Fantastic shows are cancelled left, right and centre in this day and age (thanks Netflix), which means that a vast number of wonderful tales and adventures are going unwatched and not talked about. Not all of them have to be like Snowpiercer, or full of fantasy action either. Some of the most captivating pieces, like One Day At A Time, bring the focus of that intrigue in the normality of daily life and how we interact with this crazy world.
The show is a reboot of an American sitcom from the 1970s and 80s, with both following a divorced single mother – this time ex-military Penelope Alvarez – her two children Elena and Alex, and Penelope’s mother Lydia. Add in their Canadian neighbour and landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell) and the comedy just rolls in. Most of the action takes place in the Alvarez’s small flat, or over at Schneider’s, or the hospital where Penelope works, but that doesn’t matter. The characters and their words make the scenes more than the settings ever could. There’s a lot of love stuffed into that tiny, American flat.
One Day At A Time talks about and reflects on American culture in the 21st century, and both the best attributes and the worst factors. From mental health and Penelope’s PTSD, to LGBTQ+ and ‘coming out’ stories, and immigration and citizenship. In series two, Alex especially deals with the aftermath of the MAGA movement in America, and one episode has all of the main female characters sharing their own #MeToo stories about everyday sexism they had experienced. These subplots thread through series one as Penelope and daughter Elena butt heads over the planning and arrangements surrounding her quinceañera, and initially whether she was going to have one at all. One Day At A Time also contains several major LGBTQ+ characters, with Elena’s own coming out story highlighted, and later series adding her non-binary partner Syd into the cast.
Many of the topics they bring up are perhaps heartbreaking to watch, even when laid between pieces of comedy, but the topics brought up are there for a reason. The show is a snapshot reflection of our world now, and they deal with some very real issues. But behind all of the sitcom’s formula, there is a heartfelt story about a family. Elena and Alex act just as my brother and I do; sure, they get on one another’s nerves to the point of arguments now and again, but when their father storms out of Elena’s quinces upon his daughter coming out to him, Alex stands up for her completely.
Series three introduces some major guest stars, including Gloria Estefan as Lydia’s estranged sister, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine stars Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero. Keen-eared Hamilton fans might also recognise Lin-Manuel Miranda’s voice during the mid-pandemic special animated episode.
The show was temporarily cancelled before Pop TV picked it up for a fourth series which premiered in 2020. It then cancelled for a second time after the fourth season was finished, so it’s safe to say that this sitcom has not had the smoothest ride. I am desperately hoping that a network picks up the show for even just one more season; its creators are even poking fun at the fact it could be the first show to air on three different networks!
Regardless, it is undoubtedly a hidden gem that everyone should watch. The way it handles comedy and its more serious moments while providing insightful commentary on the world around us shows a perspective under-represented in mainstream media.
Series 1-3 of One Day At A Time are available on Netflix. Watch the trailer below: