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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.

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