“Cristela” makes a name for herself

By Marcus Jones

via Variety
via Variety

There has been quite a backlash against multi-cam sitcoms as of late. From “The Big Bang Theory” playing too much to the lowest common denominator to “Mulaney” crashing and burning right out of the gate, some audiences just do not like what was once the defining format of a sitcom. ABC has taken note of this: shows like the wildly popular “Modern Family” and new show “Black-ish” are shown on nights like Wednesday where there are a peak number of viewers.

Fridays in network TV are considered kind of a wasteland though. It has been said before that Friday is where shows go to die. ABC has countered this with the unexpected hit, “Shark Tank,” paired with the multicam sitcom, “Last Man Standing,” Tim Allen’s comeback show. But, a programming block is not built on 90 minutes and ABC needed a replacement show after cancelling “Malibu Country.” Enter the new show, “Cristela,” centered on a young, working class, Mexican-American woman in her sixth year of law school who lands an internship at a prestigious Dallas law firm.

If you follow pilot season, “Cristela” has kind of been the little pilot that could. The show’s biggest star is Gabriel Iglesias and that is more in stature than popularity. Cristela Alonzo has been named by Variety as one of the top up-and-coming comics though, and boy does it show why once you see the sitcom.

“Cristela” feels like a TV show right off the famous TGIF block ABC had in the 90s and mid 00s. The show breathes fresh air to the multicam sitcom and that falls directly on Cristela Alonzo’s shoulders. The girl can sell a joke and the audience loves her. Whether she is bickering with her brother in law Felix (Carlos Ponce) or checking her casually racist new boss and his daughter, Cristela has natural comedic timing and is a treat to watch.

To be honest though, it is the rest of the cast that holds this show back. As a fan of “Wizards of Waverly Place,” it is fun seeing Maria Canals-Barrera back on television playing Cristela’s sister Daniela and Terri Hoyos does well too as their mother Natalia, but outside of the sweet relationship the three of them share is outdated dialogue about grandmothers being cranky and Daniela being the beautiful dumb domestic type. Andrew Leeds’ Josh is fun as Cristela’s good Jewish boy coworker and love interest, but with the audience rooting for an underdog like Cristela, all of Josh’s talk of good fortune leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.  Speaking of bad taste, the aforementioned Gabriel Iglesias’ talent is wasted a bit with his role as Alberto, Felix’s cousin. Alberto is a little too creepy and a little too handsy for someone with little screentime. It is like his is the side order of sexual harassment to the platter of misfortune Cristela already is making her way through.

Regardless, Cristela is fun to watch because Cristela Alonzo is fun to watch. While the other show self-titled show this season crashes and burns trying to hard to be like “Seinfeld” and “Friends,” “Cristela” succeeds all due to the lead being herself.

Marcus Jones is a staff writer.  Email him at entertainment@nyunews.com.

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