Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the first season of One Day at a Time on Netflix some plot points are given away in this blog post, although I think most of the ones I give away are pretty predictable. It’s up to you to read or not if you haven’t seen it. But if you haven’t, your one takeaway from this post is that you should watch it. As long as you ignore the laugh track. Then come back, read, and let me know if you liked it.
It’s been difficult lately to find something to watch that my 10-year-old and I both want to watch. We have similar tastes in movies, but the shows I like are not appropriate for him (hello: Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Santa Clarita Diet) and the shows he’s been wanting to watch lately are really not my cup of tea (Odd Squad can be hilariously goofy, but I really don’t want to watch it all the time).
Thank Netflix for One Day at a Time.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. I knew only a little bit: a sitcom starring a single mom taking care of her kids with the help of her mother, played by Rita Moreno who I only know from West Side Story. The title sounded like a soap opera, but the promo pic on my Netflix home screen made it look fun and inviting. It was rated TV-PG, so I figured it couldn’t hurt for us to give it a try.
I loved it.
It took my son a little bit longer, but by the second episode he was as hooked as I was.
What I love the most about Penelope and her family is how they brought up so many conversations between my son and I. After the first episode, we talked about what a quinceañera is, why Elena was so against the anti-feminist ceremony, but why she eventually decided to have one. I knew only a little bit about the celebration, so I looked it up and we both learned a lot.
Later in the series, one of the characters comes out as gay. I didn’t need to explain to my son what gay was, but we did talk about why the character was nervous about coming out and why Penelope struggled with it. It also sparked a conversation about how I thought the character would come out as bisexual, given things said in a previous episode. Then we had to talk about what bisexually is, and I kind of came out of that closet with my son. It didn’t feel like a big deal, because it wasn’t. It was just another part of our conversation.
I grew up on sitcoms. I watched Full House and Boy Meets World and Home Improvement and Family Matters and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I enjoyed them then, but find myself not enjoying them as an adult because I don’t find them relevant to my life. And I still hate laugh tracks. It’s the single terrible thing about One Day at a Time. Take out the laugh track and I love the whole thing.
One Day at a Time is relevant to me as a single mother, as a girl brought up Catholic who doesn’t follow the religion as an adult, as a woman struggling with her sexuality, and as the mother of a prepubescent son. When Penelope finds porn on her son’s laptop, I had to pause the show to explain to my son (who is a year younger than the boy in the show) what pornography is. It was an unexpected conversation, but one that I’m glad we had. I often find myself wondering how to bring up certain topics, and I was grateful for this conversation starter.
Elena and Alex’s father is absent for the majority of the first season, only mentioned by Penelope as she struggles with her separation (noticeably not a divorce at this point). My son found himself relating to the absence of the father, the struggle of having to find other male role models who are around. While my son does not have a wacky neighbor Schneider to bond with, and I don’t have my mother nearby to help out, we do have a small community who help when needed. I still often wonder if he needs a specific male role model in his life, but the few men we do hang out with (husbands of my friends) are good and decent men who I wouldn’t mind he take after. Honestly, I think he’s doing just fine with the role models he has.
I don’t know the last time I was this affected by a television show. Probably never. I find a lot of shows I adore watching, but this is the first time I’ve really related to one…and actually felt that it was a fairly accurate representation of real life. I mean, everything isn’t *that* realistic, but suspension of disbelief helps when watching any TV shows or movies. I’m eager for another season and am so glad that I won’t have to sit around waiting for a new episode every week. Watching regular TV is so overrated.