I’m going to preface this review with a note instead of having one at the end.
As you may have guessed by the title, this isn’t a movie review. It goes against my plan for the entire project. I didn’t have time to make it to the theater this week due to my work schedule, and planned to catch Roma on Netflix instead. However, when I opened up Netflix, I discovered that there were new episodes of one of my favorite TV shows. Keeping up with this project is important to me, but at its core, isn’t it about increasing my overall happiness and mental well-being? Watching this show made me genuinely happy, more so than watching Roma would have, and I decided to do that. Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned. I would like to note that this review will contain some spoilers for the first two seasons of the show.
Back with a movie review next week!
One Day at a Time, a Netflix original series based on a 1970s sitcom of the same name, premiered in 2017, and quickly became a valuable addition to the streaming service’s lineup. In many ways, it harkens back to a classic family sitcom format– yes, there’s a laugh track and everything, and the show oozes charm. However, it’s a show that differentiates itself from classic sitcoms in key ways. The family in focus is the Cuban-American Alvarez family, which consists of veteran and nurse Penelope, her mother Lydia, and her two children, daughter Elena and son Alex. The modern TV show keeps the character of Schneider, the rich and over-involved landlord of the building. The character is consistently cringe-worthy, but by season 3 he has also become nearly as loveable as the Alvarez family themselves.
Season 3 picks up a few months after the end of Season 2; life is fairly stable for the Alvarez family at this point. Lydia is mostly recovered from a stroke at the end of Season 2. Penelope is continuing to work as a nurse while studying to become a nurse practitioner. Elena, a lesbian, is happily dating her significant other, Syd, a non-binary teenager who uses they/them pronouns. Alex is now 15, and a fairly typical teenage boy, trying to balance family and a social life.
The show follows the classic sitcom format of half-hour episodes, each with a mostly-container arc, but contains continuity and connection between each episode that make it a more satisfying overall experience than some other shows. This season seems to do that especially, harkening back to events an episode ago at times, a season ago at others. It truly feels like snapshots of the life of a family who could very much exist. The actors are incredible, and their performances add to the realism.
Also in the same vein of many sitcoms, the show has several “issue” episodes– episodes designed to bring attention to societal issues. These often come off as heavy-handed it sitcoms, and at times do walk that line in One Day at a Time, but manage to end up as poignant and timely. The episode that addresses sexual harassment and assault, and how different generations have perceived them, feels like a conversation that has surely happened in households across the country. Additionally, many of the topics are addressed as they specifically relate to queer people and Hispanic Americans. This is something that there isn’t a lot of in media, and it feels wonderful to have it at the forefront of this show.
The show also manages to incorporate several classic sitcom tropes. A lot of the plot points in the the season so far have been done and seen many times before, but One Day at a Time always manages to put a slightly new twist on them, or just make them particularly effective. Often this is due to Rita Moreno as Lydia specifically. At 87 years old, the actress is dynamic and charismatic. The entire cast excels at balancing emotional punches with humor, but Moreno is an extra delight.
The show is truly spectacularly funny, and its sense of humor surely appeals to multiple generations. The humor ranges from wonderfully excruciating puns to long setups to classic misdirection. The jokes are all carefully crafted, and while they may poke fun at individual characters, the jokes never approach offensive.
The first five episodes of this season build upon the previous seasons, while striking out in new directions as well. New characters are introduced, along with fabulous guest stars (such as Melissa Fumero, Gloria Estefan and Stephanie Beatriz. Watching the new season feels like catching up with an old friend, and it’s delightful. The remainder of the season is sure to remain a treat.