“One Day at a Time” Is Back When We Need it Most

One Day at a Time returned to our teeves last night, and the timing couldn’t have been better. After a lengthy battle with Netflix, the fan favorite arrived on PopTV — now in weekly installments and with commercials — to much fan excitement and even a worldwide Twitter trend. Our TV Team got together to chat about the premiere. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Heather: When One Day at a Time was in limbo, the thing all of us — and so many other people — said, repeatedly, was that we need this show now more than ever. And that felt truer than ever last night. How did it feel to have the Alvarez family back in your living room/bedroom specifically during this fraught moment in history?

Valerie Anne: It was such a…RELIEF. It felt like a hug, like a breath of fresh air. Neither of which I’m getting much of these days. I’m so, so, so happy they found a new home, and I loved that it started off with that lil dig at Netflix.

Kayla Kumari: THAT DIG AT NETFLIX WAS EVERYTHING. Drag them to hell for canceling a perfect show.

Natalie: Yes! As the episode ended, I felt a palpable sense of gratitude to Gloria Calderon Kellett, Mike Royce and everyone who helped make Season Four a reality. To have this show on the air at this moment — even if Netflix had renewed the show, it likely would have debuted in January — it just felt fated. We needed this show at this moment and I was so grateful for it.

Drew: I binge watched the first three seasons last February when I had food poisoning, so I already knew that it would be the perfect stuck-at-home comfort. And it didn’t disappoint. Given how fraught things are politically as well as personally it’s especially nice to know we’ll have a comfort show that isn’t a mere distraction. ODAAT’s power comes from being an utter delight while remaining fully grounded in our world. I wish I could watch a whole season, but it’s going to be really nice having a little taste each week.

Heather: I think that’s a really great point, Drew. I thought I was going to be bummed to not be able to binge it, but now I’m actually relieved to have something to look forward to this week. This show is about survival in so many ways, both in its narrative and in its off-screen victories, and I need that warm reminder right now more than ever.

Heather: “Checking Boxes” dropped us back into the middle of the story, but it also served as a drop-off point for new viewers. I thought the census was a clever little way to exposit that and particularly loved Elena being like HI I’M GAY CHECK THAT BOX PLEASE. How do you feel like the show did marrying its old and new audiences?

Valerie Anne: I’ll be honest, I was having such fun with the episode and seeing my favorite family again that I didn’t even realize it was exposition until someone said it on Twitter. I think it was the perfect way to welcome new and old audiences into the Alvarez household. And I think it was great that Syd was there yo get their pronouns out of the way right off the bat so they didn’t have to wedge it in awkwardly later.

Heather: I love watching Lydia casually use Syd’s correct pronouns. It warms my heart up every time. I also loved this scene because it reminded me of Natalie’s constant quest to get everyone to fill out the census.

Natalie: I will never stop encouraging folks to fill out the census! It’s not glamorous but, aside from voting, it’s one of the most significant ways that the average person can have an impact on democracy. The decennial census determines so much about how money is allocated and the size of Congressional delegations and, historically, Latinx communities have been reluctant to participate…especially given the political moment we’re in. I loved hearing the show correct some misnomers about the census and encourage participation (if you haven’t already, you can fill out your census online now!)

Kayla Kumari: The exposition in this scene was so good and organic! Not even just in terms of the characters as individuals but also their dynamics with each other. Lydia and Alex’s super close relationship; Penelope’s dynamic with Lydia; Elena and Syd’s super sweet (and nerdy) relationship. I’ve always loved the specific and convincing relationship dynamics on this show within the family and their chosen family members too, and this scene sets all that up rather succinctly for new viewers.

Drew: I agree it was such an effective way to introduce the show to new viewers! I’m not sure it was quite as seamless for me – I was very aware what they were doing – but given the challenge of introducing all these characters and their dynamics in such a short time I think it was done really well.

Natalie: I agree, Drew! As someone who’s watched the first three seasons of this show multiple times, it felt a little cheated…like, “we only have 22 minutes, I don’t need to see this!” but, as it happened, I watched the episode with my mom (#quarantinelife) and she’s never seen the show before and it really helped her connect with the family right away. Suffice to say, she’s about to spend the next few weeks watching the earlier seasons on Netflix.

Heather: Let’s talk about Elena! It is so funny to me that she is a teenager and yet remains more relatable to me than so many other gay adult characters. She’s confident and knows exactly who she is! And yet, she’s constantly spinning out! I loved her storyline with Syd this episode and how they’re continuing to grow as individual characters and as a couple.

Valerie Anne: I love it because I think it’s so indicative of the changing times. Queer teen stories used to be about secrets and fraught coming outs, and sure there is still room for that, but also so many teens are now being hilarious and gay on tiktok for all the world to see. They’re queer and proud and passionate about it. So I love seeing that in Elena. Also Elena’s path from “maybe I should break up with Syd right now” all the way back to “oh gods I can never break up with Syd” all in basically one run-on sentence was extremely relatable.

Natalie: That long run-on sentence was, perhaps, my favorite part of the entire episode. Hilarious and relatable.

Kayla Kumari: Elena has been one of the most relatable television characters for me in recent years. She’s kind of like a coming together of my younger self (who was very intense, nerdy, passionate, and politically outspoken but closeted) and my current self (ALL THOSE THINGS I WAS BEFORE BUT NOW GAY). I love her storyline with Syd in this premiere! I love how this show engages with lesbian stereotypes in ways that feel fresh and believable.

