Cristela follows a law student trying to balance her career with her demanding family.
Cristela Alonzo leads a great cast playing the titular character. She is definitely the standout performer of the show, delivering the funniest material with enthusiasm and ease. Sometimes it can feel like she’s overacting the part but with a show like this it doesn’t matter. The whole thing feels very high energy so her performance matches. What’s great is that she’s so likeable which makes the audience connect almost instantly. She’s also very relatable, getting herself into awkward situations and often saying the wrong thing. Plus the scenes with her overbearing family make us even more sympathetic to her and are also a great source of comedy.
Her family are made up of her mother Natalia (Terri Hoyos), sister Daniela (Maria Canals-Barrera), brother-in-law Felix (Carlos Ponce), their children Isabella (Isabella Day) and Henry (Jacob Guenther), and Felix’s brother Alberto (Gabriel Iglesias). At times Daniela comes across as quite stuck up especially when she insisted Isabella do cheerleading instead of soccer despite her protesting. However she makes up for this in the scenes shared with Cristela and her mother. These scenes are the highlight of the show, the teasing of their mother for her old fashioned, rigid views makes for great viewing. It also showcases the great sisterly bond they have as well as the antagonistic yet loving relationship they have with their mother. This relationship is similar to the relationship Cristela shares with her brother-in-law. Their constant sniping at each other probably brought the most laughs and was the source of some great one liners. Despite that you can tell they truly care for each other. And I think that’s the point of this show, that no matter how much your family annoy you, they’re still your family and you love them. And let’s face it, that’s what a lot of people in real life think about their families. I really love that the show paints a realistic picture of family life; I think it is one of its biggest strengths.
Her work life is made up of her boss Trent (Sam McMurray), fellow intern and Trent’s daughter Maddie (Justine Lupe), and another intern and potential love interest Josh (Andrew Leeds). Whilst Trent is funny some of his remarks are a little too offensive. I understand him joking about her Mexican heritage is meant to show his level of ignorance but it also may make some viewers feel insulted. I think the writers need to be careful with how far they push the boundaries with his character. His daughter was ignorant on a completely different level but her character actually worked very well. You got the feeling that her offensive stereotyping came from stupidity and lack of awareness rather than meaning direct harm which made her instantly more likeable than her father. I only wish we’d seen more of her in the pilot. Hopefully she’ll have more scenes in forthcoming episodes as I think she will be very entertaining. One character that I’m unsure about is Josh. I’m not sure if they will try to push a romantic storyline between him and Cristela but here didn’t feel like there was any chemistry there. As a result the scenes between the two, even becoming acquaintances, felt forced. Like Maddie he got hardly any screen time in the pilot but unlike her, he didn’t really make a mark with the scenes that he did have. That’s not to discredit him; he didn’t have as funny material as Maddie so it was always going to be more difficult to shine. What’s clear is that the writers need to think about what they’re going to do with his character as at the moment he’s not very entertaining.
It’s interesting that two of the characters at the law firm didn’t get much screen time whilst so much time was spent on the family storyline. This may turn into a problem for the show. It is great to have two major storylines going on at once but if you can’t connect them or give equal time to both it starts to feel disjointed and the show can suffer as a result. That’s exactly what happened in the pilot, the law firm scenes just felt like a messily placed add on to the family scenes. There was no flow whatsoever. That was the main negative of the episode for me. However if the writers address this problem I think the show could really flourish.
Despite some teething problems Cristela’s pilot was both entertaining and sweet. It’s a show you can watch with the whole family as there’s something in it for everyone. It’s packed with laughs and the cast perform well. If they iron out the kinks and fine tune it a little, Cristela has the potential to be a great comedy.