One Day at a Time





Emily Clark

TV Series Review

Penelope’s life is a little hectic. She’s an Army Veteran, a nurse practitioner and the single mom of two kids. A single day in her life can consist of dealing with nightmares from her time served in Afghanistan, figuring how to manage her depression, paying bills, attending school to finish her degree and trying to navigate her love life.

That’d make Penelope’s days chaotic enough. And that’s before you factor in the other wildcards in her life—all of whom seem to be family members. Her daughter, Elena, is an activist, feminist and proud lesbian. Her son, Alex, often gets himself into questionable situations in an attempt to be “cool.” And her mother, Lydia (a former dancer and performer), brings a whole new flavor to their Cuban-American family with melodramatic antics that often leave Penelope exasperated.

It’s a lot to handle, but Penelope manages. Because when life is this chaotic, you take it one day at a time.

One Problem At A Time

One Day at a Time is a reimagining of Norman Lear’s original 1975 sitcom starring Bonnie Franklin. Featuring a divorced mom raising two teenage girls, the show was considered a bit of a groundbreaker (divorce was rarely dealt with on TV at the time) and ran for 10 years.

The new show hasn’t experienced that sort of stability. Launched on Netflix in 2017, it later migrated to Pop TV and now has made its network debut on CBS. But while the show’s had a hard time finding a permanent home, that hasn’t kept it from becoming something of a critical darling. Secular reviewers have appreciated the show’s wit and heart and willingness to tackle tough issues.

And we can find elements to like about the show.

Superficially, the TV-PG-rated One Day at a Time is pretty clean. There isn’t a whole lot of cursing, we don’t see any nudity, and violence, while perhaps occasionally mentioned, is never actually seen on screen.

Additionally, the Alvarez family is relatable and likable. This is a family that sticks together. No matter what life throws at them, they navigate it with perseverance and love—sometimes through tough love, like when Alex gets grounded for most of the third season for smoking marijuana, but love nevertheless.

Unfortunately, as the marijuana storyline suggests, the show also manages to be quite controversial with its choice of heavy topics. Penelope left her husband (also an Army Veteran) because his PTSD led to alcoholism and it became unsafe to be around him. She attempts to educate her kids about sex and intimacy, often while hypocritically engaging in the act herself. Lydia is Catholic and sometimes butts heads with her daughter and grandchildren over topics that she considers sin (such as masturbation). And the show also deals with racism, misogyny, sexual harassment, LGBTQ issues (like when Elena comes out about her homosexuality or when she debates what to call her nonbinary significant other) and mental health stigmas.

So even though this family manages to take things one day at a time, the show has more than one problem that families might want to think about before watching.

Episode Reviews

Oct. 12, 2020: “Checking Boxes”

After being marked as “single” for a census, Penelope realizes how lonely she is.

Two teen girls kiss. We see a naked man (though critical parts are covered). A woman wears a revealing shirt. A lesbian woman flirts with Penelope. There is some discussion about a teen’s preferred pronouns. There are jokes about sex, homosexuality and female anatomy. A non-married couple moves in together.

People drink wine. We hear about a woman who “drank herself to death.” People talk about dying young from smoking and taking selfies with tigers. Someone jokes about cholera. Penelope slams a door in a man’s face. A man says he was bit by a toddler, tased by a woman and insulted by a racist parrot.

We hear the initials “F” and “BS” in reference to the profanities (but not the profanities themselves). We also hear “d–n” and “a–.” God’s name is misused a few times.

Feb. 8, 2019: “Ghosts”

When Penelope attends her ex-husband’s wedding, she wonders why he gets a happy ending and she doesn’t.

Elena wears a suit to her dad’s wedding and worries that people will judge her for being gay. She remembers how her dad abandoned her at her Quinceañera celebration when she came out to him and gets angry that she has to pretend like everything is OK between them.

Several couples kiss and slow dance. People talk about sex and female anatomy. Some dresses are a little revealing. A boy tells his sister to picture an audience naked to calm her nerves. Someone says their uncle has a nipple on his elbow.

A girl is told not to draw the letter “s” in front of the pronoun “He” in the Bible. A boy refers to God as a woman. Penelope hallucinates seeing her deceased father.

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Emily Clark
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

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