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Friday, January 26, 2018

Recapping One Day at at Time - Episode 1 - This Is It

This is it!  This is life, the one you get, so go and have a ball!

That is the first line of the theme song for the television series "One Day at a Time", and it will be the song that you will hear for the next twenty-six weeks as I will be recapping the new reboot of the 1975 television series "One Day at a Time". 

I think I'm going to call this feature..."Recapping...One Day at a Time".  Not exactly original or creative, but it tells you what to expect!

I'll be recapping Season 1 (which debuted January 2017) and Season 2 (which debuts TODAY) in this feature, and it will take me until July 2018.  And if the show happens to be picked up for a third season, I'll resume with my recaps then.

So, for those of you who may not have seen the series, the original was created by Norman Lear (who is the executive producer of the first season - at the age of 95!)  It was a show about a single mother of two trying to balance being a mother with finding out who she is.  The original series starred the late Bonnie Franklin, the late Pat Harrington, Mackenzie Phillips, and Valerie Bertinelli (and many other cast members throughout its nine season run).

This time around, the show is kind of the same concept but with some major changes to the presentation.

The first change to be aware of is that instead of the family being Caucasian, we have a Cuban-American family headed by nurse Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado).  And we learn quite a lot of information from the first scene leading into Episode 1 - This Is It.  As Penelope chats and examines her patient, they have a conversation and the focus turns to the photo on Penelope's clipboard.  The patient - who is clearly cast to be as annoying as possible - asks if Penelope was dressed up for Halloween. 

No, it turns out that Penelope was a war veteran who served in Afghanistan as a war medic.  We also learn that she is divorced from her husband and that she is a single mom of two children (who we'll meet later).  It's an impressive story and I already have mad respect for Penelope as a character...but when the patient tries to hit on Penelope, I just want him to disappear.

Thankfully, we get a reprieve when we see Penelope arrive home from work with her hands filled with packages.  We also learn another fact about Penelope in that while she was serving in Afghanistan she suffered a serious shoulder injury that likely resulted in her being discharged from the armed forces.  Want to know how I know that?  She's trying (and failing) to get the attention of her youngest child Alex (Marcel Ruiz).  There's not a lot to say about Alex except that he appears to be portrayed as a typical millennial boy - eyes wrapped in his laptop and social media.

We're also quickly introduced to Penelope's mother, Lydia (Rita Moreno).  And, can I just say that Rita Moreno looks absolutely fantastic?  Would you believe that when she was filming this season, she was 84 years old?!?  Now at 86, she shows no sign of slowing down.  Good for her.  And, to keep with the tradition of her being a Cuban immigrant, Moreno talks in a thick Cuban accent which as you'll find as you watch the show can lead to some hilarious jokes!

Anyway, Lydia announces that they have a MAJOR problem.  As Penelope is unpacking the groceries she purchased, she announces that her daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez) does NOT want a quinces.  Which is short for quinceanera - a fifteenth birthday party that sort of works the same way as a Jewish bar mitzvah...only for fifteen year old girls.  It's a Latino tradition that is supposed to symbolize the moment in which a girl becomes a woman.  But Elena is against the idea of a quinces because this modern girl sees it as an ancient barbaric tradition.  Yeah, Elena is going to be a polarizing character, I'm sure.

Meanwhile, Alex is doing some back to school shopping, and on his list is a pair of sneakers.  Well, actually, he wants FIVE pairs of sneakers.  Yeah, Alex seems to think that he will really turn heads if he wears a different pair of sneakers for each school day.  Of course with Alex lacking a part-time job of any sort, Penelope puts a freeze on her credit card and limits Alex to one pair of sneakers that cost under $40.  Actually, with sales on Amazon and online shoe stores, it's a fairly reasonable request.  Of course, this prompts Alex to exclaim how poor they are despite having a television, laptop, and a house over their heads.  Wow, I feel sorry for Penelope having a couple of brats for kids. 

To make matters worse for Penelope, Lydia has already fed the kids (even though Penelope insisted on cooking up the already reduced slab of beef that she purchased at the store), and the water faucet is broken.  Fear not, Lydia exclaims.  Schneider will be over tomorrow to fix it.  And yes, there is a handyman superintendent named Schneider in this incarnation of "One Day at a Time" as well - though he's a LOT different from Pat Harrington's version!  We'll meet him a little later.

