From the moment Gloria Estefan’s voice rang through the screen in the opening credits – which play like your family’s video scrapbook complete with tostones and cafecito, a quinceañera dance rehearsal, and your abuelita’s first picture after arriving in the USA – I was hooked. Sure, I’d been anxiously awaiting the release of One Day at a Time since Norman Lear first announced he was remaking his classic show (which was before my time, so I will not be comparing the original to the reboot). The concept intrigued me. He planned on replacing the 1970s divorced single mom with a Cuban veteran of Afghanistan, who’s raising her two kids with the help of her flamboyant, yet traditional mother and their hipster building owner, in Echo Park, Los Angeles.
I was also skeptical. Having worked as a comedy writer in Hollywood, I know that too often our stories are not told by “us.” I’ve worked on two shows where I was the only Latina in the room and one of them was about a Latino family! Comedies about “us” are rare (RIP Cristela) and tend to end up riddled with generalizations and stereotypes written to pander to the mainstream. When I heard the series was being developed by a Latina showrunner and that they had cast Rita Moreno, I was even more intrigued. I anxiously counted down the months to its release.
With so much hype, it could have been a let down. Far from it. One Day at a Time exceeded my expectations every step of the way. I laughed, I cried, hell, I even danced. Here are five reasons why you need to tune into this refreshing yet familiar show.
One Day at a Time drops on Netflix January 6, 2017 at 12 a.m. PT (3 a.m. ET).
Rita Moreno is a national treasure, literally.
She is one of 12 EGOTs, creatives who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. She is the only Latino in this elite circle. She’s received numerous awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor. Did I mention she’s over 80 and fabulous? She’s perfectection as Lydia, Penelope’s (Justina Machado) live-in mother, who is based on showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellet’s own mom. She’s glamorous, hilarious, honest, and touching, switching between English and Spanish with fluidity as she makes Bustelo coffee while dancing salsa to Celia Cruz’s “Azucar Negra” every morning. She makes me want to sneak into the screen just so I can experience her presence up close. If the rest of the cast weren’t so strong, she would completely steal the show.
The return of Norman Lear, with sazón.
Norman Lear has long been my idol. Responsible for revolutionizing the sitcom by bringing social commentary, working class people, and the first affluent African American family to network TV, his shows were more groundbreaking than most of the comedies on air today. One Day at a Time introduces the spirit of Norman to a younger audience. In its debut season, the series tackles depression, religion, teen sex, feminism, immigration, and deportation. In the age of Trump, it’s vital we have comedies that are willing to tackle the real issues. I only wish there were more episodes (instead of just 13) so they could stay as current as possible.
The series is culturally specific and bilingual. Plus they don’t use subtitles, ‘cause you either get it or you don’t. The authenticity surely stems from the fact that the show was co-created by Cuban writer-producer, Gloria Calderón Kellet, who is a serious badass, and insisted on staffing the series with ½ Latinos and ½ women, a true unicorn in the world of sitcom writing rooms.
It’s fucking funny.
While the trailer featured the cornier jokes, the series made me laugh out loud. I won’t kill any jokes here, just watch.
It’s a sitcom at its best.
I’ve been told by numerous network execs that viewers want to watch “aspirational” shows. Hence, the on-screen world of upwardly mobile characters who live in huge houses and wear designers most of us could never afford but still covet, ‘cause you know, the American dream. The Alvarez family is aspirational because they’re real, familiar, and they love each other. Sure they aren’t perfect, but they’re the type of family you want to hang out with, the kind you want to invite into your house every week, and this is what great sitcoms are all about.