If ABC’s Cristela succeeds it will be because of the show’s star Cristela Alonzo and not because of the material. The half-hour comedy kicked off on Friday, October 10, 2014 with an episode that found Cristela attempting to land an internship at a prestigious law firm. And while the setup’s cute – a law student has to live with her sister (Maria Canals-Barrera) and brother-in-law (Carlos Ponce) because she can’t afford her own place – the humor seemed alternately forced or too obvious in this first episode.
Have you ever watched a sitcom and wished they’d turn the laugh track down? Cristela had me wishing for that very thing as the show’s laugh track was annoyingly excessive. You could almost picture flashing “laugh like you’re losing your mind” signs above the audience as the volume and sheer stridency of the track intruded on rather than complimented the jokes.
Still, even when jokes fell flat – and there were a handful of such instances – Alonzo’s charm carried the show over the rough spots. She’s just naturally likable and you’re rooting for her to succeed, both as an actress and as the character. Much of the humor comes from jokes made at the expense of Hispanics, but even as the show pokes fun at stereotypes, they’re doing so without malice and with Cristela not accepting the jokes without throwing in a few jabs of her own.
Episode one’s high points all took place at Cristela’s new place of employment, as she and her new boss at the law firm traded one-liners. There’s solid chemistry between Alonzo and Sam McMurray who plays the aggressive, politically incorrect lawyer who hires Cristela on as his intern. Less successful were the scenes that were set at Cristela’s sister’s home, with the characters coming off as complete stereotypes.
Will Cristela find the right tone after an uneven premiere? And, more importantly, will ABC give it time to find its footing before deciding its fate? Cristela offered splashes of laugh out loud humor but Cristela Alonzo can’t carry the show by herself. Hopefully in upcoming episodes the supporting characters will be allowed to develop further than one-dimensional throw-away characters they came across as in the show’s premiere.
-By Rebecca Murray
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