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Sunday, May 06, 2018

One Day At A Time - Season 1 Recap

I thought that I would take the time to recap the highs and lows of Season 1.  Thankfully, I don't have too many lows to report, as the Netflix reboot of the show has been on the ball since it debuted.

I'll start with a list of links to the thirteen episode reviews that made up Season 1 in case any of you missed one.  I know the dates are really randomized.  I had intended to do one every Friday, but my work schedule is so unpredictable as of late that I don't even know what day it is sometimes.

Now, just to touch briefly on the episodes of the first season, I have to say that I loved all of them.  I think Norman Lear hasn't lost his touch when it comes to producing and creating television moments.  I found laugh out loud moments in nearly every single episode, and each episode talked about a rather serious topic without being overly preachy.

Much like the original series which aired between 1975-1984, the rebooted show wasn't afraid to tackle serious issues.  In this season alone, the issues dealt with were post traumatic stress disorder, conflict of religion, immigration, the LGBTQ community, and sexism.  And yet the talent of the brilliant cast helped bring these issues to the forefront and told the stories with compassion, kindness, and a lot of humour.

I was also surprised to learn that the show taught us a lot about Cuban-American history.  I mean, I suppose since most of the people on the show are Cuban, this would be inevitable, but from Alex's school project to Lydia's accounts of her immigrating from Cuba to the United have a better understanding about what life was really like for Cubans during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and how many of them fled the only home they had ever known before that event took place.  It was a real eye-opener to many who weren't around during that time, and I can honestly say that the show (in particular episode 9) could be considered a great teaching resource for illustrating that history.

I also thought that Elena's coming out story was handled exceptionally well.  It's hard enough for teenagers to try and find their way through the world.  Even harder when you are questioning your own sexuality through it all.  But I really like how the show handled it, and I especially like that the show didn't purposely set out to have everyone immediately accept her.  Penelope and Lydia had their doubts, and Victor flat out walked out on his daughter during her quinces because he couldn't handle it.  While it would be nice for them to accept it...real life says that not everyone will.  I really liked how the show showed both sides without any hesitation.

And how cool was it that Mackenzie Phillips returned to the show as Penelope's therapist?  It would have been really wild if they used the name Julie Cooper (the character Phillips played on the original series) for her character, but I suppose they had to draw the line somewhere.  I mean, we already had another Schneider, so...

Were there some parts of the show that I didn't like?  Yeah, a couple.  I didn't understand the point of Penelope's co-workers, Lori and Scott.  Though both actors were okay, I felt there were there just for filler.  I also wasn't a huge fan of the structure of Episode 4, which kept jumping back and forth through time...though I understand why they chose to go that route.

At any rate, what makes the show such a success is the brilliant cast of characters that make up the series, and in the case of the six actors that receive top billing, each one put in a great performance.  Most of these characters I loved, but there were a couple that irked me.  Let's hope that they improve come season two.

We'll go in order from the opening credits.

I think that Penelope is a gem of a character.  One that Justina Machado plays with finesse and excitement.  And for the most part, I think she's doing a great job with balancing her home life with her professional life.  I do think that she slips up every once in a while (seriously what was up with crawling through a doggy door to spy on your daughter), but for the most part, she's all right with me.

I particularly like the fact that while she may showcase a persona of bravery and fearlessness, she too has her moments of vulnerability.  When she served, she had moments happen to her that changed how she looked at the world, and her struggle to reintegrate into society post-service is inspiring. 

I've got nothing against Todd Grinnell's portrayal of Schneider in this show.  He is a fine actor.  I just wish that Schneider was an endearing character.  Truth be told, personality wise, he is the weak spot of Season 1.  A total comic relief character who only serves to be the punchline of anyone's conversations.  A spoiled trust fund manchild who doesn't know what responsibility is.  It's hard to watch.

That said, he has found an adoptive home with the Alvarez family, and since then, I think Schneider has potential to grow to be a great character.  We saw glimmers of it when he supervised Alex's hotel stay.  While that ended in disaster, Penelope trusted him enough to try it again.  I think Schneider still has a ways to go, but he's getting there.

