This past season, ABC made history when it picked up the sitcom CRISTELA. Series creator Cristela Alonzo was the first Latina to create, produce and star in a network sitcom. The show starred Alonzo as a struggling law student trying to prove herself at a top law firm all while living with her sister, brother-in-law, their children and her often disapproving mother. That was a lot for a half hour sitcom, but the show often got me to laugh and care about Cristela and her family. ABC scheduled the show on Fridays which is a tough night for a show filled with mostly unknown actors. At the end of its first season, CRISTELA was cancelled.
I wouldn’t give up on Cristela Alonzo as a comedic leading lady. She’s smart, funny and has a lot of rooting value. I think one of the challenges of CRISTELA was getting viewers to connect with the law firm stories, especially since the stories were rarely about the cases. Instead, CRISTELA used the law firm as a way to show the challenges a young, Mexican-American woman faces in the corporate world. I do think it is an important issue to explore, but I don’t think the law firm was the right setting for a half hour sitcom. While I understood the aspirational aspect of the story, I could never quite invest in that world. The material with Cristela’s family was much stronger, I believe in part because Alonzo drew upon her own life in those storylines.
I would love to see Cristela Alonzo return to tv in a workplace sitcom set in a newsroom. Cristela would be an aspiring on-air talent, living in a town light on diversity, who can only get a job producing fluff segments covering local events like the county fair. When the reporter with whom she works is fired for swearing during a live interview with a kid who pukes on her, Cristela quickly jumps in and saves the story. While she’s given the chance to continue covering light stories for the newscast, her executive producer tells her that although she has a masters in journalism from an Ivy League school, she doesn’t have the “right look” for any serious news stories and most certainly will never sit at the anchor desk. Cristela takes this as a challenge and is determined to use the small on-air opportunity she has to get the job she really wants.
Sitcoms with female leads set in newsrooms have a proven track record (THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, MURPHY BROWN) and is aspirational enough to entice a broad audience. The seasoned female news anchor could take Cristela under her wing and be a mentor. At home, Cristela would be sharing a two bedroom apartment with a guy friend that she went to college with, setting up a potential love interest for her. I would cast her former costar Carlos Ponce in that role. They were great sparring partners as in-laws and I think they’d have great romantic chemistry. Roseanne Barr guest-starred on two episodes of CRISTELA and I’d love to see her as Cristela’s landlady and surrogate mother who is willing to lend her a sympathetic ear and good kick in the pants all within the same scene. Alonzo could still keep her edge and address the social topics important to her.
Cristela Alonzo is a great talent with a strong point of view and should be given another chance to headline a series. She deserves it, as do we.
Take a look at Cristela Alonzo doing stand-up on The Late Late Show with Craig Fergerson below.