Sure, Greetings From Tucson has a sitcom-perfect premise — no-nonsense Mexican dad Joaquin (Julio Oscar Mechoso) is moving on up to a diversity-impaired upper-middle-class Arizona suburb with his saucy Irish wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Creskoff), and their teenage kids, David (Pablo Santos) and Maria (Aimee Garcia) — but, sad to say, it also comes dangerously close to being reality TV. In the pilot, for example, a white neighbor mistakes Joaquin and his brother Ernesto for yard workers (”Those guys look trustworthy,” she tells Elizabeth. ”Maybe I could get their number from you?”) — a plot point Jacob Vargas, who plays the laid-back, thrice-married Ernesto, finds remarkably familiar.

”I’m, like, the only Latino on my block,” says Vargas. ”When I first moved in, I was trimming the shrubs, and my neighbor comes over and he said, ‘Can you trim my side, too?’ He thought I was the gardener.”

Tucson itself is a true Hollywood story: Creator Peter Murrieta walked into a meeting with WB development executives hoping to land a writing gig on Smallville and walked out with an offer to do a sitcom based on his childhood. ”In the [meeting] I was just telling funny stories about growing up and my dad,” he recalls. ”I left and got in my car, and my agent called me and he’s like, ‘They want to buy what you pitched them.”’

While the presence of Tucson officially doubles the number of Latino-centered series in network prime time (the other being ABC’s George Lopez), the show treats ethnicity with irreverent asides rather than let’s-all-hug-and-preach earnestness (e.g., this observation from David: ”Of all the parts of my Mexican heritage that I’m most proud of, taking the extended family to the mall in one car to buy one item is probably my favorite”). ”It’s always self-referential and in a very smart way laughs at stereotypes,” says Creskoff. ”Like the way that Seinfeld’s extended family was so funny and Jewish-y.”

The cast, meanwhile, is stumping hard to avoid the ”ethnic sitcom” badge. ”I play a father who loves his family,” says Mechoso. ”This family could be Muslim or Jewish or Italian.” Adds Santos, ”It’s family humor. The situations they fall into, all families can relate to them.”

True, some themes are universal: Ernesto’s woeful attempts to quit smoking, Elizabeth’s decision to go back to work over Joaquin’s anachronistic objections, and David’s traumatic driving lessons with his dad — a plot pulled straight from the files of Murrieta’s teen years. ”My father went to teach me, and it became so horrible, the yelling was so intense on both sides: ‘I’m not driving home with you because you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re an idiot!’ And I was like, ‘Well, screw you!’ So we both left the car out of spite and walked.”

Mechoso hopes heartwarming family vignettes like those will keep viewers coming back to Tucson. ”There hasn’t been a successful TV comedy involving a Latino main character since Chico and the Man,” he says. ”I want to stick around and make a little dent.” The actor’s three children are pulling for Tucson as well, though for slightly less noble reasons. ”They all get gifts when I’m working,” he explains, ”so they want Dad to work.”

Greetings from Tucson
  • TV Show