While binge-worthy sitcoms can sometimes feel ten a penny on Netflix, One Day at a Time offers something different. Set in Los Angeles, the series is a remake of producer Norman Lear’s 1970s sitcom of the same name.
The show follows the Alvarez family, a Cuban-American family, as they weave their way through the twists and turns of everyday life. Justina Machado leads the cast as self-proclaimed ‘total badass’ Peneople Alavrez. The single mother and US Army Nursing Corp veteran is joined by her mother Lydia, portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Rita Moreno, who is arguably one of the best-written characters of any modern sitcom. Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz play siblings Elena, a teen activist determined to bring her vision of justice to her Catholic school, and Alex, a preteen occupied with fitting in and being seen as cool.
The family is joined by building manager and family friend Schiender, played by Todd Grinnell, and Penelope’s boss and Lydia’s admirer Dr Lesley Berkowitz, played by Stephen Tobolowsky.
Throughout both seasons of the show, it tackles some hard-hitting issues affecting people across different communities. These include Penelope’s struggle with PTSD, Elena’s coming out story experience to her devoutly Catholic grandmother and homophobic father, and Alex’s experiences with racism.
Despite such serious issues, the show still manages to be hilarious and show that feel-good dynamic that allows the family to seem relatable to almost anyone.
The show has been nominated and won numerous awards, including five nominations and four wins at the IMAGEN awards, which recognise shows and stars portraying Latinos, and a 2018 nomination from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
The first series’ story arc follows Elena’s unwillingness to have a quinces (a traditional Latino 15th birthday party), whilst series 2 follows Lydia and Schneider’s journey toward citizenship. The episodes follow a standard sitcom format, but each one still manages to seem different and refreshing.
Series two, in particular, follows a more subconsciously political dynamic with the family, tackling issues around citizenship and immigration. One of the stand out moments is Lydia’s struggle with the realisation that the Cuba she escaped from as a child is somewhere she will never be able to return to.
Whilst sometimes clearly being aimed at a Latino audience, the show manages to transcend traditional barriers such as race, gender and sexuality to allow the audience to feel part of every laugh and cry.
One of the smartest moves of the show’s writing team is how series 2 (airing since January 2018) destroys Donald Trump’s agenda whenever it can without ever mentioning his name. Justina Machado spoke to BuzzFeed about how she believed “we had to mention it because it affects us, it affects our country, and it affects our world”.
The series two finale is one of the few pieces of television that has actually brought me to tears, and its euphoric ending leaves space for season 3 which, whilst seeming like the obvious decision, Netflix is yet to announce.
For those looking ahead to essays and exams over the next few months, One Day at a Time offers 12.5 hours of subject matter that has some serious themes whilst being, well who better to describe it than Lydia herself…