Like the original series, the remake centers around a divorced mom, Penelope (played by Justina Machado) raising her two kids. While the family in the original were Italian-Americans, here they are of Cuban-Americans, and the protagonist's Cuban immigrant mother (played by Rita Moreno) is also a main character. As such, issues of race, ethnicity, and Cuban cultural heritage play a large part, and the series doesn't shy way from addressing other political topics as well.
The series was co-created by Gloria Calderón Kellett, who is Cuban-American herself, and is produced by Norman Lear, who developed the original series.
Now has a page in Spanish, ¡Azúcar!
One Day at a Time contains examples of:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: While the Schneider of the original series was a Casanova Wannabe, this Schneider is reasonably attractive and gets around.
- Adapted Out: The only character with a direct counterpart in the original series here is Schneider.
- Adorkable: Elena's girlfriend Syd, big time, and they even bring it out in Elena too. Their initial discussion about dating quickly devolves into both of them using Hulk Speak.
- Adult Fear:
Penelope: I know what the last part sounds like, but I promise I would never do anything like that.Schneider: I know. But I think you know that healthy brains do not go to that place.
- Carmen's parents getting deported, resulting in Carmen's life being turned upside-down, and her being homeless for a brief period.
- Related to that, when Elena finds out Lydia's not an American citizen, she's terrified that something similar could happen to her.
- The episode "Hello, Penelope" is full of it.
- First, the idea that you may have to be on antidepressants for the rest of your life, simply to function normally. There's no shame in being on medication, but the stigma around it and mental illness is still very much alive, and it shakes Penelope to the core to realize this.
- Then, when Penelope goes off her meds, she suffers rapid downward spiral throughout the episode, and is simply unable to keep her life on-track, or her emotions level. Objectively, everything is fine, and she knows it, but she simply cannot be happy.
- For Lydia, watching her child suffer so much, knowing there's nothing she can do. And then realizing that she probably inadvertently made it worse with her anti-medication stance.
- Finally, Penelope having to tell her boyfriend, unsure if he'll still stay with her once he knows. He does.
- The idea of your close friend or family member being suicidal.
Penelope: No matter where you hide it, kids find it. And accidents happen. And things that aren't accidents. We have teenagers in this house. We have a gay teenager in this house. We have a veteran with PTS. This is the last house that should have a gun.
- The whole family and Schneider, especially Penelope, have to deal with the very real possibility of Lydia dying when she has a stroke.
- In Locked Down when Penelope finds out Lydia has a gun.
- The Alleged Car: Mrs. Resnick, whose windows only go down and not back up, the doors stick, there's been a cassette of Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart" stuck in its tape deck longer than Elena's been alive, and has brake problems and stalls out regularly enough that Penelope and the kids have a ritual where Penelope fiddles with the engine while praying, followed by all three of them crossing themselves in unison and starting it again.
- Alliterative Name: Alex Alvarez. And his full name is Alejandro Alberto Alvarez (...Riera Calderón Leytevidal Inclan.)
- Artistic License – Religion: The main conflict of "No Mass" could have been avoided by attending Saturday night mass.
- Bilingual Bonus: There's a lot of unsubtitled Spanish. The crew also clearly makes an effort to get a good amount of people who know the language in the audience, resulting in some big laughs or gasps to lines going over the heads of a lot of viewers.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Victor, Penelope's estranged husband. When he shows up, he gets along with everyone and seems like he has gotten his life together. Turns out he was lying about stopping drinking and seeking professional help, at which point Penelope kicks him out again. He still stays on good terms with his kids until Elena reveals she's gay, at which point he tells her she is just confused. He still shows up to her quinceañera only to leave right before the father-daughter dance without a word.
- Bottle Episode: "Hold Please" doesn't leave the Alvarez' living room.
- But Not Too Latinx: Elena is horrified to realize she's inadvertently been passing for white due to her lighter skin color.
- Catchphrase: One of Lydia's catchphrases is to call people pobrecito/a, which literally translates as "poor little one" and generally refers to an in-the-moment need for sympathy on someone's behalf, or as an equivalent to giving a person the epithet "poor boy/girl", with Lydia using the name for everyone from Syd (to express how they're even more adorkable than Elena) to God (because "He tries so hard").
- Chekhov's Boomerang: In the episode "Strays", Lydia starts suspecting Elena is "queer", because her friend Carmen spends so much time with her. Eventually it turns out Carmen is spending all her time at the Alvarezes' place because her parents have been deported to Mexico and she's homeless. However, in later episodes we find out Elena is indeed gay, though Carmen is just her best friend and straight herself.