The first four episodes of the series, I found myself annoyed by Elena.  Again, no reflection on Isabella Gomez - who did fantastic work in this series.  I just found her social warrior persona to be really grating on the nerves, and I was ready to dismiss her as being the annoying Steve Urkel like character.

But then her best friend had to move because of immigration red tape, and I started to warm up to her.  And then her beautiful coming out story warmed me up even further.  By the time she celebrated her quinces in her sparkly pantsuit, we were seeing a teenage girl ready to embark in womanhood.  Here's hoping in Season 2 she continues that growth.

Alex has an underdeveloped personality right now.  As the youngest member of the cast, I suppose that's only natural.  But one thing Alex (and his actor Marcel Ruiz) has is charm.  And believe me, he turns it on in more than one episode to figure out what is going on.  I also like that he accepted Elena's coming out better than anyone else in the family and it shows a great brother/sister relationship between the two - something that's hardly seen in sitcoms these days.  I look forward to seeing him mature in the second season.

Getting Stephen Tobolowsky to play the role of Penelope's boss, Dr. Berkowitz was smart casting.  He certainly has the talent to be serious as well as goofy.  The problem is that sometimes that line is blurred to the point where he comes across as the most incompetent doctor that has ever graced Los Angeles.  It scares me that he actually practices medicine with the total lack of knowledge he seems to have in the real world.  Barring that, it's clear that he's a friend of the family.  He respects Penelope as a co-worker, he likes Penelope's kids, and he REALLY likes Penelope's mom!  Time will tell if he becomes a more prominent character in season 2, but I think for now he has a lot of work to do.

Finally, we have Lydia - and you know, she is my absolute favourite character on the series because she is the most honest.  I suppose the older you get, the less you worry about offending people.  Certainly, Lydia is very old-fashioned about things.  She's deeply religious and doesn't understand the modern world that much.  But she is fiercely loyal to her family - one reason why Lydia accepted Elena's coming out, even though it conflicted with her religious beliefs.  And the story about how she came to the country was heartbreaking.  I actually recall shedding a couple of tears during the Viva Cuba episode.  And that is largely in part because of Rita Moreno's beautiful acting.  No wonder she has won at least one of every major entertainment award.  It shows in her performances.  And at 86 years old, Moreno shows no sign of stopping. 

So, that was season 1.  What did you like about it?  What did you not like?  I'm open for comments.

I'll begin Season 2 recaps at a later date.  I think I might let you wait a bit for it...I might have another project on the go.  We'll see.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Oldest Canadian Railway Tunnel - A Tour

It's been a long time since I've done a video blog, and so for the end of April, I thought I'd introduce you to one of the most iconic tourist attractions in my neck of the woods.

I'm a bit late in posting this as when I did the walkthrough, it was Monday, April 23.  But due to what happened in Toronto, Ontario that afternoon, I decided to hold off on it until some time had passed.

I said that I wanted to do more of these video blogs where I take tours of various attractions in my area, and I couldn't think of a better place to start than our railway tunnel.

Of course, the tunnel is no longer operational to hasn't been for several decades.  But when the tunnel first opened in 1860, it predated Canada by seven whole years!  It lay dormant for years, but was re-opened to the public on August 12, 2017 - a month after Canada's 150th anniversary.

Now, I'll start with the video of my tour of Canada's oldest railway tunnel, and then I'll post some photos that I took on my way back through.  Hope you enjoy the tour...and try not to make fun of my voice or camera skills too much.  When you're filming with an iPod, it tends to get a bit shaky!


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Recapping One Day at a Time - Episode 13 - Quinces

Well, here we are.  The finale of Season 1 of Recapping One Day at a Time - the reboot.  Although my scheduling this time around has been incredibly unpredictable, we're finally here at Episode 13 - Quinces.  Be warned.  Because it's the last episode of the season, this entry's going to be a bit photo heavy.

