‘One Day at a Time’ Is the Most Important Show on TV
The show, based on Norman Lear’s 1975 sitcom of the same name – centers on the Alvarez family and the day-to-day struggles that life throws their way. Penelope, a war veteran and mother of two, is the show’s main protagonist. With support from her mother Lydia (Rita Moreno), she works to raise her strong-willed children into contributing members of society.
Penelope and Alex: LGBT exploration, consent, and racism
Penelope’s daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez) is a politically active and scholastically inclined teenager whom, due to her homosexuality, possesses a fractured relationship with her father (and is forced to confront societal and cultural ignorances). Born to a family with a strong Cuban heritage, not everyone is quick to accept her once she comes out.
Alex, Penelope’s son, is played by Marcel Ruiz. With great hair and an exaggerated sense of self-importance, Alex struggles to grasp concepts like consent and harassment. He also yearns to uphold his “cool guy” image, while living up to the man he, and his family, expect him to be.
From Instagram posts made in poor taste to comments such as “go back home” directed at Alex by a classmate, the show traverses a lot of territory through the children.
Though always finding space for a laugh or a Lydia-inspired dance number, One Day at a Time uses the children to explore LGBT issues, racism, and society under a Trump administration.
Schneider – the wealthy neighbor and building landlord who finds a family in the Alvarez home – suffers from Alcoholism. The show reveals what addiction entails, and how difficult it can be to stay sober. However, rather than harbor on addiction, the show focuses on the importance of trusting an individual who is currently sober.
Through Schneider and Penelope’s relationship, One Day at a Time reveals how much it can mean to someone who struggles with addiction to find purpose and support.
Lydia: The immigration story
One Day at a Time is based on the lives of the show’s creator and its executive producer: Gloria Calderon Kellet and Mike Royce. Lydia serves to tell Gloria Calderon Kellet’s own immigration story.
Gloria Calderón Kellet’s parents were both Cuban immigrants who came to America when they were 15 years old. Neither could speak English and they worked multiple jobs to stay afloat. Kellet’s personal life inspired the relationship between Lydia and Penelope, while Royce’s dynamic with his children is the basis for Penelope’s relationship with her kids.
Penelope: The glue
Penelope, struggling with anxiety and depression, must confront her own mental hurdles regarding medication. From her mother, she’s learned to believe that medication is for the weak.
Overwhelmed with her family, her job, and her financial predicament, she is the one that keeps her family’s life at baseline. When she’s down, the family is down; however, Schneider is often right by her side when she needs a pick me up. She can always count on him to send her cute pictures of fat babies.
Why ‘One Day at a Time’ works on multiple levels
Though the descriptions above may lead you to believe that this show is intense and utterly unmanageable after a long workday, it’s exactly the opposite.
Each season, comprised of 13 half-hour episodes, explores societal issues without ever diving completely into turmoil. The show takes a comedic approach but is never insensitive. It’s smart, relevant, and most importantly, it’s effortless to appreciate.
The show creators consistently remind us of one thing: above all else, One Day at a Time is about family, and the importance loved ones play in our lives.