Netflix series ‘One Day at a Time’ shows the world what a true familia looks like (review)

I’m Latino. Being blessed as a second-generation American in this Nation, I’m very proud of my heritage. Growing up, you learned to appreciate your culture, from the food to the music. You were taught to appreciate all the things that this life gave you, with the unfortunate truth in mind that some of your relatives weren’t so blessed with the same circumstances. And for that, I’m truly thankful. Like a magician, I can make tons of yuca frita con chicharron disappear in the blink of an eye! Like an alarm clock, my mom blasted her Selena at the crack of dawn on Saturday’s to clean. Yes, we are truly blessed in all areas, except one: television.

We’ve yet to establish great Latin sitcoms or shows that don’t have to originate from Univision or Telemundo – not that I don’t enjoy my telenovela every now and then (Maria… POR QUE?!). We grew up watching shows like Full House, Boy Meets World, Growing Pains, and Family Matters (thank you, TGIF), but there hasn’t really been a Latin family-focused series that spoke to the Latino community since the days of I Love Lucy. Aside from the occasional melodrama of your mom’s Rosa Salvaje, your television screen was usually minus a few minorities, until 2002, when comedian George Lopez took his life experiences that mirrored so many of our own and created comedy gold every week with his self-titled sitcom, the George Lopez show.

What followed was an emergence of shows featuring Latinos, including Ugly Betty, Modern Family, Jane the Virgin, and Cristela. I loved the family aspect and comedic beats of Cristela, and was crushed when I found out it was cancelled. I hadn’t really seen anything like it, and to find that my newfound joy was to be short-lived made me lose my pasteles. Then, just the other day, I found myself perusing through Netflix, when I happened to stumble upon something that would make me fall in love with Latino sitcoms all over again: One Day at a Time!

One Day at a Time is a reimagining of Norman Lear’s classic sitcom of the same name that ran from the mid-’70s and ’80s. In this iteration, the series focuses on a Cuban-American family led by mother, Penelope (Justina Machado), a separated military veteran raising a son who is described as a socially inept tween, and a strong-headed, feminist daughter. Penelope’s mother, Lydia (Rita Moreno), helps her take care of the kids and the house chores. Together, they experience all that life has for them – celebrating their rich heritage and overcoming every obstacle as a family.

I know I’m a little late to the game, as this series debuted early in January, but seriously, this show is incredible! I’m not going to lie, I did have a bit of an issue in the beginning, as I thought the series was just going to be a run-of-the-mill family sitcom, much like Netflix’s Fuller House, but as I continued to watch the first episode, I found myself wanting more. The first episode turned into the second episode, and the third, and the fourth, and so on. The show had me mesmerized, not only because of how good it was, but at how much I saw my family in each one of the characters! My abuelita in the grandmother, my tia Virginia in Penelope, my cousin’s in Elena and Alex, and so on. Seriously, my grandma ALWAYS has makeup on, and doesn’t go anywhere without her makeup kit!

The comedic beats that this show serves in each episode are so meticulously placed and with the freedom that Netflix provides, One Day at a Time takes every opportunity to tackle a wide range of topics with grace and hilarity. Justina Machado is incredible as the single mother of two, juggling between being a parent, a nurse at a doctor’s office, a military vet dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and living with her strict religious mother. Machado’s ability to translate the vibe that most of our mothers had growing up goes beyond expectation, portraying the mindset of most Latin parents coping and trying to understand this new age that we live in. Her character’s pragmatic approach to understanding the world of her kids, and the eventual adaptation to comprehending life is superbly done and impressive, as Machado uses her roots and boisterousness to birth the mom we all wish we had growing up.

And speaking of growing up, Rita Moreno has always been a part of my home growing up. From 1952’s Dancing in the Rain and 1961’s West Side Story, to several television appearances, including PBS’s The Electric Company, The Muppet Show, The Golden Girls, and the aforementioned George Lopez show, seeing her light up the screen again with her role as the grandmother is so heartwarming. She reminds me so much of my grandma, it’s insane! I love watching every scene she is in, and as soon as every episode is over, I feel like I gotta call my abuela. She creates such an outstanding performance that is both compelling and lovable, while adding the unique quirkiness that only Rita Moreno can.

The aspect of this show that surpasses all others, however, is its boldness in taking on hot button topics such as religion, homosexuality, deportation, and many others. The freedom that Netflix gives creators nowadays is such a blessing to see, and this show is a phenomenal example of just that. Not only do viewers get a chance to see a true example of a Latino household, but also a new glimpse at how those households handle the ups and downs of life and do their best to ride the waves. The show holds no punches in showing real world struggles, not just for Latino families, but for anyone, and how we can overcome, through universal lessons that everyone can relate to. The show touches on a deep rooted emotional connection for the common person, and lays the groundwork for a series that could very well last for a while.

One Day at a Time is a series that touches my heart in a very special way, because in this day and age, sometimes all we have is family. And I don’t mean family in the sense of just people that we’re related to, but rather the people we choose to experience life with. That is family, and this series is a clear example of family being so valuable in overcoming whatever mountain you may have ahead of you, whatever ocean that stretches before you, and whatever plate of tamales that is set in front of you. Family is the people that pull you through, push you out, and goes head deep, just because you need them to. This show is a proud example of just that, para todos la gente, and I can’t wait for the second season to make its way here. Azúcar!

Rating: 5/5 Atoms

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