Thursday, October 09, 2014

ABC Fall Pilot Review: Cristela - Premieres Oct. 10; Sitcom on Kickstarter with Classic TV Stars

Cristela

Cristela - Fridays at 8:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Friday, October 10, 2014 at 8:30PM ET/PT


by Skees

Comedian Cristela Alonzo makes her TV debut in the new ABC sitcom, Cristela, a semi-autobiographical series about a woman trying to fulfill her dreams, in spite of her own family. Alonzo plays Cristela, a Mexican-American woman who is trying to finish up an unpaid internship after constantly dropping and and dropping out of law school, while her mother would rather just see her daughter settle down and find a husband. Meanwhile, her home life forces her to also have to deal with her sister and brother-in-law, as well as their two kids, all under one roof. How can she handle it all? That's what you'll find out in this new sitcom.

Cast Details:

Cristela Alonzo as Cristela
Carlos Ponce as Felix
Maria Canals-Barrera as Danie;a
Terri Hoyos as Natalia
Andrew Leeds as Josh
Sam McMurray as Trent Culpepper
Justine Lupe as Maddie Culpepper
Jacob Guenther as Henry
Isabella Day as Isabella

Cristela Alonso (Cristela) is not only the star of the series, but she is also the co-creator and co-executive producer. The series marks her scripted series debut, but she has appeared on series such as Conan, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and Last Comic Standing. The series is based (in part) upon her life story.

Carlos Ponce (Felix) plays Cristela's brother-in-law on the series. The Puerto Rican born actor and singer has appeared in several Spanish language series, but has also appeared on American series including Beverly Hills, 90210, 7th Heaven, and Lipstick Jungle. He also served as a correspondent on Entertainment Tonight.

María Canals-Barrera (Daniela) plays Cristela's sister. She is best known for her role as Theresa Russo on Wizards of Waverly Place. She also had a starring role in the short-lived sitcom, The Tony Danza Show, and has appeared in George Lopez, The Loop, Popular, Veronica's Closet, Caroline in the City, and Almost Perfect.

Terri Hoyos (Natalia) plays Cristela's mother, who would just like to see her daughter settle down. The first series that she was cast in was the Fox sitcom The Ortegas, which was talked about a lot, but didn't even make it on the air before it was canceled. She has appeared in series that succeeded, though, including Cold Case, Bones, Criminal Minds, Without a Trace, Dharma and Greg, Parks & Recreation, and Modern Family, among others.

Andrew Leeds (Josh) plays Cristela's co-worker. While he has mostly worked on stage in performances such as Les Miserables, his television appearances have included Grey's Anatomy, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Veep, and Hot in Cleveland. He also has the distinction of being a writer for series pilots, and in fact, three of his pilots have been made by NBC.

Sam McMurray (Trent Culpepper) plays Cristela's supervisor. McMurray also filled the role of boss on the series The King of Queens, but has also appeared in Dinosaurs, Friends, and Freaks and Geeks, among other series. He has also played the role of Herman Munster in the made-for-TV movie The Munsters Scary Little Christmas.

Justine Lupe (Maddie Culpepper) plays Trent's daughter, and Cristela's other co-worker. She previously had a recurring role on Harry's Law, and has also appeared in Southland and Shameless.

Jacob Guenther (Henry) plays the son of Daniela and Felix. The young actor has a recurring role on Mad Men, and appeared on How I Met Your Mother and Sam and Cat, and has also appeared in skits on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Isabella Day (Isabella) plays the daughter of Daniela and Felix. She has done several commercials, and appeared last season on an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" – airs Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 8:31PM ET/PT

In the pilot episode, we get to meet Cristela and her family. Cristela wants to be a lawyer and has been  attending law school off-and-on for years. Natalia, her mother, has other dreams for her: she would like to see her daughter get married and have a big house (but by "big house," she means a big house to work in as a maid). Things are looking up for Cristela, though, as she may be on the verge of landing an unpaid internship at a law firm (a dream at this point in her life)... even if that isn't quite what her mother had in mind for her daughter.

"Soul Mates" – airs Friday, October 10th, 2014 at 8:31PM ET/PT

In this episode, Cristela's family is determined to have her go out on a date, despite her own wishes. They even go so far as to create an online dating profile to find her the perfect soul mate. Determined to do whatever is necessary to have her family leave her alone, she agrees to meet with somebody and go on one of those dates, but she is in for a bit of a surprise when she finds out exactly who her mystery man is.


