So about a year ago, I stumbled upon a Netflix comedy that I swiftly and unashamedly fell in love with. A comedy series that is unafraid to be dramatic or heartfelt; one that does not feel the need to contradict the changing landscape of modern society for laughs. This show demonstrates that it is possible to have a humorous show while also being unproblematic – in much the same vein that The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine achieve this.
So it was with a pit in my stomach that I saw this tweet crop up on my Twitter feed last night:
It is absolutely baffling to me that I even need to argue the case for this show, as it is so phenomenal, but it would be remiss of me to miss this opportunity to champion the show that I love so much, and truly believe is incredibly important.
One Day at a Time is a reboot of the 1975 – 1984 series of the same name. It has incredibly little to do with the original iteration as far as I can tell, except that both revolve around single mothers raising children. One Day at a Time is a sitcom revolving around the life of Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado), a United States Army Nurse veteran. She has separated from her husband Victor (James Martínez) as a result of his PTSD-induced alcoholism, leaving her to raise teenagers Elena (Isabella Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz) with the help of her mother Lydia (Rita Moreno). Penelope works as a nurse at Dr. Berkowitz’s (Stephen Tobolowsky), who develops a close relationship with Lydia. Part of the family unit is also Schneider (Todd Grinnell), the rich landlord who owns the building that the Alvarez’s live in. It’s a simple enough premise, and it allows a sitcom to breathe.
Each episode is filled with humour, as well as heart and drama. The success of One Day at a Time derives from the existence of real issues hidden in amongst the comedy. I pretty much cry at every single episode, as behind the veneer of the jokes lies a real beating heart that sucker punches you when you’re not paying attention. This is the real importance and significance of One Day at a Time. It draws your attention towards very real social problems that need to be part of our daily dialogue, and it presents them with realism and sensitivity. They are not subjected to ridicule like many programmes do to pacify their audience. This programme is unashamed to make the case for the marginalised and the often demeaned “social justice warriors”, where everyone is so keen to call “liberal flowers” or overly sensitive. It lends a real integrity behind all of the stigmatised and important issues that it covers. I shall now present to you the main reasons why One Day at a Time deserves to continue its run on Netflix, as well as why you (yes, you) should be watching it.
The show features many marginalised sections of society. The main action revolves around a Cuban-American family, for starters. What’s more is that the characters are show to be proud of their roots and make it a strong aspect of their identity throughout the show. Furthermore, there is also queer representation in the form of both a lesbian character, as well as a non-binary character. Additionally, Elena identifies as Latinx. So that’s all great. Diversity within a programme, definitely got it here.
It tackles important issues
I’ve mentioned that the show tackles important issues sensitively (a very responsible thing for any programme to do with the platform that it has). These issues are those such as veterans’ PTSD, as well as dealing with anxiety and depression and the stigma that comes from seeking help for these through medication and therapy. Other issues that are explored are alcoholism and drug addiction, coming to terms with sexuality and homophobia, sexism, racism, racial profiling, white privilege, sexual harassment, rape culture, consent and gentrification.
That seems like a very long list, and almost impossible that a show could cover all of those things without it seeming tenuous, but all of the issues are so context-driven and realistic, it doesn’t feel preachy in the way the content is delivered.
All of the cast can act their bloody socks off. Justina Machado confidently leads the ensemble cast and injects so much passion and humour into her character. The surrounding characters of Elena, Alex, Lydia and Schneider are all similarly beautifully realised and quirky without seeming bizarre or unrelatable. There is always the danger with a sitcom to fall into the caricature (much like Joey/Phoebe in Friends or Charles/Gina in Brooklyn Nine-Nine) and make these characters bafflingly larger than life for the sake of humour. While these characters are all slightly quirky and odd, the jokes all come from realistic places within the storytelling, and they never seem to come out left-field just for the sake of a laugh.
The cast also succeed in having a brilliant family dynamic. It highlights time and time again throughout the series that family is one of the most important aspects of life. There are so many touching moments between these characters, whether it be motherly acceptance shown from Lydia to Penelope, or through the changing dynamic of Elena and Alex. The cast are the glue that holds the show together, and simply wouldn’t function without one of them around.
Stop what you are doing and watch One Day at a Time.
My review of Season 3 will be up in the coming weeks, but the reticence within Netflix compelled me to write this article first.
Netflix believes that One Day at a Time needs more viewers to warrant further seasons. Do not let a show like this pass you by. It is so important in these times that we have those programmes opening up these conversations and representing societal minorities. You can do your bit by streaming it on Netflix.