You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: ‘Cristela’

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

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.

Popular on Variety

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

More TV

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Re-Elected as President of Writers Guild of America East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been re-elected without opposition to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. Kathy McGee was elected to the vice president slot over Phil Pilato. Secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider [...]

  • Dickinson First Look Teaser

    TV News: Apple Drops New 'Dickinson' Trailer With Hailee Steinfeld (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Apple TV Plus’ “Dickinson” series released a new trailer and Netflix released the trailer for the fifth season of “Peaky Blinders.” DATES The “Cash Cab” revival will come to Bravo on Oct. 7. The game show takes place inside a New York cab, where unsuspecting passengers become contestants in a game of [...]

  • Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team

    Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team for Medical Drama in Development at CBS

    CBS is developing a medical drama that hails from writer Katie Wech, Variety has learned. Currently titled “Good Sam,” the series follows a talented yet stifled surgeon who embraces her leadership role after her renowned and pompous boss falls into a coma. When he awakens and wants to resume surgery, however, it falls to her to [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

  • Will Gluck

    Will Gluck Sets TV Overall Deal at eOne (EXCLUSIVE)

    Will Gluck has signed a two-year overall television deal with Entertainment One (eOne), Variety has learned exclusively. Under the deal, Richard Schwartz will continue to oversee all television projects for Gluck’s Olive Bridge Entertainment, with eOne set to serve as studio on all projects under the partnership. “The choice for us was clear given their impeccable [...]

  • Katie Hockmeyer

    NBC Entertainment Names Katie Hockmeyer Exec VP of Late Night Programming

    Katie Hockmeyer has been named executive vice president of late night programming at NBC Entertainment She will report to NBC Entertainment co-chairmen George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy, where she will work on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Saturday Night Live” and newly launched late-night addition, “A Little Late with [...]

  • Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton

    Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton to Head Programming

    Nexstar Media Group has become the nation’s largest owner of TV stations after completing its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. The deal creates a broadcasting colossus with more than 200 stations serving more than 100 markets, although a number of stations will be divested to keep Nexstar in compliance with FCC ownership limits. Nexstar, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content