The 2017 family sitcom “One Day at a Time,” a remake loosely based on the 70s and 80s TV show of the same name, was recently renewed for a second season by Netflix. The show follows the Alvarez family—single mother Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado), grandmother Lydia (Rita Moreno), teenage daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez), and young son Alex (Marcel Ruiz), living in Echo Park in Los Angeles.
Earlier this year, I got the opportunity to speak to the show’s creators, Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, and also executive producer and TV icon Norman Lear, who created the original show 42 years ago. Lear, 94, is also best known for producing the shows “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons,” “Good Times,” and many other TV classics.
Norman, what was it about “One Day at a Time” that lent itself to a remake instead of any of the other TV series that you’ve created over the past few decades?
Norman Lear: Well, “One Day at a Time”…can’t be compared to another show. The first divorced woman on television with children—raising children alone. This show, as you’ve seen, is altogether unique and different from the original. It enjoys the same title because it was somebody’s notion [that], “Why don’t we make [them] a Latino family?” You’ve seen the show, so you know it’s utterly unique. [Creators] Mike [Royce] and Gloria [Calderon Kellett] didn’t look at any of the scripts from the old show. This started with an imagining of Gloria’s family. And she and Mike worked with that idea…100 percent of the time.
Every couple of years or so, TV audiences get a show that centers on a Latino family, but it rarely gains a lot of traction. The last one that was successful was “The George Lopez Show,” which ran for six seasons. Why haven’t we seen more sitcoms that focus on Latino families make it?
Gloria Calderon Kellett: I don’t know. I think we’re so interesting. I think that’s a great question.
Norman Lear: Well, I don’t know. I didn’t know “The [George] Lopez Show.” I know him, but I never knew his show. This show, what Mike and Gloria have rendered here, is gloriously warm. There is no family of any stripe or color or religion that can’t relate to it because of our common humanity. [The Alvarez family] is a great family. The performers are glorious.
GCK: I think that people have tried [to make sitcoms centered on a Latino family]. I know so many wonderful, talented people who have tried. I really have to credit Norman because without [him] and Mike, the show would not be happening. I am so happy to be lending myself for the specificity. If I had come and pitched a show about a Latino single mom, I don’t know that people would have paid attention as much as they would have paid attention with these two icons attached to it already. So, I feel really grateful that basically these two guys with incredible success in their own right have said, “Hey, maybe we should listen to this one over here.” That is why people listened—because these very talented men told them to.
Norman, I know you’ve probably heard the term “Netflix and chill.” I’m wondering if you’ve ever Netflixed and chilled before? (Note: I asked Mr. Lear this question not knowing what the term actually meant myself. At the time, I thought it meant for two people to just hang out and watch Netflix all day. I had no idea it mean to have sex with Netflix playing in the background).
NL: I’m sorry, have I what before?
Have you ever Netflixed and chilled?
NL: I’ve never Netflixed before, no. This is my first…
Oh, at all?
NL: You mean have I…
GCK: Norman, it means [to] stay at home and have sex with somebody. That’s what it means.
Mike Royce: Norman is older, as am I. We’re more Netflix and pills.
Would you sit down and binge watch all the episodes of “One Day at a Time” or do you think you’d watch them more sporadically?
NL: I don’t know. I haven’t binged yet. I did binge once. That was, I think, six or eight episodes of something. But I don’t know. If I sat down and watched this and had a long evening and got hooked as I think I would, I would likely binge. Although I have not yet had the experience. But, then again, I’m only 94.
GCK: That’s true. There’s still time.