This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The first season drops the day after this post's publication; we got screeners.
Should You Take Netflix's One Day At A Time Remake All At Once?
Norman Lear reimagines the '70s classic with a Latino cast. Is it, like Schneider...super?
What Is This Thing?
Newly separated nurse/Afghanistan vet Penelope raises her daughter Elena and son Alex with the help of her live-in mom, the ever-dramatic Cuban immigrant Lydia; and Schneider, their apartment building's super. How will Penelope deal with her kids' needs, her challenges at work, and the lingering stresses related to her military service and the end of her marriage?
When Is It On?
You decide: all thirteen episodes of the first season hit Friday, January 6.
Why Was It Made Now?
Listen. If Netflix can peddle the likes of The OA to us, it owes us about fifty family sitcoms about sweet, loving families. But I like to think that the idea to put a relatable Latino family on screen is due in part to the success of Jane The Virgin, and in part a reaction to anti-Latino rhetoric during the election.
What's Its Pedigree?
If you were alive in the past, you may remember another show called One Day At A Time, also about a single mom raising her two kids near an intrusive building super called Schneider. Like that one, this One Day At A Time comes from HoF Executive Producer Norman Lear (All In The Family, Maude). But the credited creators are Gloria Calderón Kellett, formerly a writer on iZombie, How I Met Your Mother, and Devious Maids; and Mike Royce (Enlisted, Men Of A Certain Age, Everybody Loves Raymond). Your cast includes Justina Machado (Six Feet Under) as Penelope; Todd Grinnell (lots of guest shots on a variety of shows; looking like a tall Paul Rudd) as Schneider; Stephen Tobolowsky (everything) as Dr. Berkowitz, Penelope's boss; and living legend Rita Moreno as Lydia. Future episodes feature guest appearances by Tony Plana (Ugly Betty) and Judy Reyes (Scrubs), among others.
Back in the late '90s, E! used to air reruns of One Day At A Time in the mornings and I really loved getting reacquainted with it. Like all of Lear's shows, it was quietly revolutionary: single mother Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) faced down economic uncertainty, sexism at work, and the minefields of raising teenaged daughters. It's a drag that it's not streaming anywhere (except for pay), particularly given that the remake...is on a streaming service. I mean, I get that Netflix wouldn't want to create market confusion, but still.
Anyway: the remake is a very worthy heir to the original. It's no surprise that Moreno is a queen...
...but it's a treat to see her and Machado nailing their mother-daughter vibe (and after the role for which Machado's still best known -- as Rico's wife on Six Feet Under -- mostly just found her nagging him all the time). As Elena, Isabella Gomez (unknown to me before this but an alumna of El Rey's Matador) gets some of the show's most complex material in a couple of storylines I won't spoil, and more than holds her own with the cast's heavy hitters.
The show also deals sensitively with the after-effects of Penelope's deployments: she has a physical injury to her shoulder about which she has to battle the VA for coverage; she also has mental health issues that she's hiding from Lydia, who she thinks (apparently correctly) would doubt her depression is real. When Penelope's ex Victor (James Martinez) -- also a veteran -- returns to Los Angeles, we find out that his struggles are even more dire, because he's not dealing with them. An episode in which Penelope joins a support group for female veterans is very well done -- sharp and funny and very matter-of-fact in depicting the diversity of women who serve. Not since Enlisted have I seen a show give so much care and attention to the experiences of military servicepersons after deployment. Also covered are survivor's guilt; undocumented immigrants; tokenism; sexuality; and a very big (and contentious) quinceañera.
I must also give a special mention to Gloria Estefan for her rendition of the classic theme song.
The original is a funky delight, yet somehow Estefan makes it seem like it was hers all along. "Up on your feet / Somewhere there's music playing" -- tell me that's not a Gloria Estefan lyric! You can't.
We Need To Talk About Schneider. Here he is.
I'm not saying I wouldn't. I absolutely would. And I appreciate that if 2017 Schneider were styled like 1975 Schneider, we'd all be waiting for the Very Special Episode when it's revealed that he's a pedophile. Instead, the new Schneider is a hipster trust fund kid: he had a yacht rock band in college and became the super of Penelope's building after his dad bought it for him. Though it's still jarring to see a Schneider you can imagine hanging with the girls on Girls, these tweaks to the character make a lot of sense, for story purposes: it explains why he has so much leisure time to do Korean masks with Lydia and take on driving duties when Alex makes his school's travelling baseball team. And the fact that he has a lot of disposable income gets the characters out of a couple of jams that would otherwise drag stories out too long.
Also: it is a multicam sitcom, which means some corny elements are baked into the format. Some of the jokes aren't terribly surprising; some of the episode storylines are familiar too. But as with all the best multicams, the performers' comic timing and chemistry with one another put over even the corniest moments.
I don't think I've watched a new multicam sitcom since How I Met Your Mother and I spent my holiday devouring all thirteen episodes of this one. It's very likable. Give it a shot.