Netflix is on a reboot roll.
After successfully reviving Full House with the aptly titled Fuller House and taking us back to Stars Hollow with four nearly perfect episodes of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, the streaming giant is once again trying their hand at another familiar property with an updated take on the Norman Lear classic One Day at a Time. And true to form, they’re still batting a thousand.
Created by Gloria Calderon Kellet (How I Met Your Mother) and Mike Royce (Everybody Loves Raymond)—and executive produced by the legendary Lear himself—this isn’t your mother’s One Day at a Time. With the luminous Justina Machado not exactly stepping into Bonnie Franklin‘s shoes, as much as replacing them with ones all her own, as Penelope, this iteration’s matriarch, the new series opts for a more unique story centered around three generations of Cuban-Americans. And any ideas about that detracting from the universality of the series ought to be dispelled immediately. It’s that very specificity that makes the comedy sing. (It doesn’t hurt that it’s also very funny, too.)
“You know, it’s interesting. I actually think specificity leads to universality. I really do,” Calderon Kellett told E! News “I keep talking about Master of None, that episode [Aziz Ansari] did with his parents. I’m not an Asian man. I totally felt it, I got it, I knew it. And I think it’s because it was so specific. I think the moment you’re like, ‘This needs to appeal to everyone‘ you lose something.”
And she’s right. Through the show’s hyper-specificity, there’s an instant warmth, an instant familiarity, an instant lived-in feel. In short, One Day at a Time feels like instant family. Machado shines as Penelope, the recently divorced single mom who also happens to be an Iraqi War vet suffering from PTSD. The performance is nothing short of a star finally finding her star-making role. And the players surrounding her are no slouches either.
While she has no counterpart in the original (the decision to add a third generation into the mix is unique to the revival), the incomparable Rita Moreno elevates every scene she’s in as Penelope’s mother, Lydia. Scenes between Penelope and Lydia can flip from wickedly funny to tenderly poignant on a dime, reminding you why one actress is a living legend and why the other just might be following in her footsteps. Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz, as Penelope’s daughter Elena and son Alex, respectively, more than hold their own with these two forces of nature. Gomez, especially, is given the chance to shine in a special storyline that progresses throughout the season—and she does not disappoint. And because you can’t do One Day at a Time without Schnieder, Todd Grinnell reinvents the classic building superintendent character as a younger riff on the privileged white liberal male—a role that could grate, yet Grinnell succeeds in making charming.
True to Lear form, the series doesn’t shy away from serious issues facing Americans today, including immigration, sexism and the treatment of veterans, among others. And no one really does it like the master. Where other issues-based sitcoms can sometimes feel a bit Sunday school-like, One Day at a Time’s approach never feels forced or like it has to reach for the laugh before commercial break to make sure you’re still watching when they come back. With no breaks to worry about, the episodes feel like stage plays, one that allows for quiet moments amid the laughs.
And talk about the timeliness. With the current state of the world, this warm and compassionate examination of the issues couldn’t be more welcome. “I think it’s gonna be so relevant. So relevant,” Moreno told us. “Given all the stuff that’s gone on. We don’t even have to say what it is because we know.”
“I think it’s important to see how this family deals with it. I think it’s important to see all the love that this family has for each other, and the compassion and the tolerance,” Machado reiterated. “We’re not doing a show about Latino people, we’re doing a show about a family. We just happen to be a Latino cast. Which is important to us…That we are represented the way we want to be seen. We all deal with the same stuff, every single one of us. We just maybe might deal with it a little different because of culture.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
The complete first season of One Day at at Time will be available to stream at midnight on Friday, Jan. 6 on Netflix.