For now, Penelope's mother has informed her that there is still some leftovers if she would rather eat those instead of the reduced meat, but Penelope is determined to make a meal out of it and actually tells her to go away.  This prompts a hilarious little temper tantrum from Lydia cursing and swearing in Spanish until she angrily closes her curtain!   But of course, Penelope caves and starts eating Lydia's meal to which Lydia responds with an emphatic "You're welcome!"

The next scene introduces us to Schneider (Todd Grinnell), who as I mentioned is nothing like the original Schneider aside from the thick mustache (which is revealed to be fake).  This Schneider is 40, single, a trust fund baby, and a recovering alcoholic.  We learn this from a conversation between Penelope and Schneider about how the Alvarez family moved in on the same day Schneider received his 5-year sobriety chip.  And hilariously, Lydia baked him a rum cake in celebration!  Ha!  At least Schneider enjoyed watching them eat it!

The talk also shifts to Penelope and how her boss, Dr. Berkowitz (who we'll meet later) has prescribed her some anti-depressants.  Since coming home from the war, Penelope has dealt with depression and mood swings, and while the doctor thinks that they will make her feel better, Penelope is reluctant to take them.  I get the feeling that this will be an ongoing storyline for the remainder of season one at least.

Meanwhile, Lydia and Elena are still arguing over the fact that Elena does not want to have a quinces, and to try and prove her point, Lydia shows Elena photos of Penelope's quinces.

Um, yeah, if those photos are any indication, I'm kind of seeing why Elena does NOT want one!  Though to be fair, those photos were made to simulate 1986 - and pretty much everybody who was around in that time period looked hideous.

At this point, Penelope has had enough of this and she decides that the best way to get all of their points across is for Elena and Penelope to role play swapping roles.  Elena will play the role of Penelope and Penelope will play Elena.  Schneider, Alex, and Lydia are the "jury" so to speak, and they will decide which side presented their case better.

Elena goes first.  She uses Penelope's mannerisms perfectly to imitate her.  According to Elena's point of view, she thinks Penelope wants to have the quinces to celebrate Elena's life and how it is like a global village coming together to mark the occasion in which Elena becomes a woman.

Penelope borrows Elena's glasses and hat and talks in a bit of a valley girl accent and whines about how she doesn't think it's fair that they need the validation of all of her relatives to prove that she's a woman.  Problem is that Penelope goes too far with the acting and it earns no love from the jury.  Remind me at the end of this to post some of the most hilarious lines from this episode.  I won't post them all because I don't want to spoil it, but the writing is exceptional!

Then as if Penelope hamming it up wasn't bad enough, Elena takes the overdramatics up to a hundred and starts imitating Lydia!  Which actually offends Lydia because she claims she doesn't talk with an accent!!!  Ha!

The rest of the exercise seems to go without incident, and Elena actually makes some good points from Penelope's point of view about why Elena has to have a quinces - which actually is the very reason why Penelope suggested the role playing she could set Elena up to trick her into having a quinces!  And this causes Elena to go into a rant in Spanish, storm out of the room and slam the door to her bedroom.  Hmmm...I'm guessing she gets that quirk from Lydia!

The next day at Dr. Berkowitz's office, we see Penelope having a rough day.  She talks to Dr. Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky) about how Elena is giving her a hard time about the quinces and she goes into how difficult life is.  Dr. Berkowitz asks her if she has taken the anti-depressants he prescribed for her, and she admits that she threw them in the trash.  The doctor then asks Penelope if he prescribed her heart medication if she would refuse to take them.  Penelope admits that she still wouldn't take them!  At least she's honest.

One person that isn't honest is Alex.  You see, during this conversation, Penelope's phone starts beeping and she explains that whenever Alex made a purchase online she gets a signal.  But after she hears five beeps, Dr. Berkowitz openly wonders how many feet her son has!  Either way, it's going to be a rather heated fight!

Sure enough, Penelope opens the door carrying the five pairs of shoes and Lydia and Schneider watch as Alex tries to explain why he did what he did.  He apparently has the plan that he won't have to pay for any of the sneakers because he plans on wearing them once or twice, sending them back afterwards, and getting the money back.  Rinse, lather, repeat.  Of course, Penelope thinks that it is a stupid idea because he'll never be able to keep the shoes clean.

