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Review: A basic-cable George Lopez in 'Saint George'

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George Lopez, the comedian, has a new sitcom on FX, "Saint George." Like its stablemate "Anger Management," which guarantees you'll have Charlie Sheen to kick around for a while, it is being launched on what's called a 10/90 deal: If the first 10 episodes do well enough by some secret contractual standard, the network buys 90 more, to make a syndication-friendly 100.

The series, which premieres Thursday, is Lopez's second sitcom, after the family comedy "George Lopez," which ran from 2002 to 2007 on ABC. This, too, is a family comedy, but we are in the realm of basic cable now: Lopez's character, also named George, is divorced, and the jokes, though strictly euphemistic, are dirtier.

Notwithstanding the star's recent unscheduled nap on a casino floor — nothing by Sheen standards, after all — Lopez is a major star, and, at 52, still the biggest Latino comic around. His series stands a good chance of success, I would guess, in spite of the fact that creatively it is a bit of a mess.

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As on his previous series, and like many sitcom heroes before him, Lopez's character has moved up a class. Here he is at once a night-school history teacher and a successful entrepreneur, the creator of the nation's fifth-most-popular energy drink. These two pursuits are presented with a near-complete lack of detail and seem only arbitrarily related to his character, such as it is, a nice guy more insulted than insulting.

The character resembles George Lopez the stand-up comedian — aggressive, coarse, sometimes political and often incorrect — not at all. It feels at times as if the pages of two pilots had been shuffled together like playing cards.

I suppose the series' name might refer to the patience he shows to those around him, including a mother (Olga Merediz) who exists only to belittle him ("Can I tell you something and you won't get mad? You're fat, boring and stupid"), and his sexually harassing principal (Diana Maria Riva) who won't take no for an answer.

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Here is a taste of their banter:

She: "In case you're wondering, I'm wearing a thong."

He: "I was kind of guessing, big girl panties."

"I know you've undressed me with your eyes."

"Right now I'm thinking of sewing them shut."

Better, if undeniably corny, are the manglings and malapropisms ("ray of sunscreen," "bull in a doughnut shop") of George's uncle (Danny Trejo) and cousin (David Zayas), who come as a set, without knocking. Their imagined street smarts mask a kind of innocence; the actors manage to be gross without grossing you out.

It's in the fleeting moments that the characters demonstrate affection for each other that the show hints at the better show it might become — as when (Anglo) ex-wife (Jenn Lyon) begins to help George dye his hair for a night in the dating pool. But then comedy intrudes, and she exits, stage right.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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