The opening theme of “One Day at a Time” is performed by Gloria Estefan. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)
On Friday, Feb. 8, Netflix released the third season of “One Day at a Time,” a sitcom that follows the lives of a Cuban-American family living in Los Angeles. It is based on the CBS sitcom from 1975-1984 of the same name, and focuses on single mother Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado), her mother Lydia Riera (Rita Moreno), her two children Elena (Isabella Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz), their landlord Schneider (Todd Grinnell) and Penelope’s boss Dr. Leslie Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky).
“One Day at a Time” is not like the traditional sitcom. Most sitcoms are light, fluffy shows that are designed to be consumed without much emotional input beyond a rare episode here and there and shy away from more complex issues. However, in its attempts to showcase a more accurate depiction of life, “One Day at a Time” constantly tackles heavy issues, including mental illness, immigration, sexism, homophobia and racism. This, in the end, is what puts “One Day at a Time” so far ahead of other sitcoms of today.
It not only manages to tackle these issues with a surprising amount of depth, emotional maturity and layers for a show of its format, but it also manages to do so while still being extremely humorous throughout. This is a tough balancing act to pull off, where many shows that attempt it will either lose its way in its commentary by using cheap jokes or lean so hard into the commentary that these issues come across like the writers are trying to preach to the viewers and forget to be funny. However, in its third season, “One Day a Time” still manages to be both hilarious and issue-minded.
As with the past seasons, the highlight of the show remains Rita Moreno as Lydia. She has a hilarious quip for basically every situation to arise on the show and steals every single scene she appears in. There is no character who can compete with her, not just in this show, but in pretty much any other currently-airing sitcom. She is an absolute delight.
The main direction of the season follows Penelope struggling to take control of her life, with a greater focus on issues surrounding her kids becoming older. The story arcs that Elena and Alex go through regarding this feel especially modern and contemporary, showing that the writers on the show truly understand and can properly represent life in 2019.
Elena spends the majority of the season with Syd, her non-binary significant other, and Alex spends much of the season grappling with drug use. Penelope is forced to learn how to understand and navigate these difficult paths for her children, while still following her dreams of passing the test to become a nurse practitioner, all while still undergoing her PTSD, anxiety and depression. It is one of her hardest seasons yet, which makes the acting performance by Justina Machado all the more noteworthy. While Rita may be the comical backbone of the show, Justina takes the emotional burdens on her shoulders and handles them in a fantastic way, making it one of the best acting performances in a modern comedy.
It is hard to really find fault with anything that “One Day at a Time” is doing. The humor, the writing, the acting, the story-telling and the messages and lessons behind each episode are all absolutely spectacular. Some audiences may disagree with some of the more political tangents the show goes on every once in a while, but these issues are all handled in a very human way that is hard not to connect with, regardless of ideological leaning. This is, quite simply, a must-watch TV show at peak performance.
Final grade: A+