This is a spoiler-free review of ‘One Day at a Time’ (2017) season one.
If you’ve seen this season you can delve into the spoiler section after the review.
Length: 26-31 mins
Binge time: 6 hours
Norman Lear is back with One Day at a Time. This reboot of the 70’s show comes to Netflix and swaps out the white cast for a Cuban-American family. Along with remaking the original theme this is a complete reimagining of the series. It’s your classic multi-camera sitcom a la Cheers, Friends, and all those great comedies. But on a streaming service!
Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado) is a single mum who served over in Afghanistan as a medic, but now works back at home at a doctor’s office. Penelope’s mother, Lydia Riera (Rita Moreno), immigrated from Cuba when she was young. She lives with them in a curtained-off part of the living room, which creates some interesting story beats.
These really are the stars of the show. Their mother-daughter relationship is heartwarming as anything. Like really. You just wanna give the TV a big ol’ hug so you can be a part of it. Their relationship can be put to the test at times but Lydia is really quite progressive, even coming from an older generation and different culture.
Penelope has two kids; Alex, a young tween (sorry, I hate that word too), who is an adorable boy, but mostly used for comic relief. The more emotional moments arise from Elena, the older sister.
The through-line of this season is Elena’s Quinces, the Latin American coming-of age celebration for young women. Elena is a feminist and big believer in social justice, and struggles to come to terms with how this Quinces fits in with her beliefs. She outwardly expresses her concerns and I strongly identified with her aims to be socially responsible in a world where people might not feel the same way. Her story might resonate with you too.
One Day at a Time is immeasurably enjoyable. It’s just something you want to put on and spend time with this family. Have some laughs, have some cries. There’s some quite affecting moments in One Day at a Time which you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a multi-camera sitcom. It covers tough subject matter including gender, sexuality, and race. It’s not preachy, it covers the opposing viewpoints with tact, and often they come to a compromise at the end of it.
I was surprised by how much I loved this show as I normally steer myself away from these modern-day multi-cam sitcoms. You know, the ones with the studio audiences. Big Bang Theory lover I am not. But I realised how much I missed these types of shows. There’s something light-hearted and joyous about them. Bright colours. Laugh track. You can throw it on for half an hour and unwind at the end of your work day.
One Day at a Time is unusual in the fact you can binge this entire first season in one sitting. It is the Netflix way, drama or sitcom alike. Of course we here at Binge With Me endorse binge-watching, but maybe not in this instance. Space it out because the episodes are really quite stand-alone and coming home to a fresh episode is just like the good old days of TV. It could just as well air on network television but it’s not, so you’re going to have to police yourself on this one. We can’t tell you what to do!
So there are two other regulars, the token white guys. Penelope’s boss is Dr. Leslie Berkowitz played by veteran actor Stephen Tobolowsky. His role isn’t as big as the rest of them, but he’s a welcome minor character. It always sounds bad when you write minor! His dorkish personality really shines in the scenes he’s in.
Schneider (Todd Grinnell) is their neighbour (he lives in their apartment building), and becomes an honorary member of the family. He often flies between the extremes of cocky confidence through to mousey timidness and it’s entertaining as heck to watch.
Verdict: I’m in love. This show is utterly endearing. It tickled my funny bone. It played my heart strings. Just don’t binge. You really should be watching this, one day at a time.
Where to watch: Netflix
The last two episodes really are a departure from a well established season. Penelope’s ex is back in town. Yes, the one with the PTSD and the drinking problem. He comes across as a fun loving dad (not the dysfunctional man we heard about), but we soon learn he hasn’t really changed at all. His mere presence hangs this heavy cloud over these two final episodes.
Elena feels like she can come out to her dad, but everything that could go wrong, did, and he chose not to be supportive of his daughter and chalked it up to a phase she was going through. We’ve all heard that line before.
Penelope admits she was thrown when Elena came out, which is normal in that kind of situation, and it takes some time to process. But she was immediately supportive of Elena, and the closing scene of them slow dancing during the father-daughter dance is a perfect end to this season.