I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I had never even heard of Pop TV. But you’d better believe they are my best friend now. It’s been four grueling months since Netflix, in what can only be described as a moment of massive boneheadedness, cancelled its series One Day At A Time. But after four months of fans praying and crying and tweeting, Pop TV has given us Christmas in June. ODAAT is coming back.
I was one of the many who took to Twitter to voice our displeasure. I was a fan of the original run of the Norman Lear-created sitcom as a kid, and the Netflix reboot worked its way into my heart in nothing flat. Sure, it was a family comedy among the slew of family comedies out there. And, as an adult, I’ve never really been large with the family comedy. But I realized right off the bat that this one was special.
Right at the off, ODAAT demonstrated its importance. Brilliant showrunners Gloria Calderon-Kellett and Mike Royce proved early on that they could carry on the Norman Lear tradition of giving teeth to a family comedy. It’s always been Lear’s way to use his shows as a way to make accessible social commentary. With the Alvarez family, ODAAT was able to do this in ways that are heartwarming, timely, and necessary.
With the country more polarized than ever, the primary statement this show makes is one of inclusion. The family is Cuban-American. One of my favourite things about it is the way it is unapologetically bilingual. I think they’ve used subtitles all of once. The rest of the time, when they start speaking Spanish around the house, you either get it or you don’t. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this show has inspired me to download Duolingo and give myself the Spanish lessons that I think should be required in this country at this point.
ODAAT has something for everyone to relate to. I’m a single mom, so Penelope Alvarez’s trials and tribulations of the complications of solo parenting hit me where I live. She’s a nurse and a veteran. Her struggles with anxiety and depression are shown in a way that countless people find achingly familiar. And I’ve been a fan of Justina Machado’s since her guest appearance on Angel in 2000. She played a single mom then too, by the way. In my headcanon, the baby she is carrying that Angel has to save from an interdimensional court turned out to be Elena. But I digress.
Elena (Isabella Gomez) is a typical American teenager. A self-described social justice warrior, her story arc has involved her discovering her homosexuality. When I scrolled the #SaveODAAT hashtag, almost everyone who wasn’t crying that they loved the show because of the Latinx family was sobbing with the joy of identifying with Elena. I saw teenagers who had had trouble coming out to their families, saying they felt less alone. “Representation matters” isn’t just a hip and catchy thing to say when you’re trying to show off how woke you are, It’s important. When you can look at characters or storylines on your television and see something of yourself, your world becomes less small.
Even if you don’t personally relate to the Latinx thing or the gay thing, ODAAT has something for you. The best friends of the Alvarez family are their Canadian-immigrant superintendent, Pat Schneider (Todd Grinnell), and Penelope’s Jewish boss, Dr. Leslie Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky). They’re both whiter than white, and yet everyone goes through the show learning from each other. And it is all done with love and humour. Schneider practices his Spanish, and Dr. Berkowitz teaches young Alex (Marcel Ruiz) some Hebrew so he can keep up at his friend’s bar mitzvah. The inclusion goes both ways.
The original series didn’t feature a live-in grandmother. But when you’ve got something that is already great, how do you make it better? Add Rita Moreno. And with her comes yet another layer of inclusion. Lydia Riera is a Cuban abuela of the old school, and her ideals often clash with her terribly modern-thinking daughter and granddaughter. But you know what? They find a way. They connect. They demonstrate that it is possible for different generations to understand each other. They do it with respect, and they do it with love.
Pop TV is planning on a 2020 premiere for Season 4. Thirteen episodes, the same as on Netflix. Perhaps this will set a precedent for shows that started life as streaming, to be able to make the jump to cable. And if Pop is my new best friend, so is Sony Pictures, their parent company. Sony, bless them, seems to want to make a habit of giving succor to underdogs. They got us more Community when we thought that show was lost. And Brad Schwartz, their president, seems quite keen to keep ODAAT going as long as it can. I like him so much.
After four months of worry and resentment (sorry, Netflix, but seriously boneheaded of you), the sun has come out. I’m grateful. And I’m not alone. For the fans (both the existing ones, and the new ones I fully expect to come to the fold) this show is a beacon of hope in a world that desperately needs a reason to feel hopeful. Dale, Pop TV! You won’t regret this.