I really want to see more Latinx shows on my TV. And since there’s not nearly enough, I’m going back and watching shows I missed, even if they were unfairly canceled after one season. That was the fate of the hilarious Cristela, starring Tejana Cristela Alonzo, an entertaining, ground-breaking, and inspirational show that had the plug pulled on it way too soon.
Cristela was absolutely trailblazing. The 2014 show marked the first time that a Latina created, produced, wrote, and starred in her own primetime network comedy. That is major. This is how ABC, the network Cristela aired on, described the show:
“In her sixth year of law school, Cristela is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm… Breakout comedian Cristela Alonzo stars in this hilarious comedy about laughing your way down the path to the new American dream.”
Who wouldn’t want to watch that?! Cristela was funny, prerequisite number one of a successful sitcom, but it was also that special kind of funny that nails the nostalgic, inside-joke-feel of the Latino experience in America. She showed us our overbearing but loving moms. Our other crazy-but-loveable family members. The weight of living in between two cultures while not feeling totally a part of either. Of having the courage to forge new paths–into successful, predominantly white, spaces–to prove that our family’s sacrifices were indeed worth it. Cristela had all that, in addition to showcasing fab Latinx talent including Gabriel Iglesias (FLUFFY!!!), Carlos Ponce, Maria Canals-Barrera, and Terri Hoyos. And did I mention that there is also a love story?
There is a lot of pressure to live up to an opportunity as big as having your own primetime sitcom, and the expectations that come from being the first to do anything. It is quite a balancing act to create a Latina show that could keep it real with us while also appealing to viewers from other backgrounds, but I believe Cristela Alonzo delivered. Starting with 13 episodes, Cristela got a full-season (22 episodes in total) order from ABC, before ultimately being canceled in 2015. To add insult to injury (there should have been several seasons of this show!), Alonzo shared that the road to her own show wasn’t paved in gold. In fact, not only did she receive $0 for her sitcom pilot, but also got one-third of the money that her white, male partner did when it was time to sell the show (he also got an “overall deal,” while she was deemed “not ready” for one).
But, like any strong woman, Cristela Alonzo still rose (shout out to the especially-strong women of color, including Maya Angelou). She’s had several equally hilarious stand-up specials, became an author, voiced Cruz Ramirez in the animated film Cars 3, hosted the reboot of the ‘90s game show Legends of the Hidden Temple, and fights for immigration, healthcare, and lower-income communities. Plus, she’ll be executive producing, co-writing, and starring in a new show, the upcoming She Gets It From Me (Jennifer Lopez will also serve as a producer).
I watched all 22 episodes of Cristela and loved it (you can watch it now on Hulu), and will be watching She Gets It From Me when it premieres. Because Alonzo is really funny. Because I saw a great Latina show that made it into the “mainstream” and showed America many facets of our culture. It showed us what it looks like when Mexican-American women work toward success and achieve it, taking up space, and still doing things our way. And I want to see more of that.