Hulu was interested in picking up the show, Rodriguez said he declined because they didn’t want to give him complete creative direction.
“So, we sit there and explain to them, and they look at you like you’re [speaking]
Chinese,” Rodriguez said.
The networks, Netflix being one of them, never tell him no, but when they say, “We’ll get back to you,” that’s typically what they mean. His son, a professional skateboarder and actor, has a deal with Nike and Olmos has recently signed a deal with Fox. For Rodriguez, he saw this as his last chance for returning to television.
Upon encouragement from his friend William Virchis, Rodriguez ultimately took this experience to the stage in a play he wrote called ‘The Pitch”, a production about pitching Latino programming to American networks..
“The real issue is not getting on,” said Virchis, who directed “The Pitch”. “The industry [has a] negative position on Latino TV, which is irrational.”
A 2013 study by Columbia University found that despite Hispanics making up 17 percent of the U.S. population, no lead actors among the top ten movies and networked scripted TV shows were Latino. Rodriguez feels Spanish TV is partially to blame.
“These executives (say), ‘Oh you have your Spanish television,’ but I try to explain to them that Spanish television to many native born, certainly second generation Latinos, is as foreign to us as Japanese television is to Chinese people,” he said. “We function in English.”
‘The Pitch” was performed in early September at Teatro Máscara Mágica in San
Diego where Virchis is the producing artistic director and co-founder of the TMM, which strives to increase production of multicultural theater.
“Hispanics have not learned the fundamental rule of America, and that is, in this country, the squeaky wheel get[s] the grease,” Rodriguez said.
His advice for the younger generations:
“To not be placid, to march, to get out there and complain, because nobody is going to volunteer to give you the things you deserve unless you say ‘hey, I’m here, and I’m not going to take it anymore’. African Americans are loud. I’m not saying this in a condemning way; I’m saying it in a positive way. They don’t put up with it.”