TV Review: ‘Cristela’

Cristela TV Review ABC

For a time in the ’90s, a five-minute set at the Comedy Store was enough to land the talent a sitcom, or so the joke went. Despite the high attrition rate of that strategy, it lingers on in “Cristela,” a throwback ABC half-hour symmetrically paired with “Last Man Standing” — fitting, perhaps, since Tim Allen’s “Home Improvement” helped usher in the aforementioned wave. Cristela Alonzo stars as the appealing heroine, who is determined to become a lawyer, without much encouragement from her family. Alonzo is plenty likable, but her shoulders don’t look quite big enough to carry an entire show.

Cristela (yes, actor and character share a name) is in her sixth year of law school, sustaining her dream through odd jobs and by living with her kin. That includes her disapproving mom (Terri Hoyos); sister (Maria Canals-Barrera), who brags about still fitting her old high-school cheerleader uniform; brother-in-law Felix (Carlos Ponce); and their two kids.

Felix isn’t crazy about the cramped arrangement, sniping at Cristela at every turn. Sample dialogue, with apologies to Winston Churchill:

Felix: “If you were my wife, I would put poison in your coffee.”

Cristela: “If you were my husband, I’d drink it.”

Still, Cristela manages to keep her dream alive when she gets the chance to intern for a major law firm — the unpaid nature of the position only adding to her financial woes. Moreover, not only is the boss (Sam McMurray) prone to saying wildly inappropriate things about Latinos, but her fellow interns include his daughter (Sarah Halford), who mistakes her for the cleaning crew; and the more helpful if privileged Josh (Andrew Leeds), whose main function seems to be laughing at Cristela’s jokes.

Unlike some comics, Alonzo is something of a natural onscreen, and the show — which is set in Dallas — establishes a sense of place and time by having Cristela root for the Cowboys and lust after quarterback Tony Romo.

Yet as nice as it is to see another sitcom with dollops of heart (you can count the “aww” moments) built around a real-looking woman (Alonzo co-created the series with Kevin Hench), that’s about the only thing that distinguishes “Cristela” from what once occupied these environs back in ABC’s “TGIF” days. Nor does a second episode — in which Cristela’s sister pushes her to date online — suggest the show has much more in mind than recycling familiar plots.

“Last Man Standing” has managed to hang around largely on those terms, and “Cristela” warrants additional notice as part of what amounts to ABC’s diversity wave this season, including minority leads in the sitcoms “Black-ish” and the upcoming “Fresh off the Boat” (actually, based strictly on pilots, the best of the lot).

In success, presumably, the title character’s dream here of becoming a lawyer will have to wait a good long time. On that score, perhaps the best thing “Cristela” has going for it, given ABC’s modest Friday-night expectations, is that the criteria for passing that bar is set pretty low.

TV Review: 'Cristela'

(Series; ABC, Fri. Oct. 10, 8:30 p.m.)

Production

Produced by Twenty-One Laps Adelstein and Hench in the Trench Prods. in association with 20th Century Fox Television.

Crew

Executive producers, Kevin Hench, Marty Adelstein, Becky Clements; co-executive producer, Cristela Alonzo; director, John Pasquin; writers, Alonzo, Hench. 30 MIN.

Cast

Cristela Alonzo, Carlos Ponce, Maria Canals-Barrera, Terri Hoyos, Andrew Leeds, Sam McMurray, Gabriel Iglesias

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  1. Thom Tega says:

    Another show that at first might show Hispanics as intelligent as any other race then it becomes your stereotypical Hispanic family that is afraid of standing up to white people and shows Mexican women’s goal in life is to get a white man. People are going to only disrespect Hispanics even more now. Thank you (SARCASTIC).

  2. Liz says:

    Embarrassingly bad, predictable, trite, perhaps worthy of being a mediocre high school skit. I managed to watch the first episode and I wish I had my 30 minutes back.

  3. Theresa says:

    I’m a Mexican American and this show is the worst! She’s very stiff try’s to hard to act. She can’t deliever.. Enough cancel the show and bring in a real actor..I’m all for a good Mexican American show!

  4. Patrick M. says:

    “something of a natural onscreen”?! Are you high? She’s terrible. I guess they’ll give anybody a show these days.

  5. Ze says:

    Cristela fetches a ringing smartphone from her bosom, answers and talks to it upside down.

  6. Susan says:

    She gets dumped on at home and at work. Pretty depressing…

  7. juan says:

    this has to be the worst sitcom ever

  8. racingphan says:

    I’ll be watching for Fluffy! He’s awesome.

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