What’s up USA with bilingual television?
And why 1977 might be better than right now
By Andy K. Brooks
Currently in its sixth season, “The Misadventures of Maya and Miguel,” the children’s animated TV series, is precisely the type of fare that ruffles the feathers of the easily ruffled. Produced by those liberal wimps over at PBS, the award-winning show, which chronicles the lives of tween siblings Maya and Miguel Santos and their cadre of disabled, multicultural, and/or bilingual amigos, introduces Spanish words and phrases in each and every episode to precious English-speaking little ones.
What may be a bit surprising is that “The Misadventures of Maya and Miguel” actually marks the reputable broadcasting company’s second foray into copiously bilingual TV programming. What’s downright nuts is that PBS had the cojones to produce its first bilingual program — an entirely dual language sitcom by the name of “¿Qué Pasa USA?” — nearly 35 years ago.
So let’s recap: In 1977, PBS created a fully bilingual sitcom about the trials and tribulations of a Cuban-American family living in Florida just as Archie Bunker was nestling his way — in a way that astonished even his real life creators — into America’s soft bosom. Repeat: Just one year after this country’s bicentennial, PBS produced a Latino flavored “Good Times” featuring spoken Spanish during (or just on the heels of) sidesplitting economic woes, a laughable distrust in the federal government, a lightheartedly disastrous war, and a hilarious energy crisis. Sound familiar?
So why is it so hard to imagine a bilingual, Made in America sitcom about Mexican-Americans or Korean-Americans or Somali-Americans playing on public American television in this day and age? What are you, a comedian?