Commentary Review: Cristela (S1/E2)

COLD OPEN: The first episode was all Hispanic jokes, while it was still funny. Just not anything original; and it was an uninteresting start. So here’s hoping the 2nd episode improves the series.

ACT ONE: Oh boy. Episode 2 and we’re already throwing the dating card. Daniela (María Canals Barrera) sets up a dating profile for Cristela, a concept introduced horribly. Daniela asks a question, Cristela answers. Daniela asks another question, “why all the silly questions, Daniela?”, “Well, I decided to set up a dating profile for you”, “oh….I don’t know”….I’m paraphrasing, but you get the jist. And it’s a bad jist. Can we introduce online dating without it being pushed down a lead character’s throat? Could it possibly be (GASP!) the lead character’s idea, for once? Anyways, these bits are 5-6 years too late, so I guess that’s my real point.

At work, Cristela has a dating conversation with Maddie Culpepper (Justine Lupe), who pretty much states that dating is easy: you sit at a bar, and in a few minutes, someone buys you a drink. Which, believe it or not, does not happen often in real life, classifying itself as another bit a decade late. Mr. Culpepper hands down assignments, and Cristela and co-intern Josh (Andrew Leeds) talk about their similar career plans, leaving less room for dating. Josh makes a passing comment about how they’d only have time to date in the office, which was obviously directed at Cristela. Maddie thinks the comment is about her and convincingly states she will not date Josh. And storms out. In the middle of a workday. To shop. Probably. As of right now, Maddie is sticking cliché nerves that make me want to dive out a window.

It’s no longer about whether the show is funny, it’s about CRISTELA becoming every failing sitcom ever (Source: ABC).

ACT TWO: Cristela returns home to see Daniela going crazy romantic over the messages Cristela have been getting (“they’re so romantic”…if anyone wrote like Ernest Hemingway, most girls would run the opposite direction”), but Cristela only pays attention to the picture of a cute puppy in a bow tie. That’s it. Just the picture of a puppy. What in the heck? Girls are not ignorant. For the most part, they’d say, “aw, cute” and move on because not seeing the picture of guy defeats the entire purpose of online dating in the first place.

Now before this next moment, I’m not hating the show. Sure, it’s a bunch of characters trapped in single purposes, but it’s still funny. But that all chances. The mother comes out, with Cristela still resistant on dating online. The mother thinks time is running out on Cristela to find someone (she’s not) and she doesn’t want Cristela to die alone. And what’s her primary source to  make this comment? Her distant family whose daughters get pregnant in their teens and her 18-year old niece who died. Let me reiterate that. An 18-year old girl. Who died at 18 years old. Alone. The key thing in that entire statement was…she died alone. Really? What the heck? How is that funny? Oh, it’s not over yet. The twist of the dagger: the mom takes Cristela’s resistance to dating as he being “the gay”. Right there, I wanted to throw a TV at the TV. I can’t even begin to describe how much I hated everything in that segment. We get it. She’s old. She’s out of touch. But no parent in the history of ever put a dead teenager and being gay together to convince you to date someone. Unless they’re try to joke around with you. But, of course, to prove she’s not gay, Cristela goes on the date. With the puppy in a bow tie. I mean, bow ties are cool; but…Oy.

ACT THREE: So Cristela heads to work, flirting with the puppy in a bow tie through an online messenger, looking forward to their date that evening. But suddenly, the work deadline gets moved up, and Josh and Cristela have to work late. However, because he’s nice, Josh lets Cristela go. And she arrives, and guess who arrives with her? You can actually guess because he’s the one character I haven’t mentioned in the show yet. Alberto, the guy always gunning for Cristela. You know, when they added Gabriel Iglesias, I had high expectations. He’s hilarious.

The term is “supporting cast”, not “only exist to make Cristela interesting” cast. They have to bounce off each other, and they’re being suffocated by their constrictions (Source: ABC)

But his character is absolutely annoying. He only exists to want Cristela, much like Felix (Carlos Ponce) only exists to loathe Cristela. All the characters aren’t well-developed, except Cristela. It’s like the other cast members are just things for Cristela to do: people to like, people to despise, people to jab with. Nothing more. Anyways, Cristela has a heartfelt moment with Alberto on why they can’t be together (Alberto wants a housewife; Cristela wants to work), and Alberto’s still going to pursue her. Which of course he does. Because his character serves no other purpose.

THE CONCLUSION: Last week, I wrote Cristela was all about the Hispanic jokes, much like how I viewed Black-ish with their black issues. However, Black-ish is slowly learning how to put that concept in the background and bring everyday life to the foreground, instead of vice versa. Black-ish‘s 4th episode did this so well, I was jumping with glee: they finally found their voice! Cristela in this episode made me think we won’t expand past the characters’ stereotype. It’s okay to create a character for a reason. Elaine was created in Seinfeld to counter balance the guys. The girls in 8 Simple Rules were the purpose of the Dad having rules with the hot daughter and the smart daughter. Jerry…or Larry of Parks and Rec is the whipping boy of hatred in the office. But all these characters get fleshed out and quickly become multi-dimensional. For audiences to take Cristela seriously as a comedy, they can’t leave the supporting characters out to dry. They need depth with B stories. Otherwise, the characters are just talking heads. No one like talking heads.

Previously: Pilot Review

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