No list of Latinos in TV would be complete without Desi Arnaz of "I Love Lucy," a show he essentially developed. The Cuban actor stole hearts with his Ricki Ricardo character and charming accent. The series ran on CBS from 1951 to 1957 and was the first to show an interracial couple.
"Chico and the Man"
This sitcom took place in an East L.A. car garage run by actor Jack Albertson, who played "the man." Freddie Prinze played Chico Hernandez, a happy Chicano who comes in looking for a job. The show ended shortly after Prinze (Freddie Prinze Jr.'s father) committed suicide in 1977. It was the first TV series to take place in a Mexican-American neighborhood. Check out the theme song by Jose Feliciano. The show aired from 1974 until 1977 on NBC.
"Que Pasa USA?"
This PBS series was the first bilingual sitcom on American TV. It followed the trials and tribulations of the Peñas, a Cuban-American family in Miami. The focus was on three generations struggling to fit in: the abuelos who speak no English and resist assimilation, the parents who speak English with a thick accent, and their kids who mostly speak English. The show continued to run in syndication and, years after it ended, an entire generation of Cuban-Americans still remembers the series as the first one to accurately and humorously depict their lives.
This short-lived comedy ran on ABC for four months before it was pulled in 1983. It depicted the cultural collision of a white-bred family that's forced to downsize from a suburban home to an L.A. condo building, and an upwardly mobile Hispanic family who moves in to the same building.
"House of Buggin"
John Leguizamo and Luis Guzman starred in this sketch comedy show that lasted only ten episodes before FOX pulled the plug in 1995. It was supposed to be the answer to "In Living Color," which was cancelled the year before, but it failed to gain traction. Check out this hilarious West Side Story spoof.
Bonus: Mario Lopez on "Saved by the Bell", 1989-1993
Mario Lopez played the jock A.C. Slater in "Saved by the Bell". His ethnicity was never explored in the show until an episode in the "college years" (1993-1994) in which his father reveals that he changed the family name from Sanchez to Slater so he could get in the military academy.
"George Lopez Show"
This sitcom ran for six seasons from 2002 through 2007 on ABC. In it, George Lopez played a manager at a manufacturing plant balancing his marriage, a difficult mother and his two children. Later episodes include a well-off niece he must care for as well. The show was never a ratings hit but it found a second life in syndication. After it ended, Lopez went to TBS with the late-night show "Lopez Tonight," but it was canceled after three seasons to make room for the Conan O'Brien's show.
Based on the Colombian telenovela hit "Betty La Fea", this ABC sitcom ran from 2006 through 2010, with America Ferrera in the title role. Betty was "ugly" but smart and sassy. She lived in Queens and had a cheesy Latina stereotypical sister. The series, which was executive produced by Salma Hayek, was a huge ratings success for the first three seasons, but it declined until it was cancelled in 2010.
Sofia Vergara plays Gloria, the Colombian wife to Ed O'Neil's character in ABC's "Modern Family." Vergara's accent, as well as her curves, has contributed to the show's success. Check out this clip on baby cheeses versus baby Jesus.