One Day at a Time – Season 2
By: Tam Curran
“One Day at A Time” is a successful reboot comedy television series based on a divorced Latina veteran mother, Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado), that helps keep her Cuban-American family stitched together. Developed and led by executive producer Norman Lear and showrunners Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon Kellett, this popular sitcom not only provides a range of hilarious content but also tackles real life issues such as mental illnesses, homophobia, racism and immigration.
Airing on Netflix, Season Two had eager fans staying up until midnight to catch the premiere of the full season, and those fans were certainly not disappointed with what it delivered. The show has a lot of underlying layers that are brought up throughout the season, from hysterically funny one liners to deep rooted issues in todays society. Each character has special elements that help structure who they are as people and how they cope with certain issues, dealing a sense of reality to the audience.
The new season dives right into such a delicate matter in the very first episode The Turn. Penelope is concerned for her 13 year-old son, Alex (Marcel Ruiz), after a sour attitude and violent behavior on a school trip. It’s discovered that Alex had retaliated to racism, revealing it wasn’t the first time he had endured racist comments from his peers. Racism and ethnic inequalities are still largely present in American society. It’s such an important component to imitate through modern television, providing education and understanding to those that have never dealt or will ever deal with racism. Later in the episode, Penelope has a heartfelt talk with Alex saying, “You can’t control the jerks, but you can control your reaction to them…Because this is your country too and you deserve to be happy in it. But if you get angry? They win.”
There’s no denying Penelope is the glue that helps hold her family together, but even this hardworking, undaunted mother encounters a few bumps along the way. In Season One, she is reluctant to admit out loud to her family that she suffers from depression, anxiety and PSTD. “One Day at a Time” unquestionably handles the raw image of mental illnesses without flaw. During the second season, Penelope struggles with family, her job and school. In episode Hello, Penelope, after finding some sort of stability in her life with her new boyfriend and regaining balance with her schooling and work, Penelope decides to stop taking her antidepressants and attending therapy. This spirals into a relapse and Penelope finds herself suffering to the point she is unable to leave her bed. “When people tell me ‘be happy, you have a great life,’ that makes me feel like garbage because I know. But what’s wrong with me that I can’t appreciate that? That I can’t feel it? What’s the point of living if I can’t feel anything?” Penelope struggles, but with some advice and sharing similar experiences with family friend Schneider (Todd Grinnell), she decides to go back on her meds and return to therapy. “One Day at a Time” captures the actuality of mental illnesses and those that suffer from them daily in the most faultless way. The representation of this is immensely important and sends such a constructive message, regardless of how dark it can prove itself to be you’re still normal and you’re not alone in feeling the way that you do.
Of course, that isn’t the only example where “One Day at a Time” portrays the human need to feel a sense of normality. The very opinionated and outspoken feminist daughter of Penelope, Elena (Isabella Gomez), discovers her sexuality in the first season, coming out as a lesbian. Not only was it played out so naturally, it was conceived in the most positive way. The finale of Season One was more than difficult to watch for a lot of viewers, with Elena’s father walking out on her after not accepting who she really is. This hit home for a lot of LGBTQ+ fans, but it was so relevant for the writers and producers to feature that sense of realness within her coming out story. During episode eight of Season Two Elena is placed in a position to confront her father on how she really feels. After explaining the affects her father put her through, “anger, crying, weight loss,” she shows her strength by speaking out on what she has learnt from the experience. “You taught me a really valuable lesson. Just because I’m gay, people will hate me without knowing anything else about me.” After more emotional words, she continues with, “I’m tough, I’m really tough… I’m just really bummed out for you… You’re gonna miss a lot of stuff and that sucks because I’m pretty great.” Elena projects herself with strength and bravery in this scene, providing a model for LGBTQ+ viewers, especially youth.
Having such a strong support network, Elena is comfortable to tell her family she has a crush on someone and soon after they become an official couple. In episode Exclusive, we’re introduced to Syd (Sheridan Pierce) who identifies as a non-binary individual, using only they/them pronouns. “One Day at a Time” depicts Syds character admirably during the season with Elena’s whole family respecting them and their preferred pronouns, despite not even fully understanding. Their growing relationship with Elena is without a doubt one of the sweetest and yet so rare.
“One Day at a Time” also introduces other controversial issues like gun control and there’s even a few shots fired at Donald Trump throughout the season, despite his name never being mentioned once. Their point of view on his presidency is hardly subtle. Episode four, Roots, Penelope’s mother Lydia (Rita Moreno) and Schneider speak about seeking American citizenship. Lydia admits she has never voted in a U.S election, causing granddaughter Elena to scold her, claiming that the lack of participation is the reason why Donald Trump is currently the U.S president. “Now we have that monster in the White House,” Elena berates.
“One Day at a Time” is certainly more than what seems like a bunch of drama plots. Not only are the producers compelled to confront such imperative topics, but they do so while embedding all the essentials every multicamera family comedy needs. Even when producing such emotional and heart touching scenes, there’s always at least one character present that inserts some type of comedic attributes. In fact, Lydia is well known for her extremely amusing one liners throughout the season.
Certain narrative turns during the season aren’t at all surprising, but the amount and depth of emotion associated with them keeps it interesting. “One Day at a Time” is still a classic half an hour comedy in a few ways. For example, every now and then one of the characters enters with a melodramatic joke. There’s also the multiple cameras and a perceptible laugh track. The way the writers and producers of this show have kept the same typical comedic vibe with relationships and everyday life but have also written in a bunch of personal touches to serious issues and issues that fall into the political realm is what makes “One Day at a Time” unique and an absolute must watch show.
You can catch both seasons of “One Day at a Time” on Netflix. Thirteen half-hour episodes per season makes it all too easy to binge!