Analysis:

In what I saw of this series, it wasn't bad, but a big problem that I'm seeing is that it is supposed to be an autobiographical sitcom about somebody who we really don't know. We have seen a lot of this lately, and a lot of it has been marginally successful at best. In a sense, it reminds me of the Margaret Cho sitcom All American Girl that ran almost two decades ago on ABC. It's worth noting that at the time, Cho was also an unknown comedian (she is better known now), and the series even had a similar premise, about a young woman trying to live an American lifestyle against the ethnic traditions of her family. The main difference here (besides the ethnicity) is that Cristela is a more mature woman trying to start a professional career.
 
A positive about this series is that it fills a void that occasionally gets filled on broadcast TV (but never for long): it stars and mostly focuses on Hispanics. There is some stereotypical humor to be found in it, but it isn't overdone and isn't exactly over-the-top, and in that sense, reminds me a bit of the type of ethnic humor found on George Lopez. Of course, it wouldn't be complete if there wasn't at least one character who was a sort of over-the-top stereotype, and that would be the character of her mother, Natalia (Terri Hoyos). Luckily, she is a likeable character, and that makes it all a little bit better. The characters at "work" (or really, the internship), though, are the ones that I'm sort of expecting to see a bit more from as the series progresses.

Admittedly, I wasn't completely impressed with what I saw in the pilot episode, but "Soul Mates" (which airs on October 17th) was a much better episode than the pilot. Part of the problem with pilots in general, of course, is that they have to waste a lot of time building up the premise and introducing us to who each person is and why they are there, and trying to come up with small stories to make everybody fit in. That tether comes off once the show really begins, and the story in the second episode was a nice (though standard) sitcom episode. Between both episodes, I can't say that I laughed a whole lot, but there were certainly some funny moments. It seems, though, that the series is relying a bit more on stronger scripts, and I think that it has that potential, even if it hasn't quite been fully achieved yet. Also, I have to wonder where the series goes after the internship, assuming that it lasts that long... perhaps if the series works out well, she can be hired full-time? Or if not (but the series somehow manages to succeed in spite of that), could that be a good chance for a retooling? That's a bit off in the future, but it does leave some doors open.

Conclusion:

I honestly have to say that this wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting. A lot of what I read going into the pilot was by and large negative, but after watching it, it really wasn't bad. I think a big part of the problem that many people have difficulty with in a series like this (and there have been plenty more with the same issue in the past few seasons) is that it is a semi-autobiographical about a person that nobody knows. I had no idea who Cristela Alonzo was before watching this series, and even after watching it, it is hard to relate the series to who she is and what (if anything) this has to do with her life. This is a giant hurdle that the series is going to have to overcome, because to most people, this series will just be some random series about a Hispanic family. This may be a challenge since ABC has already put it on Friday night, which isn't exactly the "death slot" it was for ABC few years ago (in large part thanks to Shark Tank making people realize that there actually is a Friday night for the networks), but still poses some challenges to the success of a sitcom. It's hard to give a prognosis for this series since Friday is a bit of a wildcard, but I think it'll have plenty of time to prove whether or not it is worth of being a lasting hit.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3/5
Funniness: 2/5
Overall: 3/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Friday, October 10 at 8:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Cristela Photo Gallery

    Preview:





  • Life Interrupted

    Borgasmord Productions' first project, a scripted, single camera comedy titled Life Interrupted officially launched via a Kickstarter Campaign on Tuesday (October 7). The project brings together several fan-favorites playing the non-traditional, and hilariously dysfunctional blended family of Mason Bell as he navigates what is shaping up to be a whopper of a midlife crisis. Bell will be played by Mason Reese, who uttered the spooner-ism "borgasmord" in a series of commercials for a canned-meat product in the '70s. Playing Mason's ex-wife is Alison Arngrim of Little House on the Prairie fame, and in the role of Alison's new wife is Erin Murphy who is best known as Tabitha from Bewitched. Mason's sassy former mother-in-law is the incomparable Dawn Wells aka Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island. The cast is rounded out with Dominican-American heartthrob Luis Jose Lopez (Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights) and Newcomer Robbie Allen. The show also features Robbie Rist (The Brady Bunch, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Brandon Cruz (The Courtship of Eddies Father), Julie Dolan (Gilmore Girls, Detention) and more.

