100 Pilots in 100 Days: One Day at a Time

When it was originally on: 2017-present (moved from Netflix to Pop Tv in 2020). The original incarnation of this was 1975-1984.

Original network: Netflix

Where you can stream it now: Netflix

Had I seen it before: No, nor had I seen the original version from the ’70s.

What IMDb says: Follows three generations of the same Cuban-American family living in the same house: a newly divorced former military mother, her teenage daughter and tween son, and her old-school mother.

Why I picked it: Everyone’s rebooting old sitcoms, but this seems to be one of the few that people actually liked. I actually don’t remember hearing people talk too much about the 1975 version of this show before the reboot, and perhaps that’s part of what allowed this reboot to be the success it was. I’m also just super intrigued by the idea of Netflix trying to do a more traditional multi-cam sitcom.

One Day at a Time is also a curious piece of television history. It’s the first show EVER to originate on a streaming platform, get canceled, and then be revived by a basic cable network. Should One Day at a Time be successful on Pop TV (season 4 drops March 24) it could impact future decisions about which streaming shows get canceled and how other television networks handle those cancelations. Streaming platforms have already saved a number of fan favorite television shows just since 2013, but is One Day at a Time the beginning of a new frontier where streaming shows are saved by television?

What I liked: I was pleasantly surprised by how well this show pulls off the retro sitcom technique where mom just has heart-to-hearts with everyone and it fixes their problems. These resolutions still felt earned, and not rushed. Maybe it’s because we weren’t dealing with particularly big problems, but I also think it’s because these characters were so well established earlier in the episode that their reactions at the end of the episode made sense. I don’t doubt the authenticity of Elena agreeing to a quinceneras just to prove a point because this lines up with everything I know about her character thus far.

I also love how this pilot demonstrates the willingness to tackle more complex issues while still doing a good job of maintaining the relatively light tone of an old-school sitcom. In just this first episode, we have Penelope debating whether or not to go on anti-depressants. We have her dealing with the sadness of divorce (and WOW Justina Machado delivers an amazing performance about this). The typical teen-fighting-with-parents conflict is elevated to a very real political debate about whether or not quinceneras are still worthwhile or misogynist and obsolete. But yet the show is still and fun and has the coziness that a family sitcom is supposed to have. I’d be interested to see what other issues are tackled in future episodes.

I also love the Schneider character. Not only did he give this episode a healthy dose of comic relief, but I can see how he can represent the well-meaning-but-ignorant white person in future episodes. If the show plays its cards right, Schneider can be used to teach the audience about Cuban culture and also provide a safe way of showing how the well-meaning-but-ignorant white person comes off to non-white people. A great example of this is when he tries to convince Elena to have her quince by using his the teen slang.

Rita Moreno is also great. That’s it. That’s the paragraph.

What I didn’t like: The first scene really didn’t impress me. It’s Penelope working with a patient who never appears in the show again, leaving me wondering if he’s going to be a series regular or if he was just a tool for exposition. The whole scene feels like an inorganic excuse for Penelope to recite her life situation, and I really didn’t find the scene that funny. This was made even more obnoxious because in typical old school sitcom fashion, I had to listen to other people laugh at jokes I didn’t find funny.

I also thought that compared to Elena, Alex Alvarez had relatively little dimension. The quince conflict actually teaches me about who Elena is as a character. What do I learn about Alex from his subplot? Well… that he likes shoes. Perhaps I’m supposed to infer that Alex wants to look and dress like a rich kid and his family’s lack of resources is going to be a consistent obstacle, but if that’s what they’re going for I feel like they could’ve done it better. We don’t really know why it’s so important to Alex that he have five pairs of sneakers, just that it is. I’m hoping it only takes another episode or two for him to come into focus, because the other main characters here are all fantastic.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: I can definitely see myself watching more of this, but I also don’t know that I’m in a huge rush to. It has all the heart I want a family sitcom to have, and it seems like a good faith attempt to bring modern issues into this format. But I also don’t really watch that many family sitcoms in general, and I don’t know that there was enough here to get me to stray from my usual habits.

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