One Day at a Time, a Very Special Reboot

I have been seeing a lot of buzz around my social media accounts about how awesome One Day At A Time is on Netflix. I have only seen the original once (back when I did “The Runaways” episode for the A to Z Challenge). Since I don’t have a strong attachment to the original, I was perhaps more open to giving the modern version a chance. But I think it’s more likely that Netflix’s One Day At A Time earned this positive press in its own right. 

Most people I’m friends with on Facebook are also Millennials and for reasons totally lost on me, most of them do not also worship at the house of canceled sitcoms. Suffice it to say, I think this is one Netflix reboot (more like “revamp” honestly) that will survive on scripts, not fan service. This ain’t Fuller House

So what I’m going to do now is talk about all of the fluffy aesthetic things that I noticed on a totally nerd level. Then I’m going to talk about why I’m geeking out on this show on a sociocultural level in the next paragraph. Basically, if puff pieces aren’t your thing (How did you even find this blog? How have you read this far??) skip to then next paragraph. Oh great, you’re still here! So having only seen the original One Day At A Time once, I can tell you that the first thing I noticed was that the main set of the apartment is remarkably similar, if not identical. But as a casual viewer, I will leave that to a bigger fan than I to investigate. The similarity of set intrigued me in two ways. One, it made me feel cozy and familiar both in that I had seen it before on television and in that the layout feels very late 70’s (so I had more or less seen similar styles as a kid at Grandma’s). But ultimately, it’s just a great layout for a wide angle lense with lots of areas for staging without looking, well, “staged.” Similarly to the original, mom and grandma are raising two kids alone (a boy and a girl this time instead of two girls) and their landlord is very involved in their lives (in a non-creepy way, unless you count cracking corny jokes as creepy). They also kept the original theme song and revamped it in a wonderful way that kind of makes me want to play it on repeat. But you know I love theme songs. I also love Gloria Estefan.

In another difference from the original, the family is Cuban-American. The matriarch is glorious EGOT Rita Moreno from West Side Story and The Electric Company. Her daughter is played by Justina Machado (who I’ve seen as a guest on many shows but never as a lead). Justina Machado is the X-factor here and why you should be watching. You can tell this script is important to her. She’s really connecting with it and she’s having fun with it. And that’s exactly what she should be doing not only because it’s literally her job as an actor, but also because this script is both important in content and fun in delivery. 

In the pilot episode, which shares a title with the theme song “This is It,” we learn that Rita Moreno has moved in with daughter, Justina Machado, to help raise her kids–a feminist teen girl and a materialistic preteen son–while her husband works abroad in a private security firm. We learn that both parents are army vets, but by the end of the episode it’s clear that Justina’s character is not on-board with the separation. Basically, she’s a single parent so her husband can have the job he wants instead of one closer to his family. 

She’s also struggling with anxiety and depression. Much of the first episode deals with whether or not she will take an anti-depressant medication. As a nurse, she’s okay with it. But as an individual, she feels weird about it. She seems to have internalized some of the stigma around mental health, even as a medical professional. It’s interesting to see her grapple with this and I truly hope it’s an ongoing theme. This in an important conversation. 

But that is not to say that One Day At A Time is a downer. It’s anything but. The show is COZY, which makes it more comfortable to have these conversations. The issues are modern but this reminds me more of Growing Pains than Modern Family. It’s a traditional sitcom format. You won’t be laughing at one-two punchlines and little quirks or awkward slapstick situations. But the issues are real, both the kids and parents are legitimately funny, and everyone seems like a human. And yes, maybe the anti-depressant issue is resolved a little too neatly in 30 minutes (though it’s definitely not “very special”). But this is a sitcom after all. As much as I malign them, at best they’re 30 minute conversation starters. I hope the conversation doesn’t end here. 

One Day at a Time: The Runaways

Here are 3 things I learned from this show that have nothing to do with the actual show.

  1. I thought this show was about two older women raising a little girl. But then I realized that it’s actually two daughters and the one I thought was the mom’s friend is actually a teenage daughter played by Mackenzie Phillips.
  2. Netflix is rebooting this series.
  3. The guy who played Veda Sultenfuss’s uncle in My Girl is the mom’s romantic interest.

600x600bb-85So here’s a quick run down of this four (4!) part episode. Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) is a senior in high school and she wants to marry her college drop-out boyfriend, Chuck. Her mother thinks that it’s stupid for her to a. get married while still in high school and b. marry a guy with no job and no education, so she forbids her to see him. They then runaway together.

After a day or so of living in a van, Julie seems to be regretting her decision a little bit but she stands firm in her convictions and distracts herself by making out with her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Julie’s mom and her Chuck’s parents join forces to try to find the kids. But it basically consists of them saying that they have no idea where the kids might be and then Chuck’s parents judge Julie’s mother heavily for raising her daughter to be such a skank.

Then Julie and Chuck pick up a couple of strangers. (I guess van rent was getting too expensive for just the two of them.) After spending the night with some actual runaways, they realize they might be more like their parents than they expected. Basically, Julie tells the real runaways to get jobs instead of begging for money. And then the real runaways quietly plot to steal the van’s tape deck.

Luckily, their apartment super has an oddly close relationship with Julie’s mom. He makes friends with a bunch of CB radio-using truck drivers. Those truck drivers eventually track down the van.

But then things get a little scary. The cops bring the kids home only it’s not Julie and Chuck. It’s the REAL runaways. And one of them is wearing Julie’s necklace. So I’m thinking we have a robbery-homicide on our hand here, people.

But maybe I over-reacted because Julie and Chuck have actually moved to a motel. They’re selling blood and making money at a car wash. Julie decides to call Barbara, her little sister, to ask for money. She tries to get Barbara not to tell their mom where she is, but Barbara isn’t an ass so she tells her sister that she’s not going to play along. Very special pro-tip: it’s not nice to let your parents think you might be dead.

So Barbara sends their mother over to the roach-infested motel and Julie, for some reason, thinks she has bargaining power. She demands to come home under her own rules: coming and going as she pleases, taking trips with her boyfriend whenever, and not checking in with her mother. She wants to be treated as an adult, while her mother pays all of the bills and feeds her.

So yeah, that’s a pretty sweet deal. But her mother is actually a good mother and therefore doesn’t agree to Julie’s terms. It’s television, so the strong-arm method works and Julie comes home because she “misses showering.”

Very Special Lesson: You might think it’s all over and done with once your runaway comes home from a fleabag motel. But before you relax on the couch to the sounds of your children bickering underneath the safety of your roof, you’ll definitely want to call an exterminator. Put him on retainer. You’ll need him on standby.