This is life, the one you get
So go and have a ball..."
The show centers around Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin), who moves to Indianapolis to start anew after a rocky divorce, along with her teen daughters Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) and Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli), as they face the various trials of adjusting to their new life. Meanwhile, their apartment building's superintendent, a Casanova Wannabe named Schneider (Pat Harrington Jr.), joins in the wacky adventures.
One of the many hit sitcoms developed by producer Norman Lear in the '70s, the show is probably best remembered nowadays for its catchy theme song, a preponderance of Very Special Episodes, and the offscreen travails of Mackenzie Phillips.
This series has examples of:
- Almighty Janitor: Dwayne Schneider, the apartments' friendly superintendent who offers unsolicited advice, and acts as a second fatherly figure to Julie and Barbara.
- Amicably Divorced: Ann and her ex for the most part.
- And Starring: The opening credits featured "and Valerie Bertinelli" from season 5 on, with "as Barbara Cooper/Royer" added on starting with season 6. But fan favorite Pat Harrington Jr.—already "as [Dwayne] Schneider" back in season 1—also needed prominence, and when they added big-name new regular Howard Hesseman he needed to be featured too. So the season 9 credits ended up as:STARRING [all caps] Bonnie Franklin; Howard Hesseman;
starring [lowercase] Pat Harrington as Schneider;
Boyd Gaines; Mackenzie Phillips [temporarily]; Michael Lembeck; Nanette Fabray [in some episodes];
and starring Valerie Bertinelli as Barbara Royer.
- There were actually several iterations of this trope across the 9 seasons.
- The all-caps "STARRING" (on its own screen) was there from the beginning in the season 1 credits, which ended with "with Valerie Bertinelli / also starring Pat Harrington as Dwayne Schneider". The sans serif "STARRING", originally just meant to contrast the brush script used for the names, survived the font change at the start of season 2 and remained to the end.
- The first set of credits for season 2, a reuse of the specially shot "moving to a new apartment after the divorce" season 1 credits but with a plainer font; the billing was initially the same as season 1. After a few episodes a new set of credits was developed using clips from the show. These had "Pat Harrington as Schneider" moved up to third position and ended with "with Valerie Bertinelli / and Marie Louise Wilson".
- When Wilson was removed for season 3 Bertinelli was in last position, but lost her "with"—she was title card only for the first time. Season 4 billing was unchanged.
- Season 5 started the same way, but when Michael Lembeck joined the cast a few episodes in as Julie's husband, Bertinelli, still in the final position, was given an "and"; this remained after Philips was removed.
- Season 6 was when she got the added "as Barbara Cooper". This was the basic set-up (Bertinelli with an "and" at the end, she and Harrington both getting an "as") until Bertinelli and Harrington got the extra, lower-case "starring" in season 9, as noted above.
- The STARRING/starring/and starring distinction might very well be unique to this show and its final season.
- There were actually several iterations of this trope across the 9 seasons.
- Automobile Opening: The title sequence (starting with the fifth season) opens with a sweep over rush hour in downtown Indianapolis.
- Berserk Button: Schneider does not like his middle name being mentioned.
- Big "OMG!": Ann turns it into a Catchphrase. She didn't say it loud, but she did draw it out:Ann: "Ohhhh, myyyy goooood..."
- Bratty Teen Age Daughter: Julie, whose antics were matched by Mackenzie Phillips' offscreen behavior.
- Calling Parents by Their Name: In an episode where Barbara is going to a local college, Ann surprises her by signing up for the same class. When Barbara sees her, she calls her "Ann" instead of Mom and pretends they just know each other from school rather than let everyone else in class know that she's her mother. (It helps that, due to the divorce, they have different last names.) Ann reluctantly goes along.
- Casanova Wannabe:
- Schneider. He started off very much a relentless, almost stalkerish hound who constantly hit on Ann — despite the fact that he was married, and that she was very vocally uninterested. It was played for laughs, but even in the context of the era, the early Schneider was sometimes more creepy than funny. The character was later toned down, becoming more of a wacky neighbor (although one who still found Ann attractive.)
- The 1980 episode "Endless Elliot" sees Barbara harassed by a fellow high school student. Watching the episode today, it's a reflection of how times have changed; these days, he'd be charged with stalking and given a restraining order, but in the late 1970s and early 1980s (long before awareness of stalking was even a thought), the girls and Schneider merely come up with a Zany Scheme to get him to go away.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Schneider.
