“One Day at a Time” Is Cancelled at Netflix, But the Love of the Alvarez Family Lives On

Here’s the thing about familia: Saying goodbye is never really forever.

I come to you today with that perhaps cliché reminder because I’m following up it with absolutely heartbreaking news. Netflix has decided not to renew our beloved One Day at a Time. The cancellation comes roughly five weeks after the streaming network’s release of Season Three. According to Variety, Sony, the production company behind ODAAT, plans to shop the series elsewhere. Though The Hollywood Reporter notes that may be a difficult mountain to climb as Netflix will continue to own and house the first three seasons, unless a compromise deal could be brokered.

Netflix’s One Day at a Time was a modernized version of Norman Lear’s 1975 classic about a single mother raising her two children. The mother, Penelope Alvarez (Justina Machado), known as Lupita to her family, is an Army veteran living with anxiety and depression stemming in part from her time in the service. The eldest daughter, Elena (Isabella Gomez), is a teen whose coming out and subsequent “baby gay” arc warmed every heart on the Autostraddle team, along with our readers. Rarely are gay teens given opportunities to shine like Elena and her non-binary sydnificant other, Syd (Sheridan Pierce). Penelope’s son, Alex (Marcel Ruiz), lovingly referred to as “Papito,” can charm any room. EGOT winner and living legend Rita Moreno starred as Penelope’s mother and the children’s grandmother, Lydia, also known as Abuelita, who lives with the family and takes care of the household. There was no show like it in the history of television, which sounds like a hyperbole but absolutely is NOT. The hole being left in our hearts and the television landscape by the Alvarez family is going to take an incredibly long time to fill.

Netflix COO Ted Sarandos released a public statement calling the decision not to renew “a very difficult” one that only came after several weeks of trying to make another season work. From Sarandos: “It’s been a great honor to work with the legendary Norman Lear. I’ve personally spoken with Norman, and co-creators Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce, to express my gratitude to them, all the writers, the dedicated crew and the cast including the brilliant Justina Machado and dazzling Rita Moreno for creating a series with such humor, heart and humanity. This was a very difficult decision and we’re thankful to all the fans who’ve supported the series, our partners at Sony, and all the critics who embraced it. While it’s disappointing that more viewers didn’t discover One Day at a Time, I believe the series will stand the test of time.”

The Netflix twitter account echoed Sarandos’ words this afternoon with a special message to fans: “To anyone who felt seen or represented — possibly for the first time — by ODAAT, please don’t take this as an indication your story is not important. The outpouring of love for this show is a firm reminder to us that we must continue finding ways to tell these stories.” The sentiment is nice Netflix, but the best way to support underrepresented communities is by keeping our stories on the air and not cancelling them. Perhaps you should try that next time. (As one of our television writers, Natalie, pointed out, it was around this time last year that Netflix also cancelled Everything Sucks!, despite having a lesbian coming of age storyline that was massively popular and resonant with viewers.)

One Day at a Time co-showrunner Mike Royce released a statement on Twitter on behalf of the show’s team:

Gloria Calderón Kellett, the show’s other co-showrunner, ruminated this afternoon about the show’s cancellation. She reminded those of us reading her words or having felt welcomed into her family these last few years that, “You are breathing rarified air. Feel your feelings and then… keep fighting.” Feel Your Feelings And Then Keep Fighting. Elena Alvarez couldn’t have said it better herself.

There are a lot of us who are going to mourn the loss of One Day at a Time today, after all it was a critics’ darling with a passionate (though sadly, ultimately not large enough) fanbase. The pain is going to be felt most acutely by those of us who saw parts of ourselves on television for the first time in the Alvarez’s living room. Maybe you found glimpses of your nerdy, goofy, non-binary self in Syd. Maybe your grandmother brings life in every room like Lydia. Maybe you discovered healing that you didn’t know you needed through laughter and tears and the embrace of their family’s love. If so, today is for you.

The Autostraddle family has always felt a particular connection to One Day at a Timeever since they shouted out our website during Elena’s coming out story in the show’s first season.

