Producer Debby Wolfe (“One Day at a Time,” “Love, Victor”) was, like the rest of us, “feeding her TikTok addiction” one morning at 3 a.m. when she happened to stumble upon Mayan Lopez on her For You Page.
“The video that I saw was, like, where she was revealing these sordid details of her parents’ divorce, and she was twerking the entire time,” Wolfe recalled during an interview with TheWrap. “And I was like, ‘This is a show’ … There was this Gen Z Latina, and she’s unafraid to call out her Boomer father for bad parenting. And it was just so raw and honest and hilarious that the vision for the show just immediately hit me.”
That’s the basis for NBC’s “Lopez vs. Lopez,” which premieres its pilot episode Friday night. Drawing from the real lives of father-daughter duo George and Mayan Lopez, the sitcom explores family dysfunction and reunion through a distinctly Latinx lens. Part Gen Z comedy complete with TikTok segments, part homage to the roots of “The George Lopez Show,” Wolfe characterizes the making of the series — which actively mines some of George and Mayan’s past estrangement (the two didn’t speak to each other for years and reunited post-pandemic) — as a “no-brainer.”
“From pitching the pilot script, to the pilot order to series order, everyone involved really did feel the same way that I did that, this was a rich story,” Wolfe, who serves as creator, writer, executive producer and showrunner of “Lopez vs. Lopez,” said. “And it was full of so much humor and so much heart, and it was just so real.
The story goes as follows: Immediately after viewing the TikTok, Wolfe contacted Bruce Helford, her boss on “The Conners” and the showrunner for George’s early aughts sitcom, who agreed to the strength of the show’s premise (“He’s just an old man that doesn’t sleep, so he was available,” Wolfe joked.). After that, a meeting with George and Mayan set the ball rolling at the network.
“I’m very fortunate that Mayan and George are so open — both have gone to therapy, and both are open with me and the writers about all their pains and struggles, but also the silly and fun things that they got into as a family,” Wolfe said of balancing the show’s more dramatic familial elements with its leanings on its two leads’ comedic timing. “So what we’re able to do is mine what’s real about it, but also what’s funny about it. The stories are not just George and Mayan’s, they’re also stories from my life and stories from the lives of the writers in the room.”
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Wolfe, who is Salvadoran, said the importance of the show’s impact to Latinx viewers is “not lost on [her]” when considering the historical lack of representation of their stories on network TV. “We put so much work into the details, the language, the costumes, the joke — it’s really at the top of my mind from the beginning,” she explained, “and that this feels and looks and sounds warm and familiar to Latinx viewers … That’s so important to me. On top of that, I do realize that our stories are often ignored and erased, or often are made into offensive caricatures. What people need to understand is that Latinx people are not a monolith. We come from different countries. We speak Spanish in different ways. We have varying values and traditions, but we’re bonded by so much also.”
As much as “Lopez vs. Lopez” tells the story of parent and child, it also explores generational divides — from social media to shifting sociocultural attitudes about mental health to identity. Wolfe said she welcomes the ability to “play with” the idea that Mayan’s character can teach George a thing or two about the world. As a result, the EP is hoping that audiences can be inspired to learn and grow from a more “authentic version” of the veteran stand-up comedian than they’ve seen in personas past.
“George Lopez is at his best when he gets to be George Lopez, but I will say this version of George Lopez is closer to who he really is, than he was in the original show,” Wolfe said of how the show stands apart from its roots. “He was more of a regular family guy, and he didn’t have these flaws that this new George Lopez has … I’m so fortunate that he is a performer who is willing to be open about those flaws. And it’s great because it’s so relatable.”
Like with “The George Lopez Show,” the series tapes in front of a live audience, something Wolfe credits as integral to George’s roots as a comic, who is able to “thrive” in front of a crowd. The showrunner said, “He comes out during the audience tapings and just [talks] to the audience, and it’s just so magical.”
“Lopez vs. Lopez” premieres on NBC on Nov. 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Universal Television is behind the series, which is produced by Mohawk Productions, Travieso Productions, Mi Vida Loba and 3 Arts. Additional EPs to Wolfe and Helford are Katie Newman, Michael Rotenberg and George Lopez, with Mayan Lopez producing.