- The Couch
- Cousin Oliver: Alex, when Barbara grew up.
- Credits Montage: After the show had been running long enough that the original moving-to-Indianapolis opening no longer fit, the show switched to a title sequence featuring clips from earlier episodes.
- Deadpan Snarker: Barbara.
- Drop-In Landlord: As the super, Schneider could, and did, let himself in and hit on Ann any time he felt like it. After a couple of seasons, the ladies started taking this in stride, because Schneider was all talk.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Dwayne Florenz Schneider.
- Fiery Red Head: Ann.
- Funny Answering Machine: The family is going away for a Christmas vacation so they borrow an answering machine for the duration. The girls decide to record their greeting to the tune of "Silent Night":Leave your number when you hear the bee-ee-eep
U-unless you are a creep
- Handyman: Schneider, who behind his Casanova Wannabe exterior is a good friend to Ann and her daughters.
- Hey, Let's Put on a Show: The first time it was to save their building; later, they put on a show as a charitable gesture meant to entertain the people at the local Senior Citizens' center every New Year's Eve.
- Ann: "A facial."
- I Just Want to Have Friends: The two-part Season 3 episode "Barbara's Friend" is about a classmate of Barbara's who is desperate to make friends and makes her mark. When an exasperated Barbara tells her to go away and leave her alone, she attempts suicide.
- Long-Runner Cast Turnover: This series is infamous for the many main cast members and characters coming into and out of the Romano household; almost all of them several episodes into a season.
- Multi-Part Episode: The show practically lived on this trope, to the point where single-part episodes began to feel rare.
- No Indoor Voice: Ann in particular, but everyone else too. This has to be one of the loudest sitcoms ever.
- Odd Name Out: In "Ave Romano", when announcing to Max, Barbara and Mark that a man claiming to be a relative of her late husband Michael is coming to visit, Grandma Romano notes that Michael had three brothers, Arturo, Fabrizio... and Bob. Max indirectly lampshades this when iterating all three names.
- Poorly-Disguised Pilot: The very last episode, in which Schneider moves into a boarding house full of wildly eccentric tenants. Schneider and Barbara are the only series regulars who appear.
- Put on a Bus:
- David Kane, who moves to Los Angeles in Season 2. The Bus Came Back with David in the season six finale "Indianapolis Story", when he stops by Ann's apartment, stays for the night, and fakes a sprained ankle while waiting for an outgoing flight to New York.
- Julie, twice, in conjunction with the firings of Mackenzie Phillips. The first time, she and Max move away. The second time, Julie abandons the family shortly after the birth of her daughter, never to be seen again.
- Reunion Show: In February 2005.
- Revolving Door Casting: As seen in the And Starring entry, the cast shrinks and swells significantly as the seasons go by, with only Seasons 3 and 4 seeing no major changes. Depending on which season you are watching, you may see anywhere from 4 to 8 characters billed in the opening credits. David leaves at the end of Season 1, and Ginny joins the cast for Season 2. She leaves at the end of the season. Max joins the regular cast when he marries Julie, but both depart soon after. Season 6 sees Nick and Alex become regulars, but Nick is killed off, with Alex remaining in Season 7, at which point Julie and Max return and Francine becomes a semi-regular. In Season 8, Mark receives opening billing, and so does Katherine. In Season 9, Alex moves out and Julie departs once again (with Max remaining), and Ann marries Sam, adding one last regular to the cast. Many of these changes happen mid-season, and some of the recurring characters were only billed on episodes they appeared in, causing the show to require a variety of versions of the opening credits.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Julie is bratty and rebellious; Barbara is sweet and obedient.
- Snowed-In: A Christmas Episode has Ann and the girls getting snowed in at a mountain cabin with no heat.
- Standardized Sitcom Housing: The Romano apartment.
- Thematic Theme Tune: "This Is It", composed by veteran Brill Building songwriter Jeff Barry and his wife Nancy.
- Title Theme Tune
- The Unfavorite: The girls' father when drunk tells them openly that Barbara has always been his favorite. Angst ensues.
- To Be Continued: As a series with numerous two-parters, this pretty much became a show motto.
- Visit by Divorced Dad
- Why Waste a Wedding?: Julie ends up marrying the best man.