We’ve felt love from their production team, and we’ve given love back at every turn. Few other television shows on air have taken such care for their queer characters (in addition to Elena and Syd, ODAAT featured Judy Reyes as Lupita’s lesbian friend Ramona and in the third season, Nicky Endres, a transfemme genderqueer actor who’s character Cynthia joined Penelope’s veteran PTSD support group. Bisexual actress Stephanie Beatriz also guest starred as Elena’s older queer cousin). The show employed and nurtured the careers of queer writers Michelle Badillo, Becky Mann and Janine Brito.

To those writers, along with Mike Royce, Gloria Calderón Kellett, and everyone involved in the show’s cast and crew, we say: Thank You. These past years are ones that we will all cherish, because we were lucky enough to experience them together.

I first watched One Day at a Time sitting on a couch in my mother’s living room. She raised me as a Puerto Rican single mom. Back then I was a nerdy, activist, geek of a teenager in a Catholic school uniform – not unlike Elena Alvarez. In my mind’s eye, my own abuela will always have the glamour of Rita Moreno. So when I say that I’d never felt as emotionally connected to a story before, I mean it. I’d never seen not just a Latinx family, but a Caribeñx family on television like this. One that was rooted in the cultural specificity and food and inside jokes of my family. One that centered the stories and pain and humor of women. One that educated as easily as it soothed.

Yes, losing One Day at a Time is a personal heartache for me – representation matters, I won’t lose track of that – but the fact is that it was also superbly written and acted. It balanced a tightrope so beautifully that it felt effortless to watch. Pound for pound, this sitcom quite simply lapped its peers, and did so with a smile on its face. As a queer Puerto Rican I mourn the loss of representation. As a television critic, I mourn the loss of an exquisite work of art.

The Alvarez family has a saying that they sing in unison when someone is celebrating success, “¡Dalé, [insert your name here], Dalé!” Dalé is a Spanish exclamation that doesn’t have an easy translation, but ultimately it means “Go ahead!” “Keep moving!” Go harder!”

Today I’m imaging that Alvarezes are singing that to me, and also to you. We will keep moving, we will go harder, we will keep celebrating. The fight for representation on television – for women, for queer folks, for Latinxs – is very far from being over. While we gear up for what comes next, we’ll raise our flags and dance loudly in the streets. It’s what Abuelita Lydia would’ve wanted.

Carmen is Autostraddle's Associate Editor and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but has left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, MI, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow at night. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 127 articles for us.

32 Comments

  1. ODAAT is a masterpiece. I am not buying that Netflix tried their hardest when they have a picture of 5 white dudes in military uniforms as their twitter background. But everyone on the show’s team gave it their all and it is a masterpiece, and Netflix’s loss.

  2. Absolute chills reading this, Carmen. I’m so angry that it’s been canceled (I just do not buy the “not enough viewers” excuse, particularly given how cost-effective a show like this is as opposed to so many others on their platform).

    But more than that, I’m absolutely in awe at how quickly you turned this piece out. It’s gorgeously written and a really beautiful tribute to a show so many of us love so much. <3

  3. I am so sad that it’s been cancelled. The show is everything, it makes me laugh and cry, often both at the same time. It’s really frustrating to see Netflix drop the show because of “poor viewership” when we don’t even see what those numbers are. It’s clear that they just didn’t want to pay Sony money, BUT they paid how much to keep Friends on Netflix??? Pisses me off.

    Bleh, anyway, I do hope that ODAAT gets picked up but some other network – this cancellation hurts.

  4. Devastating news. I connected with this show in a way that’s hard to define. I’m a Jewish white girl whose immigrant roots are two and or so generations back, but I felt this show so hard right in that space and in how my mom has talked about her Yiddish-speaking grandma. Every single story, acting choice, and direction were perfect on One Day at a Time. I miss the Alvarez family already.

    Thank you for your words, Carmen.

  5. This is really devastating. I hope it gets picked up elsewhere. Lin-Manuel Miranda is tweeting about it and his tweets were a big part of Brooklyn 99 getting picked up at NBC, from what I could tell. It’s also trending worldwide on Twitter. Whatever happens, what a glorious show.

  6. i am so sad about this! every season and every character brought me so much. in addition to everything ODAAT did for nuanced representation, i was always so grateful for the way it resisted easy resolutions in a sitcom format and let difficult stuff be difficult. like a lot of people, i saw so much of myself as a kid and teen in Elena, and as i get older increasingly saw myself in penelope, as a female character who is juggling a lot and who gets things wrong sometimes and whose primary concerns in life aren’t a romantic relationship, a protagonist we don’t get to see that often! i will be so sad to see this show and its huge range of nuanced relationships and dynamics go.

