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Through the years: Latinos on television

January 12, 2003

From a put-upon bandleader to a well-educated leader of a drug gang, Latinos on TV have ranged from fresh and groundbreaking to numbingly stereotypical.

Desi Arnaz: CBS may have had doubts that audiences would accept a Cuban husband for Lucille Ball, but Arnaz provided a template for all exasperated TV sitcom fathers, as well as for all actors-turned-producers. He never again matched the success of "I Love Lucy"; he didn't need to.

Freddie Prinze: In a nova-like career, he starred in a hit sitcom, "Chico and the Man," while still in his teens and committed suicide at 24, but his cocky style influenced a generation of comics.

Edward James Olmos: He first made noise as an actor in "Zoot Suit," but he defined his persona as the cool-as-ice Lt. Castillo on "Miami Vice." He's worked steadily, most recently on PBS' "American Family."

Tessie Santiago: At times bordering on cliche, this Miami native shed her female Zorro character from "Queen of Swords" to emerge as the spitfire news anchor on NBC's "Good Morning, Miami."

Yancey Arias: Sure to be one of the most talked-about characters this season, Arias' drug cartel lieutenant with a heart of gold on "Kingpin" at once underscores stereotypes and explodes them.

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