Ah, so we've finally arrived at the day before Elena's quinces!  The little girl who is all about social justice and who didn't even want to have a quinces in the first place is now freaking out over her bejeweled tiara!  And Penelope is excited to see Elena so happy.

But out of the blue, Penelope transforms into a drill sergeant, issuing orders to Alex, Lydia, and Schneider who happen to be sitting on the couch in the Alvarez living room.  With dozens of relatives arriving at the apartment in the next few hours to set up for the party, there is absolutely no time to waste.  Schneider's job is to pick up everybody at the airport and deliver them to the apartment.  Alex is responsible for supervising the party decorations with Penelope.  And Lydia is responsible for making Elena's dress for the event.

As for Penelope?  She was the one responsible for setting the seating chart for the big day.  It seems as though Elena insisted that all of the tables for the event be named after famous women in history.  So, you have tables named for Frida Kahlo, Rosie the Riveter, Rosa Parks, Eva Peron, and Oprah Winfrey - which sparks a near flawless impersonation of Oprah by Justina Machado.  YOU GET A SEAT!  YOU GET A SEAT!

But underneath the tough exterior, Penelope does have one major worry.  Victor.  Since she threw Victor out for being drunk, he's been staying with Schneider since.  And while Victor is going to the quinces, Penelope worries that he will relapse at the party.  Well, here's an idea, Penelope.  Don't serve alcohol.  Which should be easy given that Elena's got six more years to go before she can down a Tequila shot.

Elena comes out wearing her beautiful ball gown, which she appears to like.  But Lydia is unhappy.  Lydia believes that if a gown doesn't make a girl cry in joy, it's not finished.  Well, at least Lydia has a few hours to figure things out before the party, but I can sense that Penelope is just a few hours away from total meltdown.

The opening credits roll, and we see the venue for the party...which looks large enough to be for a high school prom!  The Alvarez family went all out!  And hey, Dr. B. is back for this one...complaining about the acoustics of the ball room.  Because apparently he's an expert on that sort of thing.

And Lydia is complaining about the size of the dance floor, and gets into a bit of an argument with the party planner!  Yeah, that's Lydia...creating memories for the most perfect quinces!

At least Victor shows up and is pleasant with his kids, even though it's probably causing a lot of anxiety for Penelope.  And Victor is here to practice the father-daughter dance with Elena.  The song they've chosen is a tune made famous by Julio Iglesias, but I have no idea what the song title is as Spanish is not my mother tongue.  But Elena assures Victor that she has chosen a more modern version.

In fact, as Elena is dancing with Victor, she decides that now would be a good time to inform him of the fact that she has come out as a lesbian.  And for what it's worth, I think Isabella Gomez does a great job of emoting her feelings during her monologue.  Sometimes I find Elena annoying, but the actress playing her is a delight to watch!

Now, whereas Penelope had doubts about Elena's choice but ended up being fully supportive, Victor flat out reacts with anger and basically tells Elena that she is too young to know what she is.  Wow.  Father of the Year right here.  Elena immediately apologizes for springing it on him and Penelope tries to intervene, but Victor is set in his ways.  He thinks that Elena coming out is a rebellious phase and that she is only doing it to embarrass him.  Penelope essentially tells Victor he's crazy and it leads to Victor storming out of the ball room. Elena is visibly upset and wishes that she had chosen a different way to tell Victor the truth, but Penelope holds her close and tells her that she did nothing wrong.  At least Elena has ONE parent that she can count on.

Back at the Alvarez place, the entire room is filled with relatives of Penelope's all eager to help Elena celebrate her quinces.  And it seems as though most of the relatives are putting together the flower arrangements for the big party.

Well, all except Penelope who launches into a Joan Crawford like rant at one of her relatives for substituting carnations for the flowers that are supposed to go there.  I mean it, it's like total "no wire hangers" scary.  Alex tries to calm her down and asks her when the last time she slept was.  It seems as though Penelope has been putting forth so much effort into the planning of the quinces that she's managed to stay awake for two whole days!  Yeah, I get the feeling that she's going to have a mental breakdown any minute now.

