Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Hunks and Ladies of One Day At A Time, 2018

One Day At A Time which was remade last year with a modern and Cuban flavor is back for a second season on Netflix. (The show was just renewed for a third season.)

The show follows a Cuban-American family in Los Angeles where single mom Penelope raises her teen children with help, maybe too much help, from her mom, Lydia, fabulously played by the incomparable Rita Moreno.

Like the original Norman Lear show from 1975-1984, this new version deftly balances comedy with social topical issues. The first season chronicled Penelope, an Army vet and nurse, as she helped her daughter Elena (played by Isabella Gomez) come out and prepare for her sweet fifteen (which she wore a white jacket and pant suit! Go Elena!)

The second season continued Elena's journey as she started dating and experienced her first kiss with Syd, her love interest. Elena's scenes with Syd came off natural and real, like two teenagers figuring out what it means to be gay and the complicated unwritten rules of dating. (Maybe the show should be called One Gay A Time!)

But each of the characters had their moments and stories this season. Tween son Alex (Marcel Ruiz) learned the realities of being a darker shade than his lily-white Cuban sister and how Latino racism exists in Los Angeles after some kids told him to "Go back to Mexico, Beaner!" even though he was born in the US.

Lydia, the "abuelita" character, struggles to let go of some (actually all) her personal belongings and mementos that she's hoarded in the garage since leaving Cuba for the US in 1962. She also struggles with letting go of the Cuba that she knew and left behind as she decides to become an American citizen.

And strong-willed and spirited Penelope, played superbly by Justina Machado, explored dating after finalizing her divorce.

In the new season, viewers meet her hunky former Army buddy Max, a paramedic played by Ed Quinn, who steals her heart (and most scenes he appears in, especially when he's shirtless.)

Max says all the right things. He is funny, warm and kind. Most of all, he is supportive of Penelope's use of antidepressants because of her PTSD and anxiety. And he's understanding of her limited spare time as she juggles a full-time job, her family and going back to school. Hopefully, Mr. Perfect returns in season three.(Are you listening, writers?)

The show has another hunk though. Todd Grinnell plays lovable neighbor and building manager Schneider (another nod to the original series.) Schneider is like a taller and straight version of Jack from NBC's Will and Grace but with more layers to his character. As the geeksome (handsome and geeky) comic relief, Schneider tends to storm into the apartment, says something funny and heads right back out.

But he has also become an unofficial member of the Alvarez family. He learns espanol to better relate to them. And along with Lydia, he decides to become an American citizen. (The Schneider character in this reboot is Canadian.)
The show's writers also deepened Schneider's back story: He is a recovering alcoholic. His sobriety is often referenced as a joke: "I woke up three days later in an alley...and the bowling ball hit me. I was in the gutter for a long time,'' he says in episode 9 this season.

But the character can be serious when he uses his journey of sobriety to help Penelope when she struggles with going off her medications and stops attending her group therapy (which is led by MacKenzie Phillips, another nice touch and tribute to the original series.)  Penelope stops taking her pills and the group therapy because, well, she's embarrassed to tell Max early in their relationship.

In a moving scene, Schneider sits with Penelope on his sofa late at night and reassures her about the importance of taking her medication and continued therapy. Wearing a bathrobe, he tells her, "There's something that I want I can't have for the rest of my life. There's something you don't want you have to have for the rest of yours.''

Yes, laughter and jokes are sprinkled through the show along with some Spanish phrases. Yet it's those dramatic scenes grounded in realism and beautifully written that have helped make One Day At A Time one of my go-to-shows on Netflix. I'm looking forward to season tres, cuatro, cinco...  Thank you to the show's executive producers Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce for creating this new version of One Day At A Time.

And thanks to the Snipping Tool on my computer, here are some more screen grabs of Ed Quinn from the second season. I have more screen grabs of Todd Grinnell from last year's blog post.

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