Update, June 27: Pop TV has announced that it’s picked up One Day at a Time for a fourth season, which will premiere in 2020.
Original Post, March 15: Sitcoms are not a genre of TV I grew up with. Instead I had telenovelas—dramatic ones like La Usurpadora, Rebelde, and Pasión de Gavilanes. But as much as I was obsessed with Rebelde’s Elite Way School and its rich, privileged Mexican characters, the show never made me say, “Wow, that’s so me.”
It’s not like I gave it a lot of thought. No one I knew did. We were OK with Televisa—the premier Mexican TV network—rolling out telenovelas with mostly white characters who lived eccentric lives and encountered way too many problems for the amount of money they had. I never questioned why people like me and my family weren’t represented on TV.
Then I watched One Day at a Time, Netflix’s just-canceled sitcom. Based on the 1970s version written by Norman Lear, the show portrayed a Cuban American family living in Los Angeles. And from the moment Lydia Riera (Rita Moreno) first slammed open the set of curtains she called “a door with no self-respect,” I was captivated by the real-life accuracy of the story unfolding before me.
I too have a mother who’s always dressed to the nines—even inside her house—and cousins who are the odd ones in the family for being “too feminist” for our tias’ generation, like Elena (Isabella Gómez). I have a complicated relationship with my father, like Elena and Alex (Marcel Ruiz), and was raised by a single mother, like Penelope (Justina Machado). I have a grandmother who refused to take off her wedding ring or marry again after my grandfather’s death, and an army of tias, primas, and abuelas who have carried our family for generations. The show’s vivid characters portrayed a reality I never realized was worthy of television.
This show both celebrated and questioned our traditions, like when Elena refused to have a quinceañera because of its “misogynist” symbolism. It also showed that an elderly woman can be sensual and stylish, and it portrayed a vulnerable single mom who struggled with her mental health issues in a community that treats them as taboo. The show highlighted the ways Latinxs, even as young as 14-year-old Alex, are suffering from Donald Trump’s hate speech. But it also raised important questions about identity and love for this country that many first-generation Americans face.