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Freddie Prinze - Chico and the Man

Culture | September 29, 2017

Television sitcom, Chico and the Man, created by James Komak, first aired on NBC in 1974 and ran for 4 seasons. Actor, Freddie Prinze (Frederick Karl Pruetzel), was cast as Chico Rodriguez and Jack Albertson, starred as, Ed Brown, also known as, the man. The sitcom revolved around the premise of Ed Brown owning a washed-up auto mechanic garage and Chico, a young, minority, Chicano, being pretty much desperate for a job. Obstinate garage owner, Ed Brown, was a heavy drinking, widower who had pretty much worn out his welcome in the East L.A. neighborhood where he lived and ran his business. He reluctantly hired Chico because nobody else would have him (Ed). Chico would live in his van, which he parked in Ed’s garage.

While Chico was a proud Chicano, he was smart enough to realize that they equally needed each other. Ironically, they both eventually saw something in the other that was valuable. Although Ed would never come right out and admit it, he warmed up to Chico. Ed soon came to consider Chico as much as a son but would never come right out and say it in so many words. As the sitcom evolved, Chico’s ancestry was always in question with Mexican, Puerto Rican and Hungarian roots. He fondly referred to himself as Hungarican. Chico was well known for spouting off multi-lingual rants that no one could really interpret; although his meaning was always clear!

In addition to Chico and Ed, the show had an awesome supporting cast. Mando (Isaac Ruiz), Chico’s closest friend, would pop in from time to time; Louie Wilson (Scatman Crothers), the lovable trash man, always seemed to show up at just the right moment to add his 2 cents. Mabel (Bonnie Boland), the mail lady, would appear in the middle of a dilemma to speak her mind; Della Rodgers (Della Reese) was Ed’s landlady and neighbor, being far from his biggest fan; and, last, but not least, Reverend Bemis (Ronny Graham), who at one point asked Chico to stand in for him as a man of the cloth.

The show was very popular although short lived due to the untimely suicide of Freddie Prinze. During the first 2 seasons, Chico and the Man, debuted in the top 10 most popular sitcom television shows. Chico and Ed had endeared themselves to their audiences and had an undeniable, although admittedly dysfunctional, chemistry.  

After Prinze’s death during the 3rd season in 1977, NBC considered cancelling the show, outright. After careful consideration, they attempted to make a go of it. They wrote Chico out of the script by portraying that he had gone to visit his father in Mexico. In the 4th season, the writers attempted to replace Chico’s character with 12-year-old, Raul (Gabriel Melgar), who was an orphan, later adopted by Ed. Ed saw something in Raul that reminded him of Chico. While Raul was a lovable character and the fact that the script played out by focusing on him as well as the other characters, the show never really gained back the momentum it once had.  

Freddie Prinze’s short entertainment career was impressive to say the least. He emerged from a humble beginning and worked his way to stardom through hard work and determination. He was recognized in the entertainment world by many successful personalities, including, Johnny Carson. Although Prinze enjoyed success as an actor, comedian and singer, he suffered from depression which ultimately was his undoing. We can only imagine what might have been.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.