One Day At A Time (1975-1984)
One Day At A Time (2017- )
This one is interesting to me in so much as the revival of One Day At A Time is one no one was really looking for or asking for... but it's a damn good show! But lets start at the start...
In 1975 Norman Lear was the king of TV. Not just of TV but of relevant TV. He created shows famous for commenting on and reflecting society. All In The Family explored racial issues, generational issues, political issues all within the framework of one family. The Jeffersons showed an upwardly mobile black family. Good Times focused on a black family living in the projects. Maude was about a liberated woman... the list goes on.
One Day At A Time was maybe less obviously edgy and more main stream but it was actually incredibly smart and funny. One Day At A Time explored the life of a divorced mother thrown into having to take control of her own life. Ann Romano was a Middle America mother on her own after her husband left her for a younger trophy wife. Ann was a spitfire Roman Catholic mom who had married young and never had to support herself let alone her two daughters. The show found her trying to make a living while also confronting sexism in the workplace AND raising her kids. Julie Cooper was the older rebellious hellraiser while Barbara Cooper was the younger tomboy. The series start also found her dating her divorce lawyer. Rounding out the cast was Schneider, the handyman at Anne's building. Schneider was a swaggering would-be lothario who was originally meant to be a sexist antagonist on the home front for Anne. Only Schneider, as portrayed by Pat Harrington, brought such charm to his character that ya had to love him and he became essentially part of the family.
The show's setup was fodder for a million stories that, rather than just being sitcom cliches, felt real and relatable. Single woman stories. Work stories. Not enough money stories. And they weren't The Bradys. They were a real family who fought and yelled. The kids got in real trouble. Playing ball in the house? How about running away, drinking, sex, eloping... At the time you didn't see those plots on typical family sitcoms. As the show went on they even added a "son" bringing more issues into play (Ann had a boyfriend with a son. Eventually the boyfriend died and for a couple of seasons Ann "fostered" his son Alex.)
For the record, I loved One Day At A Time. It felt real. Sometimes yelly and exasperated Ann Romano felt a lot like my mom. While it has fallen out of the pop culture of today, at the time it was a huge hit. It ran an impressive 8 seasons. But the problem with any show running that long is eventually it feels like all the plots have been done and that they're repeating themselves. If you're watching ER and it's the third time a doctor is dealing with being attacked by a patient you start going, "I remember the first time they did this with Noah Wiley." After 8 seasons it seemed like they had covered all the stories there were to cover for that family.
Cut from the final episode in 1984 to 2017. A lot had changed both in television and in American family life. In 1984 there were 3 networks and in most areas a few local TV channels. In 2017 between broadcast and cable TV there are dozens of TV networks. And beyond that there are multiple online TV streaming "networks". In particular the Netflix streaming service was making a concerted effort to create unique content for itself. In addition to creating new original shows and movies, they also aggressively moved to revive existing properties. They created a sequel series to Full House called Fuller House and fans of the original went wild. They brought back Gilmore Girls which never go the ending fans wanted and it became water cooler and online conversation fodder everywhere. Next up they went to Norman Lear, long absent from TV, and had him revive One Day At A Time and... well... the name Norman Lear got the show some headlines. But the original series was older than those other shows. And this series wouldn't be a continuation of the old show but instead a reboot. So there wasn't a huge outpouring of fan love and excitement. There was actually some online joking and sarcasm about it's return. "Oh yeah, THAT'S on MY to watch list." Like I said, no one was looking for or asking for this show to happen.
If there was anyone who was an audience for the show I think it would be me. I tuned in to watch the first episode with some trepidation though. I loved the original and I sure didn't want to see it revived as some half-baked retread. And the first episode did worry me. It felt like someone doubted it was strong enough and pumped up the laughs, trying to make lines seem funnier than they were. Or even that non-laugh lines were funny. I thought, "Uh oh." But I stuck with it and as it turns out, the new One Day At A Time is a really REALLY good show. A worthy successor to the original.
