“Good TV Is Like a Good Friend”: Cast of ‘One Day at a Time’ Tell Us Why We Need This Show More Than Ever

Courtesy of Pop TV.

When the Alvarez family returns in One Day at a Time‘s fourth season, they’ll be in a new home. Don’t worry, Penelope’s apartment — fully stocked with Cafe Bustelo and featuring a curtained-off room for her mother Lydia — will still be intact. But the beloved sitcom about a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles won’t be found on Netflix. When the streaming service cancelled the show after its third season and fans rallied around the heartwarming sitcom, Pop TV stepped in and will now make sure we get plenty more teary slash funny episodes for at least one more season. Only this time they’ll come not one day, but one episode at a time. Ahead of the highly anticipated fourth season premiere, Remezcla visited the cast of the show in the studio lot where they shoot in front of live audiences to get the scoop on what we can expect when the Alvarez fam is back on our screens.

When One Day at a Time first premiered back in January 2017 it did so only weeks before the presidential inauguration. Taking on storylines about citizenship, immigration, veterans’ health care, addiction and sexuality this reboot of a 1970s Norman Lear show about a single mom raising two kids with the help of her Cuban mother has felt, at times, like a balm. This season opens with an entire episode about Penelope (Justina Machado), Lydia, Elena and Alex (Marcel Ruiz) coming face to face with a Census taker, played by Ray Romano, who gets to introduce Pop TV audiences to this Cuban-American household and place us firmly in 2020’s political landscape.

“We really are of the moment now more than ever,” Rita Moreno, who plays Lydia, tells me as we discuss the show’s political convictions. “Because now we are on once a week. We’re not streaming. So we can be very topical if we wish. I doubt that you’re going to hear the the name of the president — we’re very, very careful about that. Because then it can turn into something completely different. It has to still be the foibles and troubles and happiness of this particular family, which can include terrible things politically. And you know, it is addressed but it’s not a political show.”

Only she catches herself as soon as she makes that disclaimer: “It is. It is a very political show, actually.” It’s timely but it is never heavy-handed; much of its heart and humor come not from didactic speeches about gender presentation or gun control (two issues the show has tackled head-on) but on how they affect the Alvarez family.

Rita Moreno
Photo Credit: Nicole Wilder. Courtesy of Pop TV.
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For Isabella Rodriguez, who plays Penelope’s daughter Elena, One Day at a Time couldn’t very well be as authentic as it is were it not so attuned to how capital ‘P’ politics ripple out into a Latinx family like the one on the show. “They’re very impacted by politics,” she notes, “and especially with the president in the White House. Obviously, they’re very impacted by that.”

Looking back, Machado admits that seeing this heartwarming sitcom strike a chord during these political times has been bittersweet, arriving as it did so soon after the 2016 election. “I’ll tell you that the first season, I couldn’t even really enjoy anything because I personally was incredibly devastated,” Machado confesses. “Like, on another level devastated. It was difficult to enjoy it because I could not believe what had just happened. And now, I feel like I’m more prepared.” Whether the current Coronavirus pandemic will similarly affect the cast and crew’s ability to not just finish shooting but enjoy the fruits of their labor is yet to be seen. But one thing remains true: One Day at a Time is intent on being there for you.

“For me really good television has always been like a good friend,” says Todd Grinnell, who plays neighbor Schneider. “It’s been there for me when I’m lonely, or I’m feeling isolated, or I’m feeling like there’s chaos in my life. The last four years of this show has been the last four years of a certain political climate in this country. And there’s been a lot of chaos in the world. And I think when there’s chaos in your life, or in the world, it’s nice to have some stability in this. There’s nothing more stable than a family.”

“I think this is a great show for the times that we’re living in,” Machado adds. “It’d be a great show in any times, but right now, I think it’s a really special show.”

One Day at a Time‘s fourth season premieres on Pop TV March 24, 2020 at 9:30 p.m and airs weekly thereafter.