Drew: Across all the seasons the show has done things with Elena that seem so obvious in retrospect but are simply missing from our screens. I love that she’s getting this storyline that is still super gay, but also a relationship difficulty totally separate from gayness. Most of us have had experiences where we had to choose between being practical and following our feelings and it feels so true to Elena’s character that she would be determined to be mature but then have too many feelings. Elena remains highly relatable and while I’m so happy to have the entire family back on TV I’m happiest to have her.

Natalie: I think the show’s struck a really great balance at having Elena be this great queer character and having her just be a regular teenager. There was a moment during the episode, when Elena’s hyperventilating over her “break-up” with Syd, she asks her mom how she goes through life without a partner who cares about her. It made me wince but it also reminded me that she’s very much a teenager. She’s still going to be a little self-obsessed, she’s still going to be prone to spinning out…because she’s a teenager.

Heather: Did y’all see ODAAT’s writers tweeted a full list of Lydia impersonating Elena? Tag yourself.

Valerie Anne: I’m definitely wearing my nerd outfit and talking about nerd stuff.

Heather: Mmm hmm, same.

Kayla Kumari: Hello nice to meet you I’m “about to go march for something in my ugly shoes.”

Drew: Without a doubt I’m “everyone else has fallen asleep while I was talking want to come over?”

Natalie: I think we all know I’m “just here boring everyone to death with some lost cause.”

Heather: What other storylines worked for you from the premiere and where do you hope to see them go over the course of the season?

Valerie Anne: I think it will be interesting to watch Elena and Syd navigate their relationship; I know they think they’re going to try dating in college, but can they even make it that far? Teenagers are very fickle!! It will also be interesting to see what happens as other people in the family start bringing significant others around. I’m dying to see Lydia meet Max’s girlfriend. I think that will be a parade of joyful nonsense. And more of Penelope’s support group!! I love that gaggle of gals so much.

Drew: I’m so sorry, everyone, but I sort of hope Elena and Syd don’t work out. I understand the impulse to want Elena’s first love story to be a success, but honestly it already is one. Most teenagers – especially progressive queer teenagers – don’t stay with their first partner. I really appreciated Elena recognizing that in this episode! I would love to see Elena and Syd continue to navigate this and it end in a way that feels as authentic as every other part of Elena’s story. But that might be for season 5! I don’t know the timeline of this season. If Elena still doesn’t know if she got into Yale then she has plenty of time still at home. I’m aware you asked for other storylines and all I’ve done is talk about Elena. I’m sorry. I’m gay.

Natalie: You are not alone, Drew. I think it’s implausible to have these two characters stay together longterm. I’m hoping that Elena and Syd don’t work out either…or, at the very least, that Elena meets someone who challenges her relationship with Syd in a very real way. Maybe someone who doesn’t have as much in common with Elena as Syd does.

Heather: The weirdest thing about this show is how much I care about every single person and not just the gay characters. I want to watch Penelope navigate her professional success and what that means for her family financially, to continue to bond with her support group, to watch Lydia grow in her understanding of Penelope’s PTSD and anxiety and depression, to watch Lydia light up everything and live and love and teach and learn, and also — like Valerie said — meet The Girlfriend. I also just want to hang out with them and soak up all of their love and wisdom. I have recently found myself wishing, almost hourly, that I was back in Georgia sitting on a lawnchair in my grandparents’ giant yard, six feet away from them, just listening to the comforting cadence of the stories they’ve told me and each other a thousand times. This is as close to that as I can get, and I’m cherishing every minute.

Natalie: I agree with you, Heather… I definitely find myself caring about all the storylines on the canvas. Even Schneider.

I love that Penelope’s support group is still a part of the show…it would’ve been such an easy thing to cut in the transition from Netflix to Pop TV. Not only does it offer an outlet for Penelope outside the family, but it’s such a diverse group and adds something wonderful to the show.

I’m anxious to see how Papito’s girlfriend is introduced to the family and how she’ll mesh with Elena and Lydia. I want to know what happened on Dr. Berkowitz and Lydia’s trip to Cuba and how that’s impacted her.

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The TV Team

The Autostraddle TV Team is made up of Riese Bernard, Carmen Phillips, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, Valerie Anne, Natalie, Drew Burnett Gregory, and Nic. Follow them on Twitter!

The TV has written 232 articles for us.


  1. Reading this just makes me smile. I love ODAAT and I’m so glad to see it back! Elena is my favourite character ever! I love her coming out story!

    I reallyyyy hope they find a way to show it here too!

  2. I agree with Valerie Anne. This show feels like a hug and I was so thrilled to hang out with the Alvarez family again I didn’t even notice the census thing was exposition until later.
    I’m so happy this show is back, even if I miss the theme song. I do want the theme so g back, It’s like the opposite of The L Word.

  3. And yes, having this to look forward to every week is a balm in these pandemic times

  4. ‘i’m outraged about something and ignoring my personal hygiene’ did you mean quarantine mood?

  5. Hey Valerie Anne- this sentence needs to be edited “I’m dying to see Lydia meet Max’s girlfriend.”
    It’s Alex not Max.

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