- Central Theme: Life can be tough, life can be sweet, life can be amazing.
- Even when you're facing difficult times, there are so many good things in life and you will always be supported by the people who love you.
- Comically Missing the Point: In "The Turn," proud activist Elena is rocked to realize she "passes" for a white person.Elena: You're saying I'm going to go through my whole life without being oppressed at all?Penelope: Okay, you know that wouldn't be a bad thing, right?Elena: I guess.Schneider: Hey, you're still gay, right?Elena: Yeah! And a woman, I'm back in!
- Coming-Out Story: This is the main Story Arc for Elena during the first season.
- Cultural Translation: As a popular Latin-American story, it is an obvious candidate for multiple popular Spanish dubs... except, in Spanish how are they going to make jokes about Elena not knowing Spanish? In two ways: 1. instead make fun of her not knowing Cuban slang and parts of its culture, 2. when super necessary (though more common for making jokes at Lydia not knowing English), add "en inglés" and "en castellano" in subtitles. Some translated dialogue from one dub of the pilot vs. the English dialogue:Lydia: It means you don't know enough about Cuba to know that I'm insulting you.
Elena: Abuela, when are you going to learn that this is the United States?
- It means you don't know enough Spanish to know that I'm insulting you.
- Abuela, I'll learn more Spanish when you learn English.
- Also applies for wordplay, like when in "Hold, Please" Lydia is trying to get Elena to pick an escort for her quinces and says that with social media she only needs to pick a boy and "twat at him" — meaning 'tweet'. In the Spanish this wouldn't work both with the word and grammatically, so instead she says that Elena should "mandarle una teta". She's trying to say 'send him a tweet', but teta means tit. The Spanish might be better because the wordplay is between "send him a tweet" and "send him nudes". (It's kind of disappointing that the Spanish "coño a él" ('twat at him') is nothing like "twittearle" ('tweet him') because that first phrase? It's also slang for 'fuck him' and 'punch him'.)
- Deliberately Bad Example: Scott, the nursing intern at Penelope's clinic, is lazy, arrogant, obnoxious, and has the maturity of a frat boy. His blatant disrespect of Penelope and opinions of topics like illegal immigration are set up to strengthen Penelope's position.
- Double-Meaning Title: The episode "No Mass" in which the family have disagreements about going to Church every week is a literal title, in different ways, in Spanish and English! No Mass is basically a homophone for No Más, Spanish for 'no more'.
- Dysfunctional Family:
- Downplayed with the Alvarez family. They might come at odds with each other and have differing opinions, but at the end of the day they help and respect each other.
- Played straight with Schneider's family. He has four stepmoms, at least one of whom used to be his nanny, and grew up as a Lonely Rich Kid.
- Easily Forgiven: Even though Lydia is a devout Catholic, it takes her about ten seconds of soul-searching to accept the fact that Elena is gay. Lampshaded by Penelope questioning how quickly she turned around, and justified by Lydia responding that Elena is her granddaughter and she will love her no matter what, she just needed an excuse.
- Ethical Slut: Schneider often has one-night stands staying at this place, but he also considers himself a feminist (though he sometimes fails to act like one). In "Strays", he firmly refuses the advances of drunken Lori, as she is married already (and drunk).
- Exact Eavesdropping: Used several times, most notably when Alex is hiding behind Lydia's curtain and overhears Elena when she's working out if she's gay by talking to the empty room.
- Fee Fi Faux Pas: A recurring theme is the unintentional offensiveness the family often suffers through. Perhaps most notable is Schneider getting a thorough lesson in why wearing a Che Guevara shirt around Cubans is a bad idea.
- Goth: Carmen belongs firmly in the "gloomy Goth" subcategory.
- Hanging Up on the Grim Reaper: In the season 2 finale, Lydia is in a medically-induced coma after surgery. After all of her family get to have their emotional speeches and prove that they can really act, she has one herself in a potential dream sequence where Berto comes through her hospital room doors and they dance and converse and expound on family and life for over 5 minutes. He first says that he has come to get her, and at the end offers his hand but actually asks her if it's time. She looks to the sleeping Penelope and says no.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky: Lydia insists she can handle the porn Schneider just discovered on Alex's computer, then does a head tilt complete with opera glasses followed by a pronouncement that they should burn the laptop.
- He Cleans Up Nicely: A well-dressed, shaven Schneider surprises Penelope with a makeover for Elena's quinces.