Penelope goes into Elena's room where Lydia is working on Elena's dress.  Also in the room is Elena's best friend, Carmen, on the laptop via Skype.  Carmen remarks that the dress is gorgeous, but Lydia exclaims that the "diabla lies", and disconnects the call!  Yikes!

Penelope is understandably frustrated, and while Elena insists that she loves the dress, Lydia is not buying it - once again citing the fact that for her to really like the dress she would cry like Niagara Falls.  Of course, Elena tries to compromise by suggesting that when she walks onto the dance floor in her dress, she could wear Doc Martens underneath and that way she will bring a piece of herself into the look.  But after Abuelita nearly dies of a coronary, Elena decides on something else.

After Penelope leaves the room - and after she passes by Alex who is yelling at the same relative for sneaking baby's breath flowers into the bouquets - Schneider arrives with the last of the Alvarez's on the guest list.  A young couple and their child.  Unfortunately, after Penelope converses with the woman in Spanish, she tells Schneider that she doesn't know these people and that he picked up the wrong family!  Why does this not shock me in any manner?

Schneider tells Penelope that he will fix things...but before he does, he informs Penelope that Victor is up in his apartment packing up his things.  It seems as though he is still having issues with accepting Elena's coming out and told Schneider that he was leaving.  Not if Penelope has anything to say about it!

Sure enough, Penelope storms into Schneider's apartment where she spots Victor folding up his shirts and putting them into a duffel bag.  And you can better believe that Penelope delivers a scathing "the reason you suck" speech to Victor - which I will be recapping in the best lines from this episode portion of the blog.  She essentially tells Victor that if he is any sort of man, he will not run away from this and he will be at Elena's quinces.  My love for Penelope grows stronger as the season wraps up.  I hope she's like this during season two!

When Penelope returns home, she is shocked to find that Dr. Berkowitz is there serving snacks to everyone.  She is confused as to why he is there now when he said that he would see them tomorrow at the quinces.  It appears as though Lydia has invited Dr. B. over as she requires his hands for some project.  Now, keeping in mind that Penelope knows that Dr. B. and Lydia have an interesting relationship together, she automatically assumes the worst and walks away with a disgusted look on her face.  Alex gives Penelope some more bad news.  According to Alex, a group of Alvarez family members who initially didn't know for sure that they were going to go to the quinces have now decided that they are going, meaning that there are going to be extra chairs for Penelope to have to make room for.  Alex suggests that they get another table, but Penelope has another Joan Crawford moment where she screeches that there will be no more tables and she will figure out how to fix things.

At least until Dr. B. stumbles and takes out the entire seating chart, mixing up twelve famous female icons and about a hundred and seven Alvarez family members on the floor!  Dr. B. doesn't feel safe, and Penelope looks like her brain is about to explode.  Cue the nervous breakdown in T-minus four seconds as she retreats behind Lydia's curtain and lets out a bloodcurdling scream!

And just like that, Penelope is fine and kneels down to try and reassemble the seating chart.  Dr. B. feels terrible and attempts to try and help since he was the one to destroy it in the first place.

But when Lydia passes by and tells Dr. B. that she needs him in her quarters now, Dr. B. gives this hilarious expression and follows Lydia behind the curtain leading to Penelope giving the camera a "WTF" look and Alex playfully trying to film both of them behind the curtain.  Believe me, it plays out funnier than I can ever describe it.

Penelope takes the whole seating chart into her room where a clock radio tells us that it is 9:10 p.m.  Alex tries to tell her to get some rest, but Penelope - who is in full on Joan Crawford - scares Alex out of the room.  Penelope is all set to re-create the magic of the seating chart and she gets to work.  But somewhere between the spots where the Hillary Clinton and Sonia Sotomayor tables are supposed to be, Penelope passes out cold and catches the Z's that she's been avoiding since two and a half days ago.

