Over the years I have become increasingly disenchanted with sitcoms. Do not get me wrong, I will happily watch repeats of classics like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Frasier and the (unfortunately) greatly overlooked joy that was Ellen. I tend to gravitate towards sitcoms filmed without a live audience as I feel they allow for smarter jokes and rely less on tired clichés. Has anyone seen the video where the laugh track has been removed from The Big Bang Theory? Truly, it is nothing short of beautiful. Also, a quick internet search tells me that that particular show is currently on its tenth season. Ten?! That is ridiculous. Let it die a long, overdue death. My wariness of the laugh-track genre almost had me turn off the new Netflix
show One Day at a Time after about thirty seconds, but I figured I should give it a proper chance. And I am so, so glad I did.
One Day at a Time is a remake of the 1975 show of the same name, starring Justina Machado and the absolute treasure that is Rita Moreno. The show focuses on a Cuban-American family, comprised of single mother Penelope, her two teenage kids Elena and Alex, and her traditionally Cuban mother Lydia, who lives behind a curtain and likes to stick photos of the Pope on their fridge. I will start by saying that this show is funny. And I mean really funny, in a smart, warm kind of way. The jokes do not come at the expense of Elena’s feminism, or Lydia’s religious values, because the other characters do not belittle these characteristics. The family love and support one another, even if they do not always see eye to eye. The only jokes that poke fun at other characters are always at the expense of Schneider, their straight, white landlord, who is actually very endearing and is horrified when he realises he is guilty of ‘mansplaining’ to the matriarchal Alvarez family. But it is always in good fun, and Schneider becomes an honorary member of the family.
But what really struck me about this show is how wonderfully and unabashedly it engages in dialogues with a variety of social issues. The Alvarezs are a family of Latino women, and the show never, ever lets you forget this. Whilst it tackles all the universal issues of family, it makes sure to address the specific obstacles faced by the Latino community, and there is an amazing episode in which Elena’s is offered a ‘diversity’ position on a writing course, and we see how Penelope, Elena and Lydia all have to different
relationships with their Cuban heritage. We also see Penelope deal with sexism in the form of micro-aggressions in the workplace, as well as her relationship with PTSD as a military veteran, and a really, really lovely coming-out story, acknowledging how queer Latino individuals experience coming-out differently than their white peers.
There are thirteen half-hour episodes in the first season, making it easily binge-able and I really do highly recommend it. It will make you laugh, make you think, and probably get you a little teary-eyed. (I never cry at TV, and I was a mess for the entirety of its last episode.) So if you want some heart-warming, genuinely funny TV to de-stress with after a day of classes, give One Day at a Time a try.