For those of you who haven’t seen this show yet, One Day at a Time is a sitcom about a Cuban-American family where three generations live under the same roof. Its first season came out early January on Netflix. It has only thirteen episodes so if you haven’t watched it yet, go and I’ll see you back here in six and a half hours. Below you will find lots of spoilers so beware.
When it comes to sitcoms, I can be extremely judgmental. I rarely stick with a sitcom. Even then, I haven’t really loved one since Friends. But then I discovered this show (thank you, Tumblr) and I actually binged it (which is super rare for many regardless of the genre). In this review, you will only find positive aspects because there’s nothing about this show that I disliked. I know it’s still early, but this might be my favorite new show of 2017.
The characters: This show has a great set of characters. From the extraordinary Lydia to the badass Penelope, I love every single character on this show (except for Victor). And while I love Marcel Ruiz as Alex, it’s the women of this show that stood out the most. Lydia Riera left everyone she loved to come to America. She wants the absolute best for the people she loves. She has a flair for the dramatic and can be a bit judgmental. She’s very set in her ways but will consider changing her ways for her family; she’s kind of the glue that holds the entire family together. I mean, she gave Carmen dance lessons through Skype for three months to make Elena happy. Penelope is a fiercely independent single mother. She has her struggles but deals with them as best as she can. When she had to buy a new car and feared that she would get swindled, she learned everything she could about cars rather than let Schneider handle it, feeling that it was her responsibility. When Victor came back into her life and she realized that he wasn’t seeking help, she put her family first and told him to go. Both women fight for what they want so it makes sense that Elena is also a fighter. If she sees an injustice, she’ll fight for a way to right it. She’s loyal to her friends and to herself. She won’t change herself to make other people feel better. But just because the women stand out the most, doesn’t mean the men aren’t great characters either. Schneider may be ignorant at times, but he wants to learn. When he was told that his shirt of Che Guevara was offensive, he immediately made it disappear. Alex still has a lot to learn (like that selling drugs makes you a drug dealer) but he’s young and his heart is in the right place. He, too, loves his family so much. And isn’t that the most important thing?
Humor: I usually tend to find non-sitcoms funnier than actual sitcoms because I feel like some sitcoms try too hard to a point where it comes across as forced. But that’s not the case with this show. It is genuinely funny; the quotes below will not be able to do it justice because the actors’ performance is what truly makes a difference. Rita Moreno, especially, is the scene stealer when it comes to this. Lydia doesn’t even have to say anything, just a look is enough.
LGBT: The storyline that drew me to this show was Elena’s coming out story. This is one of the first times that a character has come out as gay without it being linked to liking a specific someone. So far, most coming out stories have always been linked to a love interest, while a lot of people figure out their sexuality on their own. There’s a quote that Elena said: “What I’m trying to say … is that when I think about love, I see myself … someday … loving a woman.” That quote hit me the hardest because it’s almost exactly the same as what I told my mother just a few months ago. This entire storyline was handled beautifully, including how everyone else reacted to it. While, for Elena’s sake, I’d hoped that everyone would instantly be okay with it, I know that’s not the case in real life. Penelope loves her daughter so much that she couldn’t be 100% okay with it. And even though she struggled with it, she didn’t let Elena see it, and she defended her to those who said that it was wrong. Lydia finding out was very similar to Penelope. She never let Elena see that she struggled with it because of her faith. I absolutely loved her acceptance of it. Instead of normalizing it aside from her faith, she did it using her faith. The Pope says don’t judge; he is the voice of God so who is she to disagree with God? Whenever anyone says being gay is wrong because of their faith I want to show them that scene. And then, of course, there’s Victor. I’m not sure what his issue with it was - he never stuck around long enough for us to find out. As much as I wanted him to accept her, I’m glad the writers didn’t do that. The reality is that sometimes (too often) a parent is never able to accept his child as she is.
