Penelope Alvarez is a single mother, army veteran, nurse practitioner who strives to support the lives of four people under her roof: herself, her two children, and her mother.
Life is tough, because not only does she not get paid enough compared to her male coworker, she also suffers from PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorder—something that lots of veterans undergo. What holds her back from truly recovering is her Cuban mother’s views of medication and treatment. This gets more complicated when her daughter comes out as a lesbian.
The issues One Day at A Time try to tackle is very heavy, yet somehow, episode after episode they can put you down and lift you up in an instant with its comedy, and the comedy is never dark. As an Indonesian, I can relate to a lot of the Cuban’s anecdotes. From a tin of cookies which are filled with cookies from other brands to the heavy collective life of eastern cultures, many of its imagery of family life is very familiar.
This series also is the leading promoter of mental health and human rights issues in TV series. It talks about these things not in a subtle way; sometimes it feels like a preach. But to think about it more, lots of people learn best not through analogy, metaphors, or sarcasm—more often than not people need to be told in the face what to think. In the world of social media and freedom of speech, it can get very hard to show people that they need a little bit more empathy. And this show does it in a descriptive way brilliantly through relatable scenarios.
You might find that it has gotten exhausting to find mental health issues being spoken up, but truthfully it’s not been brought up enough in a wider scope. Especially in eastern cultures from which the Alvarez’s came. From which we came.
There are so many stars in this series, since every character has their own struggle and wisdom. Penelope’s warrior spirit of raising her kids in their own era, Lydia who is Penelope’s mother who always compares her Cuban parenting to Penelope’s so-American way, Elena who is finding out how it is to live as a lesbian teenager with a non-binary significant other, Alex who has been the baby of the family but is now surprising her mom and grandmother with his mature mind, and Scheinder who has tackled addiction before and still he struggles.
It’s been a long times since we watch a comedy series filmed with a still camera. Perhaps, it’s a little outdated. But it is a great way to attract older people who are used to these kind of camera work in a sitcom to listen to what the show’s got to say. And despite the reviews that say it feels too politically correct, I still get butterflies in my stomach in every episode, because I understand the character’s motives and where they’re coming from.
It’s a tough life anyway. Most of the time we need to take it lightly in order to take it seriously. And for people with anxiety disorder, it is wiser to take this life one day at a time.