Just four days after ABC canceled her self-titled sitcom, Mexican-American comedian Cristela Alonzo has written a blog post detailing her reaction to the cancellation news and reflecting on the show’s significance to both her family and its Latino fans.
“I once had a show named Cristela. By once, I mean up until Thursday night. I said ‘once’ because it adds dramatic flair and I think dramatic flair is funny,” Alonzo wrote in a blog post published Monday. She received news of the cancellation via a phone call Thursday evening, after a stand-up comedy show in Fort Lauderdale, an experience she says left her “kinda sad, angry and other things.”
Cristela—a multi-cam comedy that followed aspiring attorney Cristela Hernandez (Alonzo) as she juggled the challenges of a legal internship with the demands of her traditional Mexican family—debuted on ABC in October 2014. Loosely inspired by Alonzo’s childhood living with her three siblings and their mother in an abandoned diner in the border town of San Juan, Texas, Cristela co-starred actors Maria Canals-Barrera, Carlos Ponce, Terri Hoyos, Gabriel Iglesias, Sam McMurray, Justine Lupe and Andrew Leeds. Drawing its humor from the experiences of an immigrant, working-class family, Cristela launched with a 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demographic with 6.5 million viewers, and dipped to a low 0.9 demo rating with roughly 4.7 million viewers with its April 17 finale.
“I was very protective over what I wanted to do in the show and what I didn’t want to do in the show because it portrayed real people from my life,” Alonzo wrote. Through Cristela, she explained, she hoped to create a narrative true to her experience as a Mexican American.
“I thought it was important to show my family because there had never been one like that on TV before,” she wrote in a blog post dedicated to her late mother. “The setting of the show took place in a real time in my life, a really sad time of my life. I had dropped out of college because I couldn’t afford it. My mom got sick. My sister needed help with her kids. I ended up moving in with my sister to take care of my mom and the kids. In real life, this leads up to my mom dying. I chose this era because while it was the hardest time of my life, it was also a time that I thought a lot of families could connect with, especially now.”
In addition to starring on Cristela, Alonzo also created, wrote and produced the show, making her the very first Latina to do so in a network series. Alonzo’s creative control immediately differentiated the comedy from other popular TV series starring Latinas, including Sofia Vergara on Modern Family, America Ferrera on Ugly Betty and Eva Longoria on Desperate Housewives.
“I don’t want to specifically talk about the problems that existed because the cancellation is recent and still fresh,” Alonzo shared in reference to specific problems that may led to the show’s cancellation. She hinted that lack of network support may have been an issue, explaining that the show’s airtime schedule was often shuffled in favor of other programming.
“It was a multi-cam sitcom that SOMETIMES aired on Friday nights,” Alonzo wrote. “I say sometimes because a lot of times we were pre-empted for more important things like an Easter egg hunt happening in real time. Kidding. In reality, we were preempted for other things like a documentary on a parade and some other things I can’t remember. I think one night was a show about Christmas lights?”
Cristela earned attention early in the season as one of two Latina-led network shows to premiere during the 2014-15 season. Helmed by veteran producer Ben Silverman (Ugly Betty), The CW’s Jane The Virgin—starring Gina Rodriguez in the title role as a girl who becomes pregnant during a medical mishap—became a critical favorite early during its run, nabbing a Golden Globe, People’s Choice and Peabody Awards. Based on a Venezuelan telenovela and written by Jennie Snyder Urman (Emily Owens, M.D.), Jane The Virgin received a season 2 order in January.
Though Cristela never earned similar accolades, Alonzo wrote that the show’s resonance with the Latino community remains a source of pride.
“I will say that the best thing to happen to me this year was meeting the people that I wanted to reach with the show. My favorite things to hear were when people would tell me that FINALLY there was someone like them on TV and that they loved that it was a show they could watch with their parents or children,” she wrote. “People told me that they decided to go to college for the first time, others told me they’re going back to school. I have people telling me that their Latino kids are joining the drama club at their school …If these people made these changes because of Cristela, then the show has served its purpose.”
Alonzo revealed that though she remains unsure of next steps, she has already begun writing a book. “Trust me, Cristela the show might be done…but Cristela the person has just started.
Read the entirety of Alonzo’s blog post here.