One Day at a Time returned for season 3 with laughs, tears, and plenty of hard hitting topics to wrap stories around.
The season began with a funeral. Not Lydia’s (Rita Moreno) funeral! She survived her stroke at the end of season 2 and is back and recovering. No, the funeral was one of Lydia’s aunts. The whole family showed up, including Mirtha (Gloria Estefan). Lydia and Mirtha were in a years long feud over a lost mantilla.
Because their mothers were feuding, Penelope (Justina Machado) and her cousin Estrellita (Melissa Fumero), best friends in childhood, had lost touch. They had a reunion at the funeral. Elena (Isabella Gomez) was much more interested in her gay cousin Pilar (Stephanie Beatriz). Baby lesbian was looking for good survival tips from her older cousin, who wasn’t eager to be Elena’s gay role model.
One Day at a Time has a way of throwing a lot at you. In just the first episode, we got hit with Cuban family traditions, relationship drama, Elena’s sexuality, and plenty of jokes. Every episode is like that. The jokes are built around a theme, which might last for one episode or go on for several.
A few of the thematic elements in season 3 were consent and harassment, Alex (Marcel Ruiz) smoking pot, Elena admitting to having sex, LGBTQ issues, anxiety attacks, Schneider (Todd Grinnell) falling off the wagon, family relationships, and Penelope’s ex (James Martinez) getting married. Guess who played the ex’s new girlfriend? Showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett. She and Justina Machado looked and acted like twins – they were hilarious. Papi has a type!
Finding out her 17 year old daughter was having sex set off a crisis for Penelope, as did discovering Alex’s pot stash. She was also stressed by her studies preparing for a nurse practitioner exam. Penelope talked about all her stresses in her therapy group, led by Pam (Mackenzie Phillips). She asked support group member Ramona (Judy Reyes) for advice on lesbianing after finding out Elena and Syd were beyond mere smooching.
Penelope spent quite a lot of time working with her support group in season 3. She learned her lesson from her meltdown in season 2 about staying on her medication and going to her therapy group.
Penelope had a romance with Mateo (Alex Quijano). Schneider had a romance with Avery (India de Beaufort). Lydia carried on her non-romance with Dr. B (Stephen Tobolowsky). Elena and Syd took their big step. Even Alex had some girls interested in him. Everybody was in love.
However, some people might have decided they were doing just fine alone. Not everyone needs to be in love all the time, now do they?
These actors have perfect timing with a joke. They perform in front of a live audience, so they often have to look intelligent standing and waiting for laughter to end. Rita Moreno and Stephen Tobolowsky got an awful lot of the funniest lines this year, but maybe it was because the younger characters had more problems to deal with.
The guests who came for an episode or two like Judy Reyes or Tony Plana, as the ghost of Penelope’s grandfather, were all as masterful working around the live audience as the show’s regulars. One Day at a Time is proof that if you give Latinx actors a chance to shine, they will definitely shine. I knew that, and you probably knew that, but Netflix and others holding the power over what gets on the air need a constant reminder.
The live audience could moan in disapproval when someone said something stupid, too. And they were quiet and respectful during the emotional scenes. I hate laugh tracks, but the live audience was nothing like a laugh track. It almost felt like seeing it live yourself, reacting with the other people there seeing it live.
Directing credits for season 3 go to Phill Lewis, Pamela Fryman, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Kimberly McCullough, Angela Barnes Gomes and Todd Grinnell. The writing team, lead by Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, is perfect in terms of cultural sensitivity, LGBTQ sensitivity, human relationships and human nature. They created a half hour comedy that is as powerful as the most intense drama you could name while still being warm and funny.
One Day at a Time has delivered 3 solid seasons of the best television has to offer. If you haven’t seen this series, I suggest you make an appointment with Netflix to watch it. It’s one of the best things you’ll find anywhere.