Talk about a LATE POST! I’ve been watching One Day At A Time since the beginning (the show premiered in 2017) and can’t believe it’s taken me so long to write about it. But after news hit about its cancellation, I feel a fire BURNING inside me to write this review, a couple years late as it may be. One Day At A Time follows a multigenerational Cuban American family in Los Angeles - Penelope (Justina Machado), the war vet nurse mom who suffers from anxiety and depression, Elena (Isabella Gomez), the lesbian Social Justice Warrior teenage daughter, Alex (Marcel Ruiz), the smol and popular younger son, and Lydia (Rita Moreno), as the flamboyant matriarch of the family. Developed by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, the show is a re-imagination of Norman Lear’s show from the 1970s/1980s. And just like in Norman Lear fashion, One Day At A Time uses that very broad multi-cam sitcom format to touch upon important social issues, just like his shows have always done in the past like All In The Family, Sanford and Son, Good Times, The Jeffersons and more. I can definitively say that this reiteration, this wonderfully touching and heartwarming show, is one of the best shows to have graced television today.
I am not the prime target for a multi-cam sitcom - ever. But this show swooped me up and took me along for its ride the minute it began. Elena is in the thick of teenager-hood and Penelope and Lydia both try to convince her to have a quinceañera, which she quickly evades, claiming it as a patriarchal tradition. As soon as she said those words, I was IN. The show does a genius, and frankly unmatched, job of tying in all the different stories that occur while living with this family. Elena’s quinceañera and, as we come to find out, her sexuality come to a tear-jerking clash at the season finale in one of the most heartbreaking and heartwarming scenes during what was supposed to be her father-daughter dance. Elena’s journey aside, the show revolves essentially around its central character, which is Penelope. She is a hardworking mom (a nurse, just like mine!) who is single/ready to mingle, but truly has to juggle everything from teaching Alex about consent, to helping Elena’s friend whose parents just got deported, to Lydia’s clashing traditional ways, to having literal panic attacks as a result of war PTSD. It’s a lot but the writers of the show bring a tender specificity and charming humor to the stories that make One Day At A Time one of the most boundary-pushing shows on television, even in its ‘traditional’ format. If Modern Family is considered ‘progressive’ for a broadcast comedy, this show kicks it up 100 notches and manages to be that many steps ahead the general public in its sensitive tackling of tough subject matter.
I am particularly fond of Rita Moreno as Lydia who, at the age of 86, continues to be the shiniest star there ever was. She’s an EGOT after all! Alex’s behaviors and attitudes remind me so fucking much of my brothers, it’s actually uncanny. Elena, in a later season, gets in a relationship with someone who is non-binary, and the show navigates their relationship such uwu-ness and care that I really might die. The episode when they got a hotel room destroyed me.
Now, let’s talk about why Netflix completely dropped the ball on One Day At A Time. As it was just announced earlier this week that the show would not be renewed for a fourth season, despite climbing viewership and heavy word-of-mouth. Netflix made the “very difficult decision” of cancelling the show because “not enough people watched” to “justify another season”. Justify, my ass. They later continued the tweet thread saying that we “must continue to find ways to tell these stories.” Hmm, I don’t know Netflix, don’t you think that justifies another season?? Mind you, Netflix threw $100M at Friends to keep it streaming last year, and while cancelling our beloved show, decided to renew Insatiable for a second season. In case you didn’t know, Insatiable is about a fat girl getting revenge on her bullies by getting skinny, played by the objectively not-fat Debby Ryan, in truly the most fatphobic way possible. And truly what I can’t fathom is ow Netflix expected to garner the viewership they apparently need to sustain a single show among its trillion other ones, if they did absolutely zero marketing for it. As far as I know, the show only made it this far by sheer word-of-mouth. 😑
I’m happy to see so many people rallying for One Day At A Time post-cancellation announcement. Lin-Manuel Miranda is trying to pull strings to get another network to pick the show back up, meanwhile, people on Twitter all pleading/fighting Netflix in attempts to get the show back. I can only hope for a Brooklyn Nine-Nine style save, but the chances are seemingly unlikely as the show’s production studio is Sony. But honestly, honestly, I would really lose my mind if one of the main broadcast networks picks up the show. It’s a multi-cam sitcom, which is literally made for broad, cheap audiences. Unfortunately, I doubt if One Day At A Time were to return under those circumstances, that they would be able to keep a lot of their creative freedom - which is WHY I can only hope for Netflix (or Hulu! Amazon! Come on streaming!) to eat their fucking words and simply renew the show for another season. Literally, just cancel any one of your million reality shows that no one watches and give those of us who “felt seen or represented” to keep being able to see these stories. But until they do that, check out this list of some treasured moments for the show.