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: Lydia, of Dr. Berkowitz. Much to his disappointment, as he obviously hopes for a Relationship Upgrade.
- Berkowitz: (borrowing Lydia's phrase) We went [to the opera] as platonic companions.Penelope: Platonic companions? What the hell does that mean?Berkowitz: (sadly) I don't know.
- Hipster: Schneider is portrayed as this, going so far as serving the Alvarezes quinoa when Lydia goes missing. Elena has hipster-ish moments as well.
- I Am the Noun: Carmen.Lydia: So... the immigration project?Carmen: I am the immigration project.
- Jerk Ass: Victor with Penelope and after finding out Elena is gay. He drinks, he's aggressive, he refuses to deal with his issues, he makes a big deal out of wanting to leave before the quinceañera and then shows up only to leave before the father-daughter dance.
- Latino Is Brown: Averted overall, as the Alvarezes have a variety of skintones, and also discussed in "The Turn."Penelope: (to Elena) You and your brother are of different shades.Lydia: Yes, Papito is a beautiful caramel, and you are... Wonder Bread.
- Lonely Rich Kid: Schneider was this growing up, most likely contributing to his drug problem.
- Meaningful Echo: At the end of the pilot, Penelope vents to her mom about how she misses having someone there to hold her and say, "I got you", which Lydia does. In the finale, after Victor walks out of Elena's quinceañera just before the father-daughter dance, Penelope goes up to Elena and takes his place, saying the same thing.
- Mistaken for Misogynist: In "Bobos and Mamitas," Penelope gets in an argument with her coworker Scott, who is sexist besides generally insufferable, and learns he earns more money than her, driving her to quit in a huff. When Dr. Berkowitz finds Penelope to beg her to stay at the clinic, she demands to know why her wages are smaller. Turns out, it wasn't Berkowitz being sexist, just a doormat; Scott asked him for a raise and he gave it to him. Penelope decides to go back to work after asking Berkowitz for the same pay as Scott plus extra for overtime.
- Mood Whiplash: The flashback scenes in 2001 are packed with funny stuff like the younger, blonde-haired Schneider and the horror of Penelope and Victor when they realize Berto and Lydia are going to move in with them. But then Penelope turns on the TV to hear news of a plane hitting a building in New York and you realize which day in 2001 it is... To wit, it's so fluffy that even those detail-eyed viewers were unlikely to consider the possibility even though in hindsight it was simple math — Elena was born August 7th and is five weeks old. Exactly five weeks after 8/7 is 9/11.
- Moral Dissonance: The show is mostly great at giving solid morals and narratives, but in "No Mass" there's some questionable statements. Though eventually Penelope apologies to Lydia and they compromise, both Penelope and Elena said some things that are very negative to religious people. At one point the all-embracing "I'll make you comfortable even if I'm not" Penelope mocks Lydia's faith in God as being her personal imaginary Security Blanket, which is very Not Cool and was uncalled for even if that's what she thinks — Lydia was just saying that she'd like to go to Church and not have Penelope tell her not to. At another point in the episode, Elena goes against her own moral code in a different way; specifically, the atheist Elena tells Lydia to refer to God by gender-neutral pronouns. Even if Elena did believe in God and believed that God had no gender, she is the show's main advocate for using the pronouns not that you personally like, but that the other party does, and it should be clear to her that Lydia always has liked using male pronouns for God. Telling her to do otherwise is equatable with telling a person's friends to refer to them using a different pronoun to what either of them want. Lydia plays this off by making a quick snarky one-liner, but would be well within her rights to be upset with Elena for trying to tell her to do that, and furthermore because in Spanish the distinct pronoun for God is Él and so functionally and culturally needs to be male unless you want to be really offensive.
- The Mourning After: Lydia is still deeply in love with her late husband, Berto. It's why she refuses to date Dr. Berkowitz despite genuine feelings for him.
- Multiple Reference Pun:
- Elena after getting the handyman job appearing at the door and saying "I'm Butch", referring both to her taking over from the never-seen and implicitly-useless handyman who's named Butch and the fact that she is very soft butch.
- In at least one Spanish dub, the scene where Lydia is telling Elena to stand up 'straighter' uses the word 'recto' for 'straighter'. Recto, like the English, means straight as well as upright, but here the translation of Lydia saying "be as straight as you can be" is actually "estad tan recto como tu armario" — be as straight/upright as your closet. Elena's closet is probably really straight literally, but really isn't figuratively. The pun would have probably been contrived in English, but checks out pretty well in Spanish.