    Borgasmord Productions is the brain child of Clio Award winning former child-actor Mason Reese and the multi-hyphenated, Emmy nominated Producer-Writer (et al) Steven Wishnoff. The pair has teamed up with some of the most respected production executives in the business to create, develop and deliver content across a broad spectrum of genres for all platforms. The Kickstarter campaign for Life Interrupted runs 10/7/14 – 11/10/14. Back this project today to see some of your favorite classic TV stars in a new comedy!


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Monday, September 24

    The Big Bang Theory - "The Conjugal Configuration" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Sheldon and Amy’s honeymoon runs aground in New York, while Penny and Leonard discover they are uncomfortably similar to Amy’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fowler (Teller and Kathy Bates). Also, Koothrappali insults physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and starts a Twitter war.

    Young Sheldon - "A High-Pitched Buzz and Training Wheels" (CBS, 8:30PM ET/PT)
    After Sheldon dismantles the refrigerator to stop an annoying hum, he gets a paper route to pay for the repairs.

    In The Cut - "The Big Day" (Bounce TV, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    Jay and Cheryl try to overcome the obstacle of their wedding venue being double-booked; Mabel is offered a lot of money to sell her restaurant.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of September 24)

    Monday, September 24

    • John David Washington (Ballers) - Watch John on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at 11:34pm on NBC. He also talks about Monsters and Men on the BUILD Series at 3pm.
    • Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement (The Flight of the Conchords) - The Flight of the Conchords give a musical performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert at 11:35pm on CBS.
    • Ron Livingston (Loudermilk) - Ron stops by Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC.
    • Tiffany Haddish (The Last O.G./The Carmichael Show) - Tiffany visits The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Jay Hernandez (Hang Time) - Jay is a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS. He will also be on The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Janet Montgomery (Entourage) - Janet appears on Last Call with Carson Daly at 1:35am on NBC.
    • Bradley Cooper (Kitchen Confidential) - Bradley drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
    • Valerie Bertinelli (Hot in Cleveland/Café Americain/Sydney/One Day at a Time) - Valerie guest co-hosts The Talk on CBS at 2pm ET/1pm CT-PT.
    • Yara Shahidi (black-ish/grown-ish) - Yara is a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
    • Lonnie Chavis (White Famous) - Lonnie appears on Steve, so check your local listings.
    • J. R. Ramirez (Tyler Perry's House of Payne) - J. R. talks about Manifest on Access Live, so check your local listings. He will also be on the BUILD Series at 1pm and on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
    • Martha Plimpton (The Real O'Neals/Raising Hope) - Martha will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 11:30am ET.
    • Ricky Gervais (The Office) - Ricky talks about Child Support on ABC's Good Morning America sometime between 7-9am.
    • Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother/Stark Raving Mad/Doogie Howser, M.D.) - Neil talks about The Magic Misfits: The Second Story on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
    • Bill Engvall (The Bill Engvall Show) - Bill will be on The Doctors, so check your local listings.
    • Jason George (Eve) - Jason appears on Good Day New York on WNYW-Fox5 in New York sometime between 7-10am.


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (August/September)

    The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Eleventh Season The Middle - The Complete Ninth Season Modern Family - The Complete Ninth Season Step by Step - The Complete Second Season Perfect Strangers - The Complete Fifth Season

    08/07 - Happy Endings - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    08/15 - A.P. Bio - Season One
    08/28 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season Five
    08/28 - Man Seeking Woman - The Complete Third Season
    09/04 - It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - The Complete Season 12
    09/04 - Mom - The Complete Fifth Season
    09/04 - Silicon Valley - The Complete Fifth Season
    09/04 - Superstore - Season Three
    09/04 - Young Sheldon - The Complete First Season
    09/11 - The Big Bang Theory - The Complete Eleventh Season (Blu-ray)
    09/11 - The Middle - The Complete Ninth Season
    09/11 - Modern Family - The Complete Ninth Season
    09/11 - People of Earth - The Complete Second Season
    09/18 - Community - The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
    09/18 - Step by Step - The Complete Second Season
    09/18 - You're the Worst - The Complete Fourth Season
    09/25 - Blondie - The Complete 1957 Television Series
    09/25 - Perfect Strangers - The Complete Fifth Season
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