Oh wait.  Alex has fake soles on his shoes.  He's thought ahead!  Schneider even suggests that he go on "Shark Tank"!  Pretty sure that is NOT helping, Schneider!

Then Alex makes the defense that because his father is giving them child support, there is extra money lying around - or "double money" as he refers to it which REALLY sets Penelope off!  She explains that while he does offer child support, SHE is the one that makes all the money decisions.  And as a result of Alex's dishonesty, she makes him send all the shoes back and is forcing him to wear Elena's pink sparkly sneakers with the multicultural princesses on them!  YIKES!

As Alex storms off, Elena hands Penelope a social studies test that she scored a "D" in and it's become painfully obvious that she is purposely getting bad grades so they will prevent her from having a quinces.  To which Penelope gets even more angry and informs her how selfish she is because she works her butt off to send both her and Alex to a private school and she tells her to go to her room because she can't stand to look at her.

Penelope then grabs the bottle of anti-depressants that Dr. Berkowitz has prescribed her which completely shocks and disturbs Lydia.  Penelope argues that she is too stressed and she needs them, which causes Lydia to exclaim that she needs her husband back home.

I won't go into the full conversation here, but this prompts Penelope to have a little breakdown about how hard it has been raising two kids on her own, and how she hasn't slept much since Victor left because he used to spoon her to sleep and how sometimes she just wants someone to hold her and say "I got you".  This prompts Lydia to hug her even though Penelope really meant it from a man.  But still, it is a great moment for the first episode.  It really shows the turmoil that some war veterans have dealt with since returning home, and how sometimes what they see has scarred them.  Penelope isn't the same woman she used to be and she is forever changed, and it's hard for her to jump back into the life she once knew.  As much of a cliche as it is, she truly is taking life one day at a time.

Fortunately, Penelope comes back to her senses and talks to Alex about the shoe thing.  Because let's face it.  These shoes are hideous.

Penelope discovers that of all the shoes that he ordered, there was one pair that matched the under forty buck criteria that Penelope issued, and so she lets him keep that pair.  She also informs Alex that he doesn't have to feel pressured to be the man of the house and that he just needs to be a twelve-year-old boy.

And when it comes time to talk to Elena, Penelope decides that if Elena doesn't want a quinces, she doesn't have to have one.  But when Penelope starts talking about how it would have been nice to have thrown her the biggest quinces in the world so she could prove to everybody that a single mom could succeed in planning the perfect quinceanera for her daughter, Elena changes her mind and decides she wants a quinces after all!  All she needed was a good reason to do it, and that was it!  Now, why didn't Penelope just do this at the beginning and be done with it!

And so our first episode ends with Penelope struggling to get to sleep and Lydia entering the bedroom, crawling into the bed and telling her that she is going to spoon her!  What starts off as a crazy moment ends up being rather sweet. 

Wow, the first episode had a lot going for it.  It is definitely a different show from the original series, but it still has a lot of laugh out loud moments.  And it seems to be referencing a lot of current events from the late 2010s, which is also a plus.  I'm interested in seeing how the rest of the series pans out.

Now, let's see some of the funniest lines from the episode.  I've selected four different ones.  Hope you enjoy!

ELENA:  I researched the history of quinceaneras and found that they are totally misogynistic.
LYDIA:  She's been reading again!  Why do you let her read?
PENELOPE:  I know, Mami, I let her do math too!  I'm a monster!

ELENA:  I don't want to be paraded around in front of the men of the village like a piece of property to be traded for two cows and a goat!
LYDIA:  Someone thinks they're worth a lot!

ELENA:  (as Penelope) You even refused to take any pictures with Santa because your Abuelita wouldn't admit that Christmas is a pagan ritual.
LYDIA:  Jesus and Santa were cousins.  Everybody knows this.

ALEX:  I can explain.
PENELOPE:  Really?  You can explain how one pair of sneakers magically became five?  Because that is some Jesus crap right there.

Coming up next Friday, we have a look at the role of sexism in the workplace...and how it might derail Penelope's life!

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