Last year, there was joy in the Vidal world.
Both sisters were cast in ABC pilots. “We freaked out,” Christina Vidal told the Television Critics Association in January.
Both shows got orders as mid-season replacements. She and Lisa went to New York for the “upfronts,” when actors meet advertisers. “It was like the biggest, craziest party in New York …. It was so exciting, a dream come true.”
And then? By coincidence, both halves of the dream faded. Lisa Vidal’s “The Baker and the Beauty” ran this spring, got weak ratings and was canceled; Christina’s “United We Fall” (shown here) fell into limbo and then into the summertime.
As virus shutdowns began, networks were tempted to move some spring shows to their line-ups for this fall. Fox did that for two series; ABC considered it for “United”… hesitated … then decided not to.
So “United We Fall” ended up in an odd niche: When it debuts (8 and 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 15), it may be the only non-rerun situation comedy on broadcast or basic-cable TV.
The show fits standard sitcom turf. As Naomi Bulochnikov of ABC explains it: “It follows the trials and tribulations of parents with two kids, …. a judgmental live-in mother (and) an extended Latinx Catholic family.”
The cast includes one family link: Playing Christina’s niece is her real-life niece (Lisa’s daughter), Olivia Taylor Cohen. And it includes two people who have been dead-serious lately.
Christina Vidal did start in sitcoms; in her teens, she was a regular in “Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher” and had the title role in Nickelodeon’s “Taina.” Lately, however, she’s been a police detective in “Training Day,” “Grand Hotel” and “10-8.”
Playing her brother is Guillermo Diaz, who recently spent seven years on “Scandal,” sometimes doing wretched deeds – such as, he recalled, “when I pull Quinn’s teeth out with pliers.” When the series concluded, producer Shonda Rhimes gave him those pliers; they’re now mounted in his home.
Alongside Vidal and Diaz are people we definitely associate with comedy. Flash back to 1975, when:
– “Saturday Night Live” debuted in October, with Jane Curtin as one of the stars.
– Will Sasso was born, five months earlier, in Vancouver. Very quickly, he says, he was fascinated by TV and planned to be on it. “It was the only thing I ever wanted to do.”
Thanks to reruns, he saw the sketch-comedy giants, including Curtin. “I grew up watching her. Jane is … a master of the dry delivery.”
And just as Curtin did, he ended up doing latenight sketch comedy. That was on Fox’s “MadTV,” which he did for five full seasons, plus guest spots in other years.
Sasso has kept doing comedy, including six “Mom” episodes as Jill’s boyfriend, a hulking cop. Now he’s Vidal’s husband in “United,” with Curtin as his live-in mother.
“It was the first time I’d met her,” he said. He played it cool until after the pilot film was finished; then “I was able to tell her how much I revere her.””