“One day at a time” (2017) is based on the 1975 series of the same title. Although the idea is the same, many things have been reinvented to produce a new show.
“One day at a time” is the story of a single mother of Cuban origin, Penelope Alvarez, who is raising her two children. She is an Army veteran, struggling with PTSD and juggling between her career as a nurse and her kids and elderly Cuban mother, while still trying to have a social and love life.
The show is a sitcom, but as much as it is funny, it is serious. It touches on topics such as mental health, racism, homophobia, gender identity, sexism, feminism, immigration and more.
Yes, “One day at a time” time centers around Penelope, but each one of the characters has their own story and personality. Everyone contributes to the plot, including Penelope’s boss, friends, the guys she dates, and even her dead father.
The characters grow and change through the seasons, but whatever their actions might be, they stay true to their personalities and beliefs.
A big plus here is that the characters represent three different generations of people and this makes the show appealing to a really broad audience. It also gives an opportunity to the screenwriters to examine the same topics from different age perspectives.
Each character is likeable in a different way, but they all have their quarks and annoying characteristics and are not always right. However, there are almost no anti-heroes here. This allows the show to keep its positive and comedy-like nature.
Themes and twists
As the title suggests, one of the big themes of the show is mental health. What I like though is that the story, and Penelope, is not all about that. The theme is discussed throughout the series unevenly. Sometimes you can forget that PTSD is part of Penelope’s life, sometimes the theme of mental health appears in a few episodes in a row. I think this approach reflects real life perfectly – sometimes you will have all the good days, and sometimes you will not.
As the main protagonists are of Cuban origin, a big part of the show is dedicated to topics such as immigration, racism, xenophobia, Cuban-American identity, Latin-American identity, traditions. The plots reveal the real struggles and problems that immigrants in the USA face every day. So be aware that the show can very quickly become very serious and very political.
Finally the show deals with the subjects of gender identity, sexual identity and homophobia. These topics are approached with a lot of humor, but as well as with all the seriousness they deserve.
All these themes, and many more, are presented through the eyes of the characters who are ultimately very different people. Not all of them have the same understanding of how one should deal with mental health, or agree on topics like antidepressants or therapy. They are not all accepting to gay people. They don’t all want to follow the same traditions. However, at the end of the day, they all try their best to understand and support each other.
Pros and Cons
What makes “One day at the time” really worth it is that it balances many themes and emotions. The show combines the funny, the sad, the serious, the ugly, and the heartwarming. It is not preachy, and it can laugh at itself without being unconsidered.
There are plenty of interesting characters, funny moments, little twists and a lot of soul. The show is warm, entertaining and addictive.
The “One day at the time” is for everyone who likes sitcoms where the big part of the scenes are shot in the family house. It is similar to Modern Family (2009), Full House (1987), Fuller House (2016), and partly to Jane the Virgin (2014), The Fosters (2013) This is Us (2016), and any other TV shows centered around family relationships.