The new series kept the core concept but started from scratch in every other way. And, as it turns out, in the 33 years between the old show and the new one, a ton of new social issues and changes had popped up providing brand new story material. Instead of a fiery Irish Catholic mom living in Indiana, the new show focused on a fiery Latina Catholic mom in Los Angeles. Rather than a shelter woman who had never been on her own, Penelope Alvarez was a former military medic. Instead of being left for another woman, Penelope left her military husband because of his substance abuse and refusal to deal with his post traumatic stress. She had a young son, Alex, who was obsessed with sneakers and video games and an older daughter, Elena, who was a crusader for issues and a feminist. Additionally Grandma Lydia, played by the legendary Rita Moreno, also lived with them (It should be noted on the original series the legendary Nanette Fabray eventually joined the cast as Grandma).
The plots all dealt with current relevant issues, issues actually not all being dealt with in a serious fashion by other family shows. To name a few, the still relevant sexism in the workplace, illegal immigration, women's identities, elderly dating, veteran's issues, and teen homosexuality. In particular the plot involving gay teens coming to terms with their sexuality was very well handled. I almost hate to mention it feels like a spoiler but it deserves mentioning. It's so well handled.
In addition to the basic premise, the show did take a couple other elements from the original show. Despite the change in location from the midwest to Southern California, the design of the family's apartment on the new show is identical to the original. Additionally the building is once again managed by a man named Schneider. But where the original Schneider was a wanna-be Clark Gable, the new Schneider is closer to a would-be Paul Rudd. And they skipped over Schneider being a swaggering sexist right to his being an extended member of the family.
There is one last tie to the original series. In the original series Mackenzie Phillips played older daughter Julie. She returned to the new show in a cameo role as Pam Valentine, the leader of Penelope's veteran's support group.
Now it seems like it wouldn't make sense for this series to be part of the same reality as the original, and so far it isn't. I mean, how would it make sense? Same apartment design, both buildings having Schneiders, original cast member playing a different role? But the thing is... I think they still could connect the shows and I actually hope they do. Lets take this point by point.
Same apartment. Not impossible. Building designs can get reused. When I watched the horror film They Follow I was shocked to see what looked like my grandparents' house in one scene. Only it wasn't their house. It was another house built from the same plans. Very unsettling. In this case there might even be a good reason for the similar design, which leads me to...
Two Schneiders. It should be noted that while the original Schneider was named Dwayne Schneider we have yet to learn new Schneider's first name. The original Schneider was merely the building superintendent. New Schneider wasn't just the super, his family owned the building. It seems quite possible that new Schneider could be related to Dwayne Schneider. The original series ended with Dwayne Schneider moving to Florida to watch over his brother's children and take over his business. It would not be impossible that Dwayne made a go of that business, had a son and moved to Los Angeles. The business he knows better than any other is apartment buildings. He invests in a new apartment building. He chooses to have it built to match the one he previously worked in because, to him, that was home. He leaves the building for his son to manage. Boom. Not that the show would have to spell all that out but it works.
Finally, Mackenzie Phillips. This is the easiest point to deal with and would also be key to connecting the shows. In the original series, Julie was the troubled daughter. She got engaged to one guy and then AT the altar decided to marry a different guy. In real life Mackenzie Phillips had personal issues which caused her to leave the show a number of different times. When she left for the final time, the series had Julie, her husband, and child sharing a house with her sister Barbara and her husband. Unable to handle being a wife and mother, Julie abandoned them. She left a goodbye note and was never seen again. Where did she go? It would make sense that she would run far away. Los Angeles is about as far as you can run. It also makes sense she would change her name. It would also make sense that a character with as many issues as Julie would seek therapy. Finally pulling her life together, it makes sense she would turn to helping others with their issues. 33 years is plenty of time to study up and become a therapist.
So it is not infeasible that the two shows could still be connected. And Julie's story never got closure on the original series. Why not do an episode where after 33 years Julie is finally found by her family? Barbara? Her husband? How about her long abandoned child? And I so want to see them in that apartment, meeting new Schneider and doing huge double takes.
While I was worried about this show being overlooked, apparently it has garnered enough of a following that it will get a second season. I know for a fact that it has found an audience in the Latin American community. It deserves to be discovered by an even wider audience. And hopefully it will last long enough to have an actual bona fide crossover with the original (Maybe? Maybe???)Other One Day At A Time Crossover Links
One Day At A Time and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
One Day At A Time and McHale's Navy
Click here to return to main Crossover List
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