- Mythology Gag: Elena strikes the original Schneider's iconic pose in his same outfit upon being revealed as the new Schneider's employee.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- When Penelope's ex Victor shows up in "Hurricane Victor", Lydia is exceedingly nice to him, and constantly suggests Penelope and him should get back together. But when it turns out Victor lied about being sober and getting help for his issues, Lydia gets more serious than we've ever seen her before, giving Victor an ice-cold look and curtly telling him to "go".
- "The Turn" has the normally chill Alex lash out at his family for "being too Cuban" while cheering for him at a baseball game. The second half of the episode reveals why: He's been facing racism at school and while out with his friends, making him resent his ethnicity.
- Overly Long Name: Elena Maria Alvarez Riera Calderón Leytevidal Inclan, Alejandro Alberto Alvarez Riera Calderón Leytevidal Inclan and Lydia Margarita del Carmen Inclan Maribona Leytevidal de Riera.
- Overly Long Spanish Name: Used the one time when Lydia and Schneider are applying for citizenship, and are called up as "Lydia Margarita Del Carmen Inclan Maribona Leytevidal de Riera" and "something Schneider", both preserving Schneider's Only One Name value and contrasting the two.
- Parental Sexuality Squick: Averted with Elena and Alex, who are very supportive of Penelope dating. Played straight for Penelope herself, who is initially Squicked out when she hears Dr. Berkowitz and Lydia were on a date. Then there's Lydia's frequent reminiscing about her sexacapades with Penelope's father, not to mention them acting like horny teenagers in the flashback to 2001.
- Parental Substitute: Lydia to Schneider. She cooks for him, gives him advice, and helped him get sober.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Penelope and Schneider are great friends, but they're clearly only friends.
- Pronoun Trouble: Elena's activist friends have a variety of preferred pronouns, with her girlfriend Syd using "they/them." Dr. Berkowitz is terrified to open his mouth around them.
- Race Lift: This series changes the focus from an Italian-American family to a Cuban-American family.
- Recovered Addict: Schneider.
- Remake Cameo: Mackenzie Phillips, who played one of the daughters in the original series, plays the coordinator of the women veterans’ support group.
- Running Gag:
- "Jajaja que funny."
- The curtain isn't thick enough to block out sound; People frequently behind the curtain hear things they weren't supposed to.
- In the second season: Schneider's figurines of the family, Lydia's Overly Long Name, the "dale, [nickname], dale" song and Vicks VapoRub with its name being said in a thick Cuban accent.
- Same Language Dub: Has received dubs in different dialects of Spanish, and though there are often wars between which are better when it comes to Spanish, the consensus seems to be on the Latin American one — it uses three of the original cast (Rita Moreno, Justina Machado, and Isabella Gómez) to voice their characters, and the show is about Latin Americans so the cultural dubbing is seen as more appropriate and effective (than to put Mexican or European culture onto a Cuban family, something most Hispanic people would agree isn't ideal). It also helps that Netflix has allowed for the audio to be selected so people in Europe can watch the Latin American dub.
- Series Continuity Error: A few pop up in season two:
- Schneider is an Canadian immigrant, and in season two he confirms that he does not have to go to jury duty, however in season one he mentions needing to get out of jury duty in order to help Alex with a project.
- "Not Yet" has Schneider talk about how he consistently failed out of rehab and was on his fourth try and failing at that too when Lydia showed up and comforted and encouraged him to try again. The first episode has Schneider mention that their moving in coincided with the fifth anniversary of his sobriety.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran:
- In the episode "The Death of Mrs. Resnick", we finally find out why Penelope broke up Victor, her veteran husband: he had a serious case of PTSD, refused to get any help for it, and started acting violently. In "Hurricane Victor", he shows up in person and tells Penelope he's finally getting some professional help, but that turns out to be a lie.
- Penelope herself tries to go off her anti-depressants in Season 2, resulting in a spiral resembling bipolar disorder where she ends up admitting she needs them after hearing a recording of a possibly suicidal message.
- One of the family's surnames being Calderón is a reference to Cuban-American showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett.
- In "Quinces", Alex says "Immigrants. We get the job done". in response to Penelope seeing the party hall decorated for the first time.
- Also in "Quinces", the relatives who supposedly weren't going to come but did are the Fajardos, a reference to another famous Cuban-American, Gloria Estefan (Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo García de Estefan).
