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1970s / Gabriel Melgar - Replacement Chico
Chico and the Man was a hit sitcom for NBC in the mid-1970s. Starring Freddie Prinze and Jack Albertson, the show debuted in 1974 and centered on the relationship between crusty, aging widower Ed Brown (a "seventh-generation WASP" whose garage was the last white-owned business in his Los Angeles neighborhood) and his Mexican-American employee Francisco (Chico) Rodriguez. Chico and The Man was a regular fixture in the top 10 until Prinze's shocking suicide at age 22 in January 1977. Enough shows with Prinze had been made in advance to last several weeks. The remaining episodes of the 1976-77 season focused on minor cast members. Common sense dictated that NBC should cancel the show, but instead a revamped Chico and the Man debuted in the fall of 1977. Twelve-year-old Gabriel Melgar was cast as illegal-immigrant orphan Raul Garcia who had stowed away in Ed Brown's car when he was returning from a fishing trip to Mexico. Brown referred to Raul as "Chico," explaining to the boy, "You're all Chicos to me!" Prinze's character was said to be visiting relatives in Mexico. However, in one episode Raul finds Chico's belongings in a closet and starts to play his guitar. Ed has an emotional meltdown, smashes the guitar, and eventually explains to Raul that Chico had died. Ratings for the revised version of Chico and the Man were terrible, so the show was axed at the end of the 1977-78 season. Melgar didn't do much in showbiz after the cancellation of Chico and the Man. He appeared in one episode of CHiPs, one episode of Love Boat, and he had a role in a forgettable 1979 action flick titled Jaguar Lives--and that was it. According to one fansite, Melgar is now employed in the biomedical field.