It Still Stings: The Triple Cancellation of One Day at a TimePhoto Courtesy of Pop TV TV Features One Day at a Time
Editor’s Note: TV moves on, but we haven’t. In our new feature series It Still Stings, we relive emotional TV moments that we just can’t get over. You know the ones, where months, years, or even decades later, it still provokes a reaction? We’re here for you. We rant because we love. Or, once loved. And obviously, when discussing finales in particular, there will be spoilers:
On Mar. 14, 2019, One Day at a Time died its first death. After three seasons, Netflix decided to cancel their critically-acclaimed sitcom about a Cuban family surviving life in Echo Park. While this cancellation looked to be the end of things, it proved to be a new lease on life. Three months later, the show made history for being the first Netflix and streaming show to be cancelled and revived on a traditional cable network. Typically things had gone the other way, like with fan favorites Lucifer and Arrested Development, two shows both brought back by Netflix themselves after being cancelled by their broadcast networks.
This historic win would wind up being short-lived. One Day at a Time came back to television and while it was a tad different, it was here again and I was so happy to have it. Then, COVID-19 happened and production was halted due to the pandemic. The last episode of the first half of the season was animated, and in November of 2020 it was cancelled. That was the second death, and not quite the last.
For a few weeks following its cancellation, a last-ditch effort was made to revive the show somewhere else. Surely if it had come back once, it could come back again….
Reader, it did not. In December 2020, the show was finally put to rest, and the Alvarez family’s story came to a sudden end. This was the third death, and it still stings for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that here was a show not just prominently featuring Latinx people, but made by them, too. Among a landscape of TV families that look the same, here was this one that looked different and spoke to me in a way others hadn’t. And while it’s always a shame when a good show can’t quite make it, it sucks that this one that tried so hard and fought so much isn’t here.
It’s especially unfortunate because One Day at a Time was so fiercely dedicated to growing its characters. It was never afraid to throw them into dark situations like we face in our everyday lives. For me, this was a revolutionary portrayal of a Latinx family on TV, or a Latinx anyone really. I got to see storylines devoted to trauma and mental illness, notions that are sometimes trivialized and buried in those communities. I got to see a character wrestle with their identity as the child of immigrants in a place that doesn’t feel entirely welcoming for them. I got to see Latinx folk who felt real and in step with their evolving world, rather than a decades-long caricature pulled out of a hat to please executives or sponsors or racist audiences.
And when the show did play into caricatures, it felt fun and like they were winking at me, the person who knew these things were somewhat true but in the most innocent, innocuous ways. Yeah, my own family is loud as hell and yeah I do enjoy dancing and do it whenever I can but so what? These are dimensions to myself and Latinx people that add wrinkles to who we are and make us better and deeper people. It also means we know how to have fun—pull up to one of our barbeques and see.
I’ll always love the show I got, and mourn what I didn’t get to see. The most affecting moment of the show to me came late in its run, when the Alvarez family’s close friend and landlord, Schneider, breaks from his sobriety and deteriorates. It’s a plotline I felt coming the second the show announced he was an alcoholic who had been sober for years. This knowledge did nothing to stop me from crying when he shamefully removed his sobriety chip from the Alvarez Museum, a display case in the hall where they kept mementos of triumphs and milestones. In this particularly low moment for him, what Schneirder was most worried about was how this fall had hurt his relationship with these people whose trust he had fought for, which signaled to me how much more this character was than just the goofy rich white guy there for comedic relief. I don’t get to see that character grow as he took on sobriety again, especially as he became a father like he was set up to in the final season.
Similarly I don’t get to see Elena and her partner Syd grow into more than high school sweethearts. Or see Alex, who’s the youngest and therefore the baby, through his first serious relationship. It’s probably silly, but I was invested in the lives of these folks as people, not characters. I wanted to see them succeed because we never get to succeed. The loss of One Day at a Time seems like proof of that, but I won’t let myself dwell on that. I can’t.
A character on the show once said, “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.” A few miracles happened over the course of One Day at a Time’s run, and with that in our pocket, I feel we can quit. Except that I don’t like “quit.” I prefer “rest.” One Day at a Time may not be around anymore, but it fought for the chance to be here despite everything working against it, and made the absolute most of it. A bunch of folks fought long and hard to see it continue, and it did until it just couldn’t. Now they all deserve to rest, content in what they managed to accomplish both on and off screen. Still, one day I hope we’ll see something like this show again.
Moises Taveras is an intern for Paste Magazine and the managing editor of his college newspaper, the Brooklyn College Vanguard. He was that one kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how that turned out.
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