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Being a Norman Lear show, it is somewhere in the middle but it is a feel-good and heartfelt show with believable characters who have real emotions dealing with real situations.
- Soapbox Sadie: Elena gives Lisa Simpson a run for her money. At least until Lydia catches her lying about riding the bus everywhere after the family's car dies.
- Spicy Latina: Played with. Penelope has shades of this, and Lydia often goes into full "spicy" mode, but the Latina stereotype is also addressed and sometimes deconstructed, especially with Elena.
- Standardized Sitcom Housing: The Alvarez apartment fits this trope pretty nicely, except for one important deviation: the living room is separated into two with a curtain, so that Lydia can have a space of her own. This marks a difference to the typical Anglo-Saxon sitcom family, both in that the grandparent is living with the nuclear family, and that the family isn't affluent enough to get an apartment with an extra room for Lydia. It's actually an exact recreation of the original show's set.
- Stop Being Stereotypical:
- When the family walks in on Lydia teaching Schneider how to salsa, Elena rolls her eyes in exasperation, saying: "All right! I get it! We're Cuban!" Her protest only spurs Penelope and Alex to join in the dance.
- Alex is pressured into swiping one of Penelope's painkillers to sell on the street, and is chewed out by Elena for almost becoming a cliched Latino drug dealer.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: When Penelope asks Dr. Berkowitz to come to the car dealership with her in "The Death of Mrs. Resnick", he assumes she wants him to pose as her husband (she was going to say father). When she asks Schneider, he suggests "son" instead of husband.Penelope: [to Schneider, exasperated] Really? You're older than me.
- Studio Audience: Unlike most sitcoms of its era, One Day at a Time is taped in front of a live audience. This is particularly apparent with Lydia, played by screen legend Rita Morenonote , as her first appearance in most episodes tends to be greeted with loud cheering.
- The Talk: Penelope tries to give it to Alex when she thinks he's been watching porn. She's not happy about this, mostly due to the awkwardness, but also because she and Victor had previously agreed that she'd give the Talk to Elena and he'd give it to Alex — but, because of Victor's absence, she's wound up having to do both. It results in an extremely traumatized Alex hiding under a blanket and screaming, "WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!" And then it turns out it wasn't him that was watching the movie anyway, and Penelope realizes she actually needs to have a discussion with Elena.Alex: [handing Elena the blanket, entirely sincere] You'll need this...
- Token White: Schneider.
- The Unfavorite: It's basically a running gag that Elena is this, especially when it comes to Lydia, but it's always Played for Laughs and she and Alex are extremely close.
- Very Special Episode:
- The entire series builds itself with a large amount of drama with several moments that will drive you to tears, but "Hello, Penelope" is the most prominent. As of very early on, Penelope quits therapy and her antidepressants, now having to deal with depression, anxiety and PTSD with no help, believing she shouldn't need help. The episodes pulls no punches in showcasing how awful is to not treat a mental condition and how support and determination are important.
- "Not yet" shows Lydia in a coma. The episode focuses on grief and all main characters telling how important she was from their perspective as well as even revealing some things about their past and how she influenced them.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Schneider provides a generous amount of shirtlessness.
- We Didn't Start the Billy Joel Parodies: In one of the most heartwarming uses of this you're likely to find, Syd writes and performs their own version of "We Didn't Start the Fire" for Elena.You set my heart on fire,
on that day,
when I didn't know if you were gay.
You set my heart on fire,
so please, say yes!
You don't have to wear a dress!
Will you go to the dance with me?
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Schneider makes more than one reference to his father that reveals him to be this.
- Wham Shot: After Elena spends a whole episode trying to figure out the mysterious "P" who keeps texting Alex and who he says is his new girlfriend, she finally follows him to a meeting and finds that it's Victor, with the letter standing for "Papi."
- Writers Cannot Do Math: In "A Snowman's Tale", Lydia recalls how he met her late husband Humberto in Havana in 1958, and immediately fell in love with her during a rather steamy dance the two had. Her story is accompanied by a flashback, where Lydia is clearly a grown-up already. But in the very next episode Lydia says that she fled from Cuba through Operation Pedro Pan in 1962, when she was only 15.
- Wrong Insult Offense: In "The Death Of Mrs. Resnick", they have to climb out of the trunk to get out of the car and Alex's pants rip, causing the entire baseball team to call him "Butt-trunk Boy". He takes offense to the name they chose.Alex: Now the entire team calls me "Butt-trunk Boy". They could've called me "Junk In The Trunk". It was right there.