Latinx-focused shows haven’t secured popularity. The recent cancellations of Cristela and Bordertown make us question if a mainstream audience is ready for—or even wants—a sitcom focused on Latinx life.
At the recommendation of a good friend (like most things Netflix), I watched the remake of the 1970s sitcom One Day at a Time. And I laughed out loud. The show, besides being funny, presents contemporary, arguably cutting-edge issues facing Latinx and non-Latinx families during our tense times.
Similar to the original sitcom, One Day at a Time focuses on a single mom raising two kids. In this version, she’s a Cuban American mom to a teenaged daughter and a pre-teen son. There’s a landlord named Schneider (with the same inflated debonair sensibilities as the original handyman). In the new version, there’s a Latina grandma played by the acclaimed Rita Moreno. And she delivers in every scene.
In a Latino USA interview, Moreno shared that the idea for the remake came from a Coca-Cola study handed to renowned 1970s sitcom producer Norman Lear. In it, researchers highlighted that the demographic media should aim for these days is 18-44-year-old Latinas.
So a Latinx-focused sitcom was born.
While there are some clichés of Latinx family life—the outspoken abuela who speaks with a thick accent, the religious devotion, the immigrant and first-generation clashes—the show quickly and engagingly develops storylines that humorously taken on serious issues.
The single mom, who is separated from an active veteran in the Middle East, is herself a veteran who struggles with depression. She fights against sexism at work in one episode. Later in the season, she debates whether to start a new love life or rekindle her marriage.
At school, her teen daughter faces identity issues that bring LGBTQ issues to light. Her young son confronts peer pressure and drugs.
As a family, they see the impact of parents’ deportations on the daughter’s best friend.
But there are still plenty of laughs–and lots of Celia Cruz music.
I don’t know if we can explain why shows like Cristela and Bordertown didn’t last longer. The former seemed to be aimed at the demographic in the Coca-Cola study, the latter seemed aimed at the following that revived Family Guy after this show got cancelled. Who knows?
And who knows if One Day at a Time will go far past its first season on Netflix?
What’s clear is that this simply-staged sitcom fulfills the responsibility of satire—it makes us laugh as we confront and reflect on serious issues.
And the show’s slogan reminds us–the best and worst thing about family: they’re always there for you.
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