Monroeville native Rico Leon lucked out when his car broke down in Denver six years ago. He ended up staying in the Mile High city, which led to a career fixing reconstruction messes other contractors started but never finished.
That business resulted in him starring in his own TV show, HGTV’s “Rico to the Rescue,” where Leon assists homeowners with half-completed, abandoned-by-contractors renovations. The show’s seven-episode first season debuted in January (episodes air 7-9 a.m. Sept. 30 on HGTV) and streams on Max; the 10-episode second season will premiere on HGTV in early 2024.
Another serendipitous twist: Leon’s parents, natives of Puerto Rico, spoke Spanish at home and insisted Rico did, too.
“I’m glad they stuck to their guns and kept pushing that and the culture and everything else because though it might not be as applicable in Pittsburgh, it is in Denver, which has a really big Latino population,” Leon said in a phone interview just after the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs through Oct. 15. “They made sure I spoke Spanish every day at home, made sure I knew Spanish dishes, made sure I listened to Spanish music.”
Leon said a lot of the knowledge he uses on “Rico to the Rescue” came from his job at Roto-Rooter of Murrysville, where he worked after graduating from Franklin Regional High School in 2005. At Roto-Rooter he learned how to do emergency restoration work.
After a negative experience working for one Denver company, Leon decided to start his own business, which grew rapidly. When a real estate agent friend suggested Leon for a different TV show concept, a producer who interviewed Leon was fascinated by his work, which led to “Rico to the Rescue.”
“I never wanted to be on TV whatsoever,” Leon said. “But this guy realized I know insurance, I know construction, I have a ton of people that work under me and I have nothing but five-star reviews. I speak Spanish fluently and I have the East Coast work ethic.”
Leon credits his “hardcore, strict Latina mom” and Pittsburgh’s culture with his go-go-go work mentality.
“We’re built to work 24/7,” Leon said. “I tell people out here in Denver all the time, I don’t think they’d survive in Pittsburgh because the level of work is so different. I remember when I was at Roto-Rooter, they gave me all the knowledge in the world. I was getting paid well, but I didn’t get days off. If I was sick, it doesn’t matter, you have to work.”
At the start of each “Rico to the Rescue” episode, Leon recalls how his parents — retired Alcoa chemical engineer dad David and mom Camelia, who now live in Jeanette — were taken advantage of by crooked contractors after his mom accidentally started a fire in the family’s Murrysville kitchen while making pierogies. Leon said the contractor doing demolition work offered to do the rebuild, took their money and disappeared. Leon says we live in a world of too many good salesmen.
“Homeowners love to be lied to,” Leon says. “They want to hear that the Taj Mahal can be built in three months. Three months go by, that contractor doesn’t even have subcontractors. The money’s gone. He’s not answering his phone. So what do they do? They call me back. And that was before TV. Growing up in Pittsburgh, [my approach] is no B.S. Its like, ‘Hey, this is how it’s going to be, the good, the bad and the ugly.’”
More Hispanic Heritage programming
PCN (Pennsylvania Cable Network) celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month with special programming at 9 a.m. Sundays through Oct. 15 and with on demand shows, including several programs on the late Pirates great Roberto Clemente, at pcntv.com.
Amazon’s Prime Video hasn’t had as many cultural hits as Netflix or Disney+, but its superhero satire “The Boys” is a bright spot. This week “The Boys” gets a spin-off with “Gen V,” its first three episodes streaming Friday.
Watching “The Boys” is not a prerequisite for tuning into “Gen V” but it will certainly deepen and improve the experience. The basic gist is this: The students who matriculate at Godolkin University (AKA “GodU”) gained their superpowers when their parents injected them with Compound V when they were young. Abilities may not manifest until later, sometimes in unexpected and deadly ways as they do for Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair).
Years later at GodU, Marie’s goal is to keep a low profile, but that proves challenging when she’s roped into a group of cool kids: Golden Boy (Patrick Schwarzenegger), the school’s top-ranked student who’s poised for superhero greatness; Andre Anderson (Chance Perdomo), who has a famous superhero father and bi-gender Jordan Lee (Derek Luh/London Thor).
The premiere episode features multiple surprising twists that set the stage for a mystery: What does beloved Prof. Brink (Clancy Brown) have to do with a secret program called “The Woods?” Who is the kid that keeps escaping from this program? Why does Golden Boy have misgivings about his positioning as a future brand name supe (focus group testing shows he’s beloved)?
Like “The Boys,” “Gen V” delivers a cynical take on superheroes and those who want to have sex with them – there’s an outrageous, sexually graphic scene involving Marie’s roommate, Emma (Lizzie Broadway), who can shrink to the size of a bug, and a boy who uses Emma’s superpowers to fulfill his own desires.
After a tragedy in the first episode, the adults plotting the future of the superhero youth try to do damage control with one character quoting Mister Rogers, “heroes rise, look for the helpers, all that [stuff].”
The “Gen V” premiere has the most shocks while subsequent episodes deepen the character backstories and the show’