Centred around a Cuban-American family, One Day at a Time (a reboot of the 1970-80’s sit-com) follows the lives of single mother Penelope Alvarez, her two children Alex and Elena and their Grandmother Lydia. This witty, woke and heart warming comedy provides absolutely everything, to absolutely everyone, in just 13 (roughly) 30 minute episodes. One Day at a Time is the latest Netflix original to show-up network TV in ALL the right ways.
From the very first episode, it’s evident that the show is going to excel. With a Latinx family at the forefront, One Day at a Time provides much needed representation to the community that’s been lacking it for centuries. What’s even better is that ODAAT successfully avoids conforming to harmful and repetitive stereotypes. Instead, it provides relatable, light-hearted and powerful characters.
Whilst providing this positive representation, One Day at a Time also does well in educating audiences who can’t identify with, or fully understand the character’s hardships and backstories. Especially when it comes to immigration. Immigration is rarely talked about in television, and when it is, it’s usually negative or the punch line to some unnecessary joke. But on multiple occasions, ODAAT fights against this. With everything that’s going on in society and politics, it’s refreshing to see walls get broken down.
TV’s gotten better over the years at putting women in leading and powerful roles, and ODAAT adds to the list with Penelope, Elena and Lydia.
First off, Penelope (Justina Machado) is an ex-veteran dealing with PTSD and an injured shoulder having returned from Afghanistan. She’s a single mother who with the help of her own mother, has brought up two incredibly grounded children. She stands up for what’s right and doesn’t hesitate in putting someone in their place when they’re in the wrong. For example, when she finally speaks up about her painfully misogynistic colleague and quits her job after finding out he’s getting paid more than her. When her boss asks her to come back, it’s on her own terms of higher pay. It’s great to see this issue tackled in television, because it’s constantly getting shut down in reality.
Women experience injustice and ignorance in the workplace every day, and people seem to think that because it’s not happening to them, it’s not happening to anyone. We see the issue occur, we see Penelope fight against it and we see it get resolved. This is what I like to see go down.
We also see a lot of these issues tackled with Schneider (Todd Grinnell), the extended white family member who isn’t always perfect. He bends over backwards for the family and it’s evident how much they all look out for each other. But, there are multiple occasions in the show where he makes an unbeknown to him, ignorant remark. But what I love about ODAAT is how the other characters educate him on his ignorance. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just lived a life of more privilege and isn’t always conscious that what he’s saying is wrong – a trait that most of society today unfortunately carry. Schneider is educated by the Alvarez’s, accepts his errors and apologises for his remarks.
Mental health issues are also tackled well with Penelope. One Day at a Time aren’t afraid of shutting down social stigmas and emphasise the internal struggles that sufferers go through. As she attends a group counselling session for veterans, we see Penelope begin to speak up about what she’s facing and share her story with those around her. We’re introduced to a wide array of females who with even just a few lines of dialogue, connect to the audience. We emphasise with them. We relate to them. They aren’t put in a position that tries to make us look down upon them and they’re perfectly placed in the shows diverse ensemble.
Lydia Alvarez (Rita Moreno) is also another powerhouse. She’s fierce, loving and provides some of the best moments in the show. Although she comes into the odd conflict with her family members when her traditional Cuban values are questioned, she always expands her perspective and puts those she loves first.
And how can we talk about bad-ass females without mentioning Elena? Elena (Isabella Gomez) is undoubtedly the most vocal, and most woke when it comes to female empowerment. She knows what’s right and she’s not afraid to speak up about it. She not only educates those around her, but she educates the audience on topical issues too.
But, that isn’t the only thing she stands out for. The shows central storyline is focused on Elena’s upcoming quinceañera. As it gets closer, she begins to dig deeper into understanding who she really is. Lydia wants her to find a boy to take, but Elena is unsure about her feelings and whether that’s something she really wants. It takes her a bit of a time, but she eventually realises that she’s gay and comes out to each of her family members.
Elena’s entire coming out arc is both beautifully written and executed. Her coming out scene with Penelope was both raw and realistic and achieved what so many other shows have failed to do. It’s so common to see LGBT characters in TV be the centre of pain and heartbreak, and for their coming out stories to highlight disapproval and rejection, so this was refreshing to see.
With the bury your gays trope being the topic of conversation in TV last year, the call for better representation seems to be getting answered. Whilst other shows like Supergirl are also helping to set a much higher precedent, it’s great to see this continued amongst other platforms and networks. ODAAT have effortlessly displayed how it should be done.
One of the great things that ODAAT also did with Elena’s arc was show us it from the families perceptive. Seeing as the show is based around the strength and love of family, it would have been odd to see anything but that. Although Elena’s father fails to accept who his daughter is, the rest of the family come together for her with nothing but love and acceptance.
I could go on for another 1000 words about the strength of this show, but instead I’ll say one more thing: go watch it. If you’ve already watched it, re-watch it. It’s really that good. One Day at a Time has done in 13 episodes what many shows can’t do in 3 seasons. Nothing is forced and nothing is done for the sake of “feeling obliged to do it”.
It’s the natural, relatable, easy-going piece of television that we need more and more of. Bring on season 2!