There is no rulebook for a perfect time to premiere a TV show, but, if it were, then the new Netflix series One Day At A Time would’ve ticked all the boxes. In an era where remakes are around the corner, this particular TV show, even though is a remake of the 1975 classic, feels particularly fresh and very aware of the context its living in.
I don’t think that the showrunners, Gloria Calderón Kellet and Mike Royce, would have pictured this particular show as a remedy for the Post-Trump election audience, but it sure feels like it. In this day and time, there’s nothing more radical than a TV show starring a cuban veteran nurse of Afghanistan living in Los Angeles and trying to raise her two kids with the help of her mother, as the life of Penelope Álvarez in One Day At A Time.
Granted, the very idea of the selfless single mother navigating through the challenges of life, has been made countless of times both in movies and TV shows, but, and this is what it makes this serie so profoundly adequate, they have never focused the attention on the challenges of being a woman, specially an immigrant.
Focusing the narrative only on the problems of motherhood without understanding what’s like to be a woman, and on the essence and construction behind a woman’s perspective, has always been an usual problem on stories like this. They have been telling us that motherhood (and especially single motherhood) is something inherent to womanhood, something to suffer about, to embrace as something women must own.
Netflix’s One Day At A Time understands this particular issue and depicts it on a whole new view, by building their characters from scratch. Yes, Penelope is a single mother of two, but in no way the series confines her to portray only that role in her arc. She also is a nurse, a veteran, a divorced woman, a daughter and a single lady looking for love.
Of course that she has problems raising her kids by her own, but what’s really meaningful about this show is that her role as a mother is not the one that is carrying the story along. Her collected experiences as a woman living in the USA are the real focus, motherhood just happens to be one of them.
The same thing happens with the depiction of her mother Lydia and Penelope’s daughter Elena, they are both full and well-rounded characters with their own opinions and agency, trying to understand what does it means to be a woman nowadays. Thus, the more profound and enjoyable episodes are the ones that keeps challenging each and one of their personal opinions with the ones around them, and specially with each other.
Lydia is a catholic woman who migrates to USA in the midst of Castro’s goverment looking for a new place to call home, Elena, on the other hand, is cuban girl born in the United States with a particular interest on social challenge and new ways to improve the world she lives in. They both understand life differently, but because the great love they share, they are capable of grasp their opinions and respect each other.
The show not only finds many ways to give her women a voice, but it also manages to put it front and center with a handful of serious debates, that the characters have in each episode, around women’s rights, sexism, religion, lesbianism and gender pay gap. Make no mistake, giving this women her own voice and agency in no way means that the male roles are overshadowed by them, if anything, it helps them to be portrayed in a happier and more fulfilling light.
One Day At A Time makes an incredible effort to present flawed but caring men, that are usually influenced but not defined by toxic masculinity, capable of having profound discussions about homosexuality, mansplaining and sexism without being subjected or depicted as the villains of the story. Something that, at least in my case, helped me to confront the social perspective around of what’s really like to be a man nowadays.
It feels quite refreshing to find a TV show, with the narrative structure of a sitcom, capable of going to the places that even some serious series hadn’t had the nerve to go. Because in a world full of remakes, the ones that are here to propose instead of playing common patterns are the ones that are more likely to succeed.