Josh Rittberg

Arts and Culture Editor

One Day At A Time is a reboot on Netflix that follows the days in the lives of the lively Alvarez family. This is show is an ensemble dramedy, but the plot revolves around Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado), a Cuban American mother and army veteran who is just trying to do what is best for her family. Other characters in the Alvarez family include Penelope’s younger son Alex, her spirited and driven teenage daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez),  and the scene stealing mother of Penelope and grandmother of Alex and Elena, Lydia (Rita Moreno). The family’s landlord, Schneider (Todd Grinnell) on the show works at the family’s apartment, but also becomes an almost honorary member of the Alvarez clan. Penelope’s boss, the comically awkward Dr. Leslie Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowksky) also becomes quite close to the family and a frequent regular in the Alvarez household. This may seem like a lot of characters to follow, but through the seasons the audience learns much about the family and may find themselves growing very attached to them. The fact that these characters feel so real is a great testament to the writing and strength of this series.

One aspect that makes One Day At A Time, so engaging is its deft and thoughtful messages on social issues and topics. For instance, in episode 2 of the new season, the characters have a discussion about toxic masculinity after Alex is caught objectifying women on his Finsta account. What starts off as a  slightly humorous commentary on the ridiculous things young men have said to women over the years, quickly turns into a thoughtful and important conversation on men treating women with respect. The specific episode also communicates the idea that we should all treat each other with genuine respect and empathy. Although a simple lesson, it is one we need to hear more than ever. Throughout the season, the show also deals with important topics like anxiety, alcoholism and addiction, and finding yourself in such a chaotic world.

One of the most exciting storylines of the new season is the groundbreaking character development with Penelope’s teenage daughter Elena. In season one, viewers saw the characters’ coming out journey where she realized that she is a lesbian. The characters’ development across all three seasons has been handled delicately and with commendable care. From the characters’ initial moments of questioning in season one, the audience has seen the character grow into a strong and confident young Latinx queer woman. Her new non-binary love interest, Syd (Sheridan Pierce), brings along a welcome amount of excitement and challenges for Elena as she goes through her first relationship.  

Along with having one of the first non-binary characters this reviewer has seen on a sitcom, this development for Elena has just been handled with so much grace. The character has gone a long way from her early coming out days, and it has been a true joy seeing the character further define her style and herself. In the character of Elena and through the actress Isabella Gomez’s vibrant performance, young people in the LGBTQ community can have a role model and one who is not afraid to stick up for her beliefs and what she feels is right. She has certainly left an effect on this reviewer among with many others.

Another highlight on this series  is the absolutely fabulous character of Lydia played with a vibrant theatricality and sparkling wit by the legendary Rita Moreno. At 87 years of age, Moreno  proves herself to be a comedic force to be reckoned with as she spouts consistently hysterical one liners with the energy of an experienced pro. Just the way the character grandly opens up a curtain when the character makes an entrance is even enough to cause laughter. The character like many others on the show has also shown growth as well as she strives to stay connected to her family and stay vibrant  in her old age. Justina Machado brings nice humor and much of the show’s strong dramatic beats as Penelope. Through Penelope, the show has explored PTSD with her time in the army and even anxiety. Machado gives all of her scenes the respect they deserve as she leads this fabulous ensemble cast with class and excitement.

Unfortunately, “One Day At A Time” is in danger of not being renewed for a fourth season. The strong characters, important lessons and great humor make this show one that audiences really should seek out. The diversity of this series is also just truly inspiring. In our current television sitcom landscape, we constantly see shows of white suburban families, so to see a television series  with a proud Latin family at its center with such a diverse cast of characters who also happen to be excellent role models is just a breath of fresh air. This is a show the whole family can enjoy and get something out of, but also one with lessons and situations that may make audiences truly think about their lives and inspire them to be better. This may make the show seem heavy or intense for a sitcom, but just like the characters learn in the show, it is best to take life one day at a time.