Sunday, February 4, 2018

Loving Netflix's "One Day at a Time" Series!

I learned of Netflix's "One Day at a Time" series when it first debuted in January 2017. It grabbed my attention so I put it on "My List" -- and then promptly forgot about it. The program's second season premiered last weekend, which prompted me to finally sit down and watch both seasons of the program over the past week.

I love it!

If you're like me, you grew up watching the old 1970s CBS "One Day at a Time" series starring Bonnie Franklin, Valerie Bertinelli, Mackenzie Phillips, and Pat Harrington Jr. This isn't that show. And it's only vaguely similar.

This new series features Penelope Alvarez (played by Justina Machado), a newly divorced nurse and mother of two. She's an Army veteran who's still healing from her physical and emotional war wounds. Her children are Elena and Alex (played by Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz, respectively. And they all live with Penelope's mother, Lydia (played by Rita Moreno). Lydia is a Cuban refugee. That background permeates everything about this family as they navigate the colorful mix of Cuban and American heritage.


"One Day at a Time" has its own Schneider (played by Todd Grinnell). He's a Canadian immigrant who comes from a wealthy, yet emotionally barren family. He is the building's manager -- and the only reason he's managed to keep this job is because his father owns the building! But he's a close friend -- if annoying -- to the Alvarez family. And then there is Dr. Leslie Berkowitz (played by Stephen Tobolowsky). He's Penelope's boss and Lydia's love/friend interest. He's looking for love while she can only handle him as a... friend.

One of the subplots that grabbed my attention early on was Elena's slow coming out process. She has always been an annoying SJW-type character with a strong sense of her self as a young woman, but it was pretty clear that she was struggling with a crush on her best friend early into the first season. She briefly dated a young man before finally coming out to her family as a lesbian. The family quickly adjusted -- except for her father Victor (played by James Martinez) who ended up betraying his daughter at the end of season one. But Elena rallied and eventually began dating a girl named Syd (played by Sheridan Pierce) in Season Two.


I really found it interesting to watch Penelope's mental health struggled. She secretly takes medications to manage the symptoms of her depression and anxiety and midway through the first season, she began attending a support group for female veterans -- facilitated by Mackenzie Phillips no less! Of course, Lydia sees psychiatry and therapy as a form of weakness, which is an ongoing source of tension between the two women throughout the program. There was even an episode in Season 2 where Penelope stopped taking her meds and dropped out of therapy, with disastrous results. This is something that I witness frequently in my day job, often with the same negative results.


And then there's the real star of program... Rita Moreno! I've loved this woman since her days on PBS' "Electric Company." Lydia is the glue that keeps this family together -- and she's not opposed to telling a fib or using reverse psychology to manipulate things her way -- except that she doesn't believe in psychology! Lydia loves her Cuban heritage and she's a sensuous dance instructor. She can be very flirty, but her heart will always belong to her late husband, Berto (played by Tony Plana). She and Schneider finally take the plunge in Season 2 and begin the process of becoming US citizens. But will a health scare scuttle Lydia's plans?


By the way, have you ever wondered if some of your favorite sitcoms are filmed in front of in-studio audiences or if they have laugh tracks? Check out this YouTube video, which offers a 360° Experience from one of their second season episodes. Check out that audience! (And check out the video. It's a lot of fun!!)


Anyway, definitely check out Netflix's "One Day at a Time." It's not Bonnie Franklin's world, but Penelope and the rest of the Alvarez family have successfully created a rich and hilarious world of their own!

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