Religion: It’s clear from the start that Lydia is a religious woman, which was most obvious in episode three where Lydia and Penelope disagree on the subject. I imagine that this is a discussion that is becoming more and more common these days as fewer people rely on faith. I really liked how the show handled this. Rather than shut each other out, they discussed it. Lydia explained that her faith is what got her through the years that Penelope was in Afghanistan, while Penelope explains that she gets her inspiration elsewhere. They don’t have to believe in the same thing, they can respect the other’s beliefs. The kids never really voiced their opinions on this subject - even Elena, who has a strong opinion on pretty much everything. She probably never mentioned it because she knows that there’s no right and wrong when it comes to what people believe in, what matters is that people respect one another.
PTSD: This one was another touchy subject in the Riera/Alvarez household. PTSD is still taboo for a lot of people. Penelope tries her best to not let her family know that she’s struggling but she is. She takes quite a few steps towards recovery during the season. First, the medication, then the support group. However, she’s not the only who suffers from PTSD. The reason Victor is not that involved in their lives is because Penelope told him to leave after he nearly killed himself. Victor has not taken steps towards recovery but tries to handle it himself. Considering how he handled Elena’s sexuality, I’m guessing his refusal to seek help is probably due to a mix of denial and “What would people think?”. I don’t know anyone who suffers from PTSD so I can’t say if the show’s portrayal of it is accurate. However, I think it’s a very important subject that should be handled more on TV to make it less of a taboo.
Immigration: Since the family is Cuban-American, it was a given that the subject of immigration would come up. And, boy, is it relevant today. The show gave us both the aspects of immigrants who came into the country legally and illegally. Lydia came to America as a child, forced to leave behind the people that she loved because no one over the age of 18 was allowed to come. Carmen’s parents came into the country illegally. Both left their homes for a better life. Lydia judged those who came in illegally but Penelope raised the point that there are so many people who want to go to the US. The line is endless. And hell, they barely let the people with green cards in these days. So Carmen’s parents did what they thought was best for their family. There was a very similar story here in my country recently of a teenage girl who got left behind when her family was deported, and our ministers commented that he was happy the case was resolved (there was this whole thing about how the whole family was being punished because one of the sons screwed up). But is it really resolved when a teenager is separated from her parents? Both Carmen and her brother’s lives were completely turned upside down (Carmen’s because of the move, her brother’s because someone is now depending on him), not to mention that two people are unable to see their children.
Sexism: Penelope deals with sexism in the workplace every day. When she finally tells Scott off and finds out that she makes less than him, even though she does more, she’s pissed. And rightfully so. Women still make less money than men (even worse when you’re not white). Penelope carries that practice, which is obvious when Dr. Berkowitz begs her to come back. The fact that she had to ask for equality and that it wasn’t just a given proves that this is still a current issue.
Best quotes: Elena: "People were staring at me and all these boys were talking to me, which is the last thing I want."
Elena: "Can we agree that if there is a God, it's gender neutral. Not a "he" or a "she"." Lydia: "No, God is a man. If he were a woman, there would be less problems."
Penelope: "There are jobs here where they don't shoot at you." Lydia: "We live in America, name one!"
Elena: "I can't believe they sent your parents back home." Penelope: "They didn't send them home. They sent them away."
Penelope: "There are persecuted people all around the world, who would love the opportunity to come here. But they can't. Because the rules are different for different people. So, some of them break the law. And they do what they have to do to fight for better lives for themselves and their families. And you know what? I get it."
Ben: "You're just not there yet. This is a complete readjustment of how you see your daughter. Trust me, she's been thinking about this for months or years. You just found out. Your heart is okay. You just need a little time, for your head to catch up."
Elena: What I’m trying to say … is that when I think about love, I see myself … someday … loving a woman.”
Alex: "Immigrants, we get the job done."
There is so much more that I could say about this show, but then this review might become a bit too long. This show entertaining, educational and important. I hope it gets renewed soon and I’ll be impatiently waiting for the next season.