Pilot Perception: Cristela

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Cristela, ABC in the U.S. and Canada, Fridays at 8:30/7:30c

The Pedigree: Cristela was created by comedian Cristela Alonzo and Kevin Hench (Last Man Standing). They produce along with Marty Adelstein (Last Man Standing, Teen Wolf) and Becky Clements (Last Man Standing). John Pasquin (George Lopez, Last Man Standing) directed the pilot.

The Cast & How You Know Them: Along with Alonso, the cast includes Carlos Ponce (7th Heaven, Double Life), Maria Canals-Barrera (Wizards of Waverly Place), Terri Hoyos (Cold Case), Andrew Leeds (Bones), and Sam McMurray (Scandal).

The Premise: Cristela is an ambitious law student who must balance what she wants for her future with her obligations toward and affection for her traditional Mexican-American family.

A Taste:

What Works: I had a smile on my face for this entire episode, and I laughed out loud more than once. Cristela‘s pilot was delightful, especially because of its distinctly feminist perspective and its portrayal of a messy family that has conflicts but still clearly loves each other. There was also some particularly great stuff about race and class in the scenes where Cristela interviews for a fancy internship. Cristela is a strong lead and even in the first episode, the family dynamics feel like they’re coming from years of interaction. And, of course, it’s great seeing another woman of color leading a show, especially as a co-creator as well as star.

What Doesn’t: The format of this is very much a traditional multi-camera sitcom, and I know a lot of audiences are sick of those. The laugh track seemed particularly intrusive in this one. And there’s a fine line between skewering stereotypes for the sake of comedy and just using the stereotypes themselves as a substitute for humor. The pilot mostly fell on the right side of this line, and hopefully future episodes will do so as well.

Our Favorite Line: On cheerleading: “Ah yes, the great Texas tradition where girls learn they’re not quite as important as boys.”

You Might Like This if you like traditional multi-generational family comedies but also want a feminist perspective and a show that deals head on with issues of race, class, immigration, and more.

If You’re Interested: Catch the pilot on the ABC site or Hulu, then set your DVR for Friday at 8:30/7:30c.

(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

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