Another hit. “One Day at a Time” is another binge-worthy show by the Netflix conglomerate. With a twist, “One Day at a Time”, is a resurrected 1970s-1980s sitcom which originally aired on CBS. Previously written about a white single mother raising her two daughters, it has been adapted with a few more elements. Penelope is a single mother recently back from her deployment from Afghanistan who is raising her preteen son and high school daughter. Her mother is an immigrant from Cuba and lives in the living room of their mid-sized apartment which is walled off by a large hanging curtain. Mainly consisting of dialogue, this series tackles many complex issues of family life and cultural happenings. I enjoyed this series and because of it’s overarching themes and discourse, I give it a decent A-.
A place for discussion. Could you imagine having three generations of your family living in one apartment building? This situation was true for me growing up and many others worldwide. With differing generations and experiences, dialogue is an essential centerpiece for the homestead. This is the strength and main component of “One Day at a Time.” With 90% of the show taking place inside the walls of their home, much of the series is conversation. There is no shyness from producers as they cover every aspect of the Alvarez family through typical day-to-day situations and struggles. For example, Penelope (played by Justina Machado) is a single mother that is dealing with the effects of the Afghanistan war, raising kids, and sifting through a relationship with God. All the while, Elena (played by Isabella Gomez) struggles with her Cuban descent, breaking the shackles of modern day patriarchalism, and identifying her sexuality.
Time frame and predictability. My critique of the show is more observation rather than a negative comment. The showrunners Gloria Calderon Kellet and Mike Royce operate efficiently on a screen time of thirty minutes. Although, within these limitations the variables of laughs, plot, and character development become predictable. Whether the subject matter is sexism, racism, homosexuality, or pornography, the equation would become typical. The first ten minutes would be the light-hearted jokes amidst the laugh-tracked audience. The next ten, plot build up and character development. The last few minutes would be characters attempting to resolve issues and adapt through their inner conflicts.
For a great interview with Kellet and Royce check out this podcast from The Ringer Network.
Cross-coverage. One of my favorite sitcoms currently on air is “New Girl.” I love the dynamic of the characters and the speedily antic conversation. The screenplay of this show is fascinating as well. They use a concept called cross-coverage in which scenes are recorded from varying angles to capture reactions and interludes. Instead of actors entering and leaving the set, they all interact on stage while multiple crews track reactions on film. I.E., The character Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) is known for mispronouncing words in the series, but in reality, these were just mistakes made on set while he was trying to overcome a New York accent. These kinds of concepts and dialogue are why I love episodes of “New Girl” and “One Day at a Time.” Instead of a polished, edited, and fluffed series, you get one that is a bit ruff around the edges and full of genuine conversation.
Kellet and Royce go on to explain in this podcast that issues between characters are intentionally not settled by someone winning an argument or a finite solution. This is awesome because rarely does that happen in the real world. Reactions and conversations in this series are genuine and concern real people. Maybe cross-coverage can teach us a thing or two about film and dialogue. Instead of quarreling about arguments, political stances, and religious affiliations, maybe we should have an open concept about a person and her worldview. Let’s talk more and assume less.