Roush Review: Best Day Ever as ‘One Day at a Time’ Gets a New Life
Oh, happy Day!
Proving there is life after Netflix (which gets smacked in the season premiere’s very first joke), the jubilant reimagining of the vintage Norman Lear comedy One Day at a Time has survived cancellation and is the better for it.
To savor the ups and downs of the working-class Cuban-American Alvarez family on a weekly basis, rather than as an all-at-once seasonal binge, only enhances the pleasures of this proudly diverse and rollickingly relevant show. In case you missed the first three seasons on Netflix (a catch-up is highly recommended), the show reintroduces the characters for its new Pop TV audience in timely fashion, courtesy of a hangdog census taker, played by Ray Romano.
“A guy wanting a list of Latinos in my house? No thanks!” erupts single mom Penelope (the vibrant Justina Machado), shutting the door in his face before relenting and doing her civic duty—which gives each of the regulars a chance to shine, including outspoken gay activist daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez), restless teenage son Alex (Marcel Ruiz), Penelope’s mensch of a boss, Dr. Leslie Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky), hilariously needy and “cis white male ally, privileged but super woke” landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell)—and, upstaging them all, the peerless scene stealer Rita Moreno as grandmother Lydia, whose every grand entrance as she whips back her bedroom curtain is a diva-licous sight to behold.
Once Penelope and Lydia finish sparring over who’s the head of the household, Penelope takes her own personal census and realizes (as she shares to her spirited support group), “I don’t need a man. … What I want is to not want a man.” Easier said than done for this self-described “feminist badass,” the inspired creation of executive producer Gloria Calderon Kellett.
Many will relate to this woman and her extended family, who do a lot with a little, and they’ll relate to frugal Penelope’s “scarcity mindset” in next week’s episode, when she dithers about splurging on a much-needed new sofa. Even more will laugh riotously in the third episode, when Alex walks in on his mom during a private moment of self-gratification—while watching Outlander, naturally—sparking a family-wide debate over sexuality and shame (or lack thereof).
“This family needs boundaries,” moans poor outnumbered Alex. Don’t count on it, young man. In its embrace of traditional sitcom rhythms and progressive stories about a truly modern family, One Day at a Time is of its time and for all time, and if we’re lucky, will continue making joyful noise and flouting convention for many days to come.
One Day at a Time, Season 4 Premiere, Tuesday, March 24, 9:30/8:30c, Pop TV