One Day at a Time: An Ode to the Alvarez’s

Netflix may have canceled One Day at a Time, but lessons from the Alvarez’s are here to stay.

I never saw Norman Lear’s 1975 One Day at a Time. In fact, I didn’t know Netflix’s adaptation was an adaptation until I recommended the show to my mom and she hit me with the, “Girl what you know about that?”

I met the Alvarez’s by no advertisement or recommendations from friends. I simply scrolled through Netflix last summer and saw the cover photo of the family smiling and gave it a try. It was the best thing I could’ve ever done.

Elena’s (Isabel Gomez) nerdiness and perfectionist manner is far too relatable to my high school (and present) self. Penelope (Justina Machado) showed me motherhood isn’t perfect, and isn’t meant to be, while Lydia (Rita Moreno) showed me motherhood doesn’t look the same for everyone—and made me laugh, uncontrollably, all the time.

One Day at a Time showed three generations of Cuban women work through differing ideas around dating, parenting, depression, queerness, traditional gender roles and myriad of other issues many of us are working through every single day. Experiencing and talking through these topics isn’t an easy feat for those of us raised understanding the world one way when it’s ever-changing. Yet the Alvarez’s always manage to not let their generational differences and misunderstandings trump their love for one another.

Younger brother Alex (Marcel Ruiz) may not know or understand it all, but he’s always growing (figuratively and literally) and actively learning new lessons from his family, as well as contributing his own personality to the unit. Season 3 showed Alex growing into his own—I have a feeling we would’ve got to know him much better had the show been given the chance. Landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell) isn’t merely a secondary character adding laughter to the storyline either; he’s a part of the family, coming with his own baggage from his blood family.

In a television landscape that’d make many think Latinx people don’t exist beyond maids and drug dealers, One Day at a Time will remain a gift to all of us. I grew up on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Moesha, Full House and The Cosby Show re-runs. George Lopez was the only show I can remember centering a hispanic family. I didn’t know how much I needed a sitcom centering a Cuban family until I found One Day at a Time. Sitcoms featuring black families had their heyday in the 90’s and today most sitcoms still center white families. One Day at a Time was a breath of fresh air. The Alvarez’s are the American family whose story doesn’t get told on networl television platforms as impactful as Netflix. It’s my hope that the show’s next home recognizes it’s value and markets it accordingly.

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