One Day at a Time

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What it’s about:

Based on the 1975 show of the same name, the new One Day at a Time follows the Alvarezs, a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles. Matriarch Penelope (Justina Machado) is a divorced nurse and military vet adjusting to life as the head of a three-generation household she shares with her teenage daughter, who’s coming to terms with her sexuality, her younger son Alex, a sweet kid turned wise-behind-his-years teen, and her first generation mom, Lydia (Rita Moreno), a flamboyant and still-sexual grandma who still sees herself as “God’s gift to men.”

Much like in the original, they are frequently visited by their landlord, Schneider (Todd Grinnell).

Names you might know:

The original and the reboot were created by the legendary Norman Lear, who also created All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Diff’rent Strokes and many other cultural touchstones.  The iconic Rita Morena, winner of an Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony (EGOT), played the original Maria in West Side Story.  You’ll recognize Justina Machado from Six Feet Under and Jane the Virgin.

Why it’s worth your time:

It’s questionable why most reboots exist when, for the most part, they are either a rehash of the original material or a “gritty take” on a series that was never meant to be gritty (looking at you, Bel-Air). Yet One Day at a Time is the rare reboot that surpasses the original series: It’s wittier, sassier, and a whole lot more fun.

As the child of an immigrant who grew up in a community of immigrants, there weren’t many TV series I could relate to growing up. One Day at a Time is the series I needed, and I’m very grateful that it now exists. I have relatives who love to regale me with epic stories of their homeland the way Moreno majestically discusses Cuba. I grew up eating a mix of food from around the world, which often confused my classmates. I struggled to find my own identity, even in a city as diverse as Los Angeles (which is where One Day at a Time takes place). Seeing another family reflect all of this is touching, especially since the series is light and heartwarming.

The multi-camera comedy is an art form that not every show can master, but executive producer Norman Lear and showrunners Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce have created the Michaelangelo of multi-cam sitcoms. The jokes are sharp and, more importantly, actually funny, and the pacing keeps the stories and the humor moving like in old school comedies. Each actor in the show is well aware of what timing is and knows how to perfectly land a joke. The main cast’s chemistry is palpable, and you can’t help but root for them as they deal with everyday struggles — from trying to sell chocolate bars to planning a quinceanera. While over-the-top sitcoms can work, the best ones are often rooted in reality.

What makes the show refreshing is to see a Latino family treated as your lovable neighbors who live next door. Too many series have featured Latinos as side characters, background, or worse, as being involved in illegal schemes. The problems that Penelope and her family face are problems so many families face: money concerns, loneliness, dating woes, generational divides, and even the more serious issues, like depression. Their problems are not played for laughs, and their reactions are relatable. There are no “after school special” episodes, even when the characters are faced with something timely, such as how to help a child whose parents have been deported.

Even though One Day at a Time has aired its last season, we can still re-watch it as many times as we like. It’s like a big bowl of ropa vieja: no matter how many times we eat it, we still want another spoonful.

The takeaway:

A clever and earnest updated take on a 70s sitcom classic that reveals how universal cross-generational family struggles can be…regardless of the decade or the family’s background.

Watch it with:

Your family. The series will remind you that even though they might drive you crazy, they’re still your family and you still love them.

Worth noting:

One Day at a Time actually roasted ABC’s Roseanne revival. After ABC canceled the series, Netflix posted the following advertisement next to One Day at a Time: *”Reminder: One Day at a Time is a sitcom about a tight-knit, working class family that tackles extremely topical social issues in a smart and innovative way. Ya know, if you’re suddenly looking for a show like that…” How very cheeky!


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