In fact, Penelope is so zonked out that she doesn't wake up until 10:03 the next morning!  Wow, I wish I could sleep for thirteen hours straight some days!  Hilariously, what wakes Penelope up is the sudden realization that the Rosa Parks table should NOT be at the back!

Penelope looks at the time, realizes that the quinces starts in less than two hours and she has gotten nothing done.  To her surprise, everybody is out of the apartment, everything has been cleaned up, and Penelope realizes that somebody has brushed her teeth while she was sleeping.  She openly wonders if she died and went to heaven...but a knock on the door from Schneider causes her to think that she died and went to hell!

To Penelope's shock, Schneider is clean-shaven, free of spectacles, and actually looks like he stepped out of the pages of GQ magazine.  Penelope is creeped out because not only does he look different but she finds herself strangely attracted to him!  Schneider explains that he's come to take Penelope to Elena's quinces, and Penelope is confused as to what happened.

Well, it seems as though Alex has a secret talent of being a leader when the situation calls for it.  And when Penelope arrives wearing a dress that shows off...well...everything, Alex has the quinces venue looking pretty fly for a bunch of high school students! 

It also appears as though Penelope's words got through to Victor because he happens to be at the party as well...though given the way that Penelope and Victor interact with each other, I get the feeling that there's still going to be a frosty reception between both of them for years to come.

Penelope takes a break to go into the dressing room where Elena is putting the finishing touches on her makeup.  You know, for someone who was against the idea of having a quinces to begin with, she sure is having a lot of fun with it.  And perhaps the greatest moment comes when Lydia reveals to Elena the dress that she will wear to the quinces...and Elena is so moved with emotion that she bursts into tears at the sight of it and gives Lydia a huge hug!  Even Penelope seems ready to tear up.  It has me wondering what Lydia did to make it so beautiful. 

At any rate, it's time for the introduction of Elena's quinces, and Penelope is trying to get people's attention.  It's not until Lydia screams out HEY, YOU GUYS (a brilliant poke at the past when Rita Moreno said the same words on "The Electric Company") that Penelope begins her speech.  There's nothing really major of note in the speech.  We learn that Elena's birthday is August 7, 2001, she was born eight days premature, and one of her first school plays had her playing a tree or something like that. 

Whatever the case, the quinces court comes out onto the floor with the guys dressed in black tuxes and the women all wearing blue dresses.  The song playing in the background is Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" - a rather ironic song given everything that Elena went through this season.  And we also learn that when Penelope introduces her daughter she has so many middle names that I don't even remember what order they fall in!

Elena walks out onto the floor with her date Josh...and she isn't in a dress at all!  Instead, she's wearing a pantsuit complete with a sparkly shirt underneath it.  She looks incredibly gorgeous in the ensemble, and most importantly, Elena looks like she is having fun.

And another surprise!  Carmen's at the quinces too!  Turns out that Carmen's arrival is Schneider's gift to Elena as he purchased the plane ticket to fly her out.  Awwwww!

A slow song begins and Elena and Josh start to dance, as does Carmen and Alex.  Turns out that Lydia has been Skyping Carmen in secret to teach her the choreography for the dance numbers!  Of course, Lydia was quite mean to Carmen, but Carmen secretly loved it!  Oh, Carmen...don't ever change.  But at any rate, almost everyone in the room is happy. 

Almost everyone.  As soon as Elena walked out in her pantsuit, Victor cringed with embarrassment.  And each minute you could see him getting angrier and angrier.  I hope he doesn't do anything to ruin the day for his daughter because that would make him despicable.

At any rate, Elena is having a great time at the quinces, and Penelope asks Lydia how she got the pantsuit ready in time.  Well, that's where Dr. B. comes in.  Because of his work stitching up patients, he's developed an eye for sewing...and it was he who helped stitch up Elena's suit.  Oh my goodness, I am LOVING this.  It's almost as if Schneider and Dr. B. have become honorary members of the family.

