Welcome to Take the Plunge, where I binge-watch a season or series and give my overall thoughts. For my first installment, I watched the new Netflix Original series “One Day at a Time.”
“One Day at a Time” is a remake of a 1975 sitcom of the same name, updated for a modern audience. It stars Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado) as a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who recently separated from her husband Victor, a fellow veteran who decided to go back to Afghanistan to work for a private security firm. She has two children and her mother Lydia (Rita Moreno) helps her take care of them in their apartment in California. Her landlord, Schneider, is a fixture in the family’s life and helps Penelope as well.
The series deals with multiple issues from PTSD and Veteran Affairs to Coming Out to your family to Religion. It captures the essence of what made 80s and 90s sitcoms so great. It balances the serious with the laughs. It also breaks away from the normal stereotypes of Latinos on TV and makes a show about a Cuban American family very relatable to everyone while still focusing on traditions unique to the culture, such as a Quinceañera. The Quinceañera becomes the focal point of the season and a point of contention between the three generations of women in the family. The daughter is, by her own admission, a Social Justice Warrior and a feminist while her grandmother is a traditional highly devoted Catholic woman. Penelope ends up playing the middleman between the two.
There is also a fun atmosphere between Schneider and the Alvarez family where racial tolerance trumps hair trigger racial discrimination. He embraces the Cuban heritage while not completely grasping it and he is also a recovering alcoholic who has been five years sober, as opposed to Victor who shows up for Elena’s Quinceañera. Victor claims to be sober, but we find out otherwise. He also has a hard time accepting Elena after she comes out to him. Penelope’s boss Dr. Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky) helps her deal with the nightmares she’s having by prescribing anti-depressants. It becomes another issue with the idea of dealing with trauma with pills as opposed to the “old school” way of handling it. Dr. Berkowitz ends up spending a lot of time with Lydia.
The overarching theme of the series is dealing with the reality of life while still enjoying the little moments that bring you joy. Penelope juggling being a single mom and a single woman while working and dealing with all the family issues is very accessible to many people. Her ability to lean on other people while still being responsible and independent represents a kind of strength not shown a lot on modern television or modern sitcoms. She’s also refers to herself as a badass throughout the series and it’s true. I was pleasantly surprised by this series. I saw it on the top banner of Netflix and decided to check it out. I think it’s excellent and very much something anyone of any walk of life can enjoy and get something out of it. The only thing I wish they did was flush out Victor a little more. He shows up near the end, but could have given more to the story and showed a different perspective. I’d score this first season at a 95%.