On Friday, ABC showcased its last new fall sitcom Cristela, which became the first Hispanic sitcom by a broadcast network since George Lopez (ABC) was taken off the air in 2007 (CW’s Jane the Virgin was only a few days later).
Cristela follows a Hispanic “6-years of law school” graduate taking an unpaid internship at a law firm, living with her sister’s family and her mother.
I did find the pilot episode very funny; but when I stepped away from the episode a few hours later, I realized the show wasn’t any better than any other pilot with ethic characters. I did smile a lot in this episode, but it might be due to Cristela being one of the very few shows I had zero expectations for. I never heard of Cristela before this show, and I didn’t really know what to expect from it. But the show has me intrigued. I laughed and the show has its charm. What more do I need from a pilot? A lot more.
Cristela Alonzo, the stand-up comedian of which the show is based, should be praised no matter what the outcome of the show. She became the first female Hispanic to produce, write, and star on a show, paving the way for other minority girls to do the same someday. So she could receive accolades on that alone. But she can now rest assured the show has good promise. She, as Cristela, was fun to watch. She bounces all over the place, stays whimsical even when she gets into trouble, and she’s naturally funny. John Mulaney (FOX’s Mulaney) should take some notes here: this girl knows how to entertain a live audience. Where she runs into problems is some of the supporting cast.
Now, I have no problem with María Canals Barrera (yep, the mom from Disney’s Wizards of Wavely Place). She doesn’t nail it, but she’s acceptable as Cristela’s sister Daniela. The mother Natalia (Terri Hoyos) is alright, being given great punchlines for the pilot (just not as convincing as I’d like). But the brother-in-law Felix (Carlos Ponce) isn’t very convincing. Felix is just plain boring and uneventful. He doesn’t respond with Cristela very well. Also, they brought in Gabriel Iglesias to be that guy who hits on Cristela unrelentlessly. So he doesn’t do anything else. At all. That’s such an uninteresting troupe, and an insultingly limited one for such a great comedian. But hopefully, time will improve those relationships. I’m hope this is a chemistry thing and Ponce improves over time. And that they give Iglesias more to work with than the constant chance for Cristela.
The plot itself was just okay, but heavily predictable. We all know Cristela gets the internship, or else we wouldn’t be here. However, there had to be conflict, or else, again, we wouldn’t be here. So it’s Cristela blowing off an interview her sister set up. Look, the plot was predictable: someone mistaked her as a maid…only to correct themselves to again mistake her as a receptionist. Cristela’s response: she got promoted from maid to receptionist in 6 seconds. Yeah, it’s funny, but it’s been done. It doesn’t help that the work supporting cast is relatively unsupportive, with the exception of John (Andrew Leeds) whose initial conversations with Cristela were original and funny…until the writing forced down our throats that he lived a privileged life. A typical racist boss (while respecting Cristela…somehow) with a typically racist intern daughter puts the candles on the cake. The show deserved way better than that. The dialogue was cheesy and needed to be stepped up.
So pretty much, everything I just described is what’s usually wrong with a pilot. While it’s funny, it runs into all the stereotypical jokes, along with a weak supporting cast. And over time, people will get over a show presented like this very quickly. Cristela Alonzo owns each scene she’s in, but the problem here is people come for the plot and stay for the characters. While that may work for Cristela, people aren’t going to be fans of the other characters, which I think will be the show’s demise. Ratings-wise, Cristela did better than Last Man Standing, so people see the value of the show. Heck, even I’m cheering for this show. It’s a Friday timeslot, so unless it gets Utopia (FOX) numbers, ABC will give the show a lengthy chance to find itself. But Cristela has to make the proper adjustment and accept the writing challenge of making the family funny besides the stereotypical ethnic/race jokes. And if not, someone should nab Cristela Alonzo and cast her elsewhere. She’s very well deserving of it.
Following: Episode 2 Review