It's now time for the father-daughter dance, and true to form, Elena has chosen a version of the Julio Iglesias song sung by a female artist.  Elena is standing on the floor waiting for Victor to come and join her.  And she waits.  And waits.  And her expression starts to transform from a smile to a frown as she continues to wait.

Penelope is visibly confused and notices that Victor's place at the table is empty.  When her gaze focuses on Schneider, his facial expression says it all.  Victor couldn't handle his daughter's coming out, he left the party, Schneider tried to stop him, but Victor walked out of his OWN DAUGHTER'S QUINCES.  What a horrible thing for him to do.  He truly is a jerk, and Penelope made the right choice by walking away.

At first Penelope starts to break down and curses Victor for breaking their daughter's heart.  But then she does something that actually nearly makes me start to shed tears.  Remember how at the very first episode, Penelope stated that all she wanted was for someone to come up to her, hold her, and say "I got you"?  Well, she walks up on the dance floor, tells Elena "I got you", and she joins Elena in the slow dance on the floor to a cheering crowd!

This prompts Alex, Lydia, Schneider, and Dr. B. to join them in one gigantic mob slow dance.  It's meant to be comedic, but really, it goes to show you just how far they've come as a family.  And yes, Schneider and Dr. B. are family...much more than Victor proved to be.  All in all, a show with a smidgen of bittersweet flavour but a lot of feel good action overall. 

So that is a wrap for Season 1.  I'll probably be starting Season 2 sometime next week, but for now, you'll just have to wait as you read the best lines from the last episode of Season 1.  Enjoy!

ELENA:  Mom, a tiara is a backward symbol of how women are only valued for their beauty.  And now that I'm wearing one...I don't care.  I look awesome, and it's SUPER SPARKLY!!!

PENELOPE:  And what the hell is a carnation doing in here?!?
ALEX:  Mami, a word.  When was the last time you slept?
PENELOPE:  Two days ago.  Yeah, but don't worry.  I take little power naps when I pee.

PENELOPE:  I just wanted to make sure everything was cool.  You're not going to do something stupid like not come to the quinces tomorrow?  "Yeah, cool, Lupe.  I'll be there." "Oh, thanks, Victor".  Look, I know this is all hitting you fast.  I...was really thrown at first, too.
VICTOR:  This isn't who she is, Lupe.  It's not.  It's a phase.  It's what kids do.  It's, like, cool now to be gay.
PENELOPE:  Oh, yeah.  That's it.  She wants a piece of that sweet, sweet bullying and persecution because being a teenager's not hard enough.
VICTOR:  You know what?  I'm not joking.
PENELOPE:  And I'm not here to fight with you.  Because this is not about us right now.  This is about your daughter.  And I know you love her.  And you know how much it means to Elena for you to be at her quinces.
VICTOR:  Does the whole family know?
PENELOPE:  No.  She's only told a few people.
VICTOR:  All right.  Well, that's good.  Don't tell anyone else.
PENELOPE:  I'm not gonna tell anyone else.  Because it's not up to me.  Or you.  It's up to Elena to decide who she tells and when.  But the one thing you do get to decide is whether you're gonna be there for your daughter.

PENELOPE:  What is going on?  The Cubans are missing, my seating chart is gone, and I'm kind of attracted to you?  Nothing makes sense!
SCHNEIDER:  Chill, girl.
PENELOPE:  Oh, that helps when you talk.  Thank you.
SCHNEIDER:  I'm here to take you to your daughter's quinces, so get in that bedroom and put on all your clothes.  Whoa.  I've never said that to a woman before.

ALEX:  Immigrants.  We get the job done.

LYDIA:  What about the suit, huh?  It was perfect.  And I could never have done it without Leslie.
DR. B.:  Well, last night, your mother said, "if you can suture, you can sew", so, I helped her make Elena's suit.
LYDIA:  I was on a deadline.  I needed his nimble fingers.  Oh, such a talent!  It's a shame you wasted your life as a doctor.