Why Netflix’s One Day At A Time Is More Than A “Latino Reboot”

In the iconic words of Zoolander: Reboots are so hot right now.

From Fuller House to Gilmore Girls, streaming giant Netflix appears to be committed to squeezing every last drop of nostalgic attachment out of the shows you love. Sometimes, this does not turn out so hot. Other times, it’s the answer to your pop cultural prayers.

One Day at a Time
is a perfect example of the latter — as well as what a reboot done right looks like. The original elements of the Norman Lear-produced 1970s sitcom are all there: a single mom raising her kids with the help of a live-in grandmother and regular pop-ins from the charming (if emotionally) needy landlord.

But in this case, it’s the departures from the original that make the new One Day at a Time worth watching. The show stars Justina Machado as Penelope Alvarez, a 38-year-old Cuban-American Afghanistan war veteran, living with her family in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Her kids — 14-year-old Elena (Isabella Gomez) and 12-year-old Alex (Marcel Ruiz) — attend Catholic school while Penelope works as a nurse in the office of the goofy Dr. Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky). When Penelope leaves her husband, who re-enlisted for another tour after refusing to seek treatment for substance abuse and PTSD, her mother, Lydia, moves in to help. (And by help, I mean meddle, in the way only matriarchs can.)

The best part? Grandma Lydia is portrayed by Rita Moreno. From the moment Lydia dramatically parts the curtain separating her bed from the rest of the living room, she dances to her own salsa-inspired beat. She’s amazing in her role, and thankfully the rest of the cast is just as good. Penelope is funny and touching as a mom struggling to make ends meet while still spending time with her kids. Elena, her smart and fiercely feminist daughter, is grounded and earnest as she questions her sexuality. Alex, the baby of the family who could so easily have fallen into the trap of flat TV sons (*cough* Bobby Draper) reminded me so much of my own brother that I couldn’t help but applaud his gigantic (but oh-so-charming) ego and sneakerhead ways. Scheider (Todd Grinnell), the bougie landlord in Warby Parker glasses who spends more time in the Alvarez apartment than he does his own, is useless as a handyman but a refreshing fatherly presence, if in a man-child, GenX way.

But despite the fact that One Day at a Time deals with universal issues, almost every headline announcing its comeback qualified the show as Latino. And while calling it out as the “Latino One Day at a Time” isn’t technically wrong — the Alvarez family is proudly Cuban-American and don’t anyone forget it — that label overshadows the series’ shine, and wrongly curbs its mass market appeal. Refinery29 spoke to series executive producer Gloria Calderón Kellett and leading lady Justina Machado about why One Day at a Time is so much more than a “Latino reboot” — and what it took to seamlessly translate this iconic classic into the new Golden Age of Television.

Continue onto Refinery 29 to read an interview with Justina Machado.


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