Like all other live-action Hollywood production, filming on the current fourth season of One Day at a Time was suspended in mid-March amid a growing coronavirus pandemic. Shortly after that, One Day at a Time executive producer/co-showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett, whose husband is a cartoonist, brought the idea of an animated episode with fellow executive producer/co-showrunner Mike Royce. The two took it to ODAAT producing studio Sony Pictures TV, which helped get the ball rolling.
As Deadline has reported, animation has been the one area of TV series production that has continued with little interruption during the health crisis since it can be done remotely. This is also how the One Day at a Time special will be made.
“In my 97 years, I’ve never known of a multicam comedy to animate a single episode as a special. Even this I get to experience,” said ODAAT executive producer Norman Lear.
The “multicam” distinction is important as single-camera comedy Community for example — also produced by Sony TV — did an animated episode.
The One Day at a Time animated special centers around Penelope’s conservative family visiting. Penelope dreads that with the election coming up, they won’t be able to avoid fighting over politics. The Alvarez family spends the episode discussing strategies of how to get through it, illustrated through fantasy sequences. Jonas Diamond, Executive Producer and Co-Owner of Smiley Guy Studios in Toronto will be overseeing the animation. The cast will all voice their own characters and will be joined by celebrity guests to be announced at a later date.
This was always a special episode about the election; it’s not connected to any storyline this season. The original idea was to do it live-action with fantasy elements, possibly using VFX. When the pandemic hit and halted TV production, the creators decided to make it animated as it’s not part of the arc of the season and has so many fantasy elements that would lend themselves to animation perfectly. The script was rewritten with that in mind.
“As we all know, it’s hard to keep One Day at a Time off the air. During this unprecedented time, we wanted to find a way to keep our family – on camera and behind the scenes – together and create more entertaining content for our fans who are self-distancing at home,” said Kellett, who has been leading an industry conversation to find solutions for safely restarting TV production. “This animated special gives us an exciting opportunity to imagine the Alvarez family in a colorful new way while continuing to tell important and relevant stories.”
The mid-season finale of One Day At a Time, which is Episode 6 of Season 4 and the last one filmed before the production shutdown, airs tonight, March 28, on Pop TV and will simulcast on TV Land. Simulcasting on both ViacomCBS networks, the Latinx family sitcom set a new season high with its fourth episode on April 14.
Produced by Sony Pictures Television, One Day At a Time tells the story of the Cuban American Alvarez family. The show features Penelope (Justina Machado), her mother Lydia (Rita Moreno), Dr. Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky), Schneider (Todd Grinnell), Avery (India de Beaufort), Elena (Isabella Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz).
One Day At a Time is produced by Act III Productions, Inc., Snowpants Productions and GloNation in association with Sony Pictures Television, with Norman Lear, Mike Royce, Gloria Calderón Kellett and Brent Miller serving as executive producers.