Like George Clinton and his resurrection of the funk, the Netflix reboot of Norman Lear’s One Day At A Time has shown that if you stay true to your groove, old tunes can sound fresh — very fresh when you have Rita Moreno nailing it every time in what is one of the best sitcoms yet from the streaming service.
Launching on January 6 for its 13-episode first season, the 2017 version from writers/executive producers Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon Kellett continues that best Lear tradition of making you laugh as well as getting you to take a new, poignant look at what you think you know and what you should look at again. In short, the TV Master has shown the youngsters and punks of this era how it’s done.
As I say in my video review above, yes there are some dated sitcom clichés amidst the multi-cam delivery and studio audience laughter, but the scripts are so smart with one-liners galore that the packaging only makes the gift all the better to discover. Let’s also be clear: Despite solid pedigree behind and in front of the camera, the law of averages did not augur well for this new One Day At A Time – no matter how much Netflix’s Ted Sarandos loves Lear, also an executive producer here. The pitfalls and potholes are obvious, as many a reboot and reimagining has revealed (naming no names). But by not so much rolling the dice as playing a considered hand, the update of the original 1974-1985 CBS series is an adroit surprise. Netflix has tried out more than a few sitcoms in recent years with varying success, they’ve found a winner here.
Transported to Los Angeles from the Indianapolis of the Bonnie Franklin-led original, this Latino ODAT finds single mother of two and military veteran Penelope (played strongly by Six Feet Under alum Justina Machado) trying to make ends meet, financially and emotionally – and not always with success.
While unlike Pat Harrington Jr’s Emmy-winning building superintendent character, there also is a Schneider in the halls here; though, portrayed by a wonderfully preening Todd Grinnell, he’s more trust-fund metrosexual than mock macho. Isabella Gomez and Marcel Ruiz play Penelope’s kids Elena and Alex and deepen the tone while keeping the sitcom ball bouncing from set-up to set-up. Still, while full of real laughs, this One Day At A Time is not all fun and games, with gun violence, gender roles, emotional abuse, class, Christianity, generation roles and the hard transition to civilian life weaving in and out of the jokes.
Above all that and in the soul of it is Moreno as Penelope’s live-in mother Lydia – showing just what star power can do. Playing a self-involved and self-martyring Cuban-American and former dance teacher matriarch, the 85-year-old Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner is introduced to big applause and never lets it go.
Click on the video above for more of my take on Netflix’s One Day At A Time and tell us what you think about the new version. Will you be binge-ing?