  7. i’d be much more willing to believe netflix had tried at all to support ODAAT if i hadn’t had the experience of not being able to find the show in any of the relevant category listings when i went to watch this season right as it first came out. (different account than i’d watched previous seasons on, so they didn’t know i’d already watched it.) i made an effort to find it, but i had to specifically search for the show even though it totally fits a number of categories netflix was already showing me.

    mad about this one. hope they can find a new home that will appreciate all they have to offer (with more than *words* of appreciation)!

    • Yeah, that was my experience, too. Netflix never alerted me of ODAAT as something I would like, and when I read about it and binge-watched it, it never alerted me that there were new seasons, making me search for it every time. It seemed like Netflix was trying to not put any effort into marketing it, while simultaneously remarking on how sad they were that it hadn’t become as big as they were hoping.

  8. This one really stings. I’m bummed. It’s so rare to get a show that talks about feminism, mental health, gun control, immigration, addiction and lgbt themes
    Pouring some Bustelo for the Alvarez family. You’ll be missed.

  9. I didn’t think that I could feel this sad about a show cancellation, but here we are. This is hands down my favorite feel-good show of recent history.

    I have said frequently that this is the show that I would love to watch with my mom one day. I think it’s because I see my mom as a combination of badass nurse mom Penelope Alvarez, who fights for her family and doesn’t anyone get away with anything, and vibrant and traditional Lydia, who lets you know about her presence and her opinions from a mile away. I think it’s also because I see myself in left-leaning, nerdy, and queer Elena who does quite the balancing act between her strong liberal beliefs and her love for her family. I also loved that while every main family member (even white hipster Schneider) came from a very distinct perspective and frequently argued each other passionately, there was never ever a doubt that they would come back together because there was never ever a doubt they loved each other. Perhaps that made it too neat of a show, with too many tidy endings to the big topic of the half hour. But in a world that is so often unpredictable and unhappy, especially for queer people, immigrants, people of color, and working class families, it was lovely to have a show that was so clearly rooted in optimism and joy for its characters. In that spirit, I do hope that it comes back, whether on another network or on Netflix.

  10. I feel so sad about this. Netflix’s comments were really disheartening too, but I really hope that ODAAT can find a home elsewhere. It never fails to cheer me up when I’m feeling down <3

  11. Yeah, be the change you want to see, Netflix. If you’re sad that people “are losing” representation, it might be good to flip that sentiment out of the passive voice and consider who is causing them/us to lose that representation. Booo.

    And thank you thank you thank you to the creators and actors and crew who all made it come together. What a wonderful show it was and hopefully will be again for some other service/channel.

  12. I still can’t believe this, and I don’t buy it for a second that Netflix couldn’t renew this show. They renewed ‘Insatiable’ and ‘Riverdale’ for god’s sake, and those shows are the biggest load of garbage I have ever seen! If they can find the funding for those, then why not ODAAT? And I almost never saw any advertisement for ODAAT, while Riverdale is forced down my throat whenever I log on to Netflix.

    ODAAT is a show that I think almost everyone can relate to; if you’re LGBTQIA+, suffer from a mental health disorder and/or addiction, if you’re a minority or just someone who doesn’t fit society’s idea of ‘normal’. I just hope another streaming service picks it up! (Ok, rant over).

  13. i guess i felt v sure that this show would get renewed, cause theyve done this every year and it gets renewed i honestly thought this was a constant press push or something like, they pretend they need ratings but they just really want viewers to do the work of promoting their show, which sucks but also i love the show so much that im like ILL DO IT

    im just really sad over this / one day at a time always seemed to premiere during some of my worse dips in seasonal (or regular idk) depression and helped me with a whole lot, it still does.

    knowing that this is just not going to be here anymore (at least not right away? idk aside from jus seeing b99 get picked up real quick i have no idea how shows get picked up on other networks) just its terrible, and after being proven time and time again how important and necessary this is, netflix deciding to cancel it and saying it was a hard decision is just some bullshit tbh and its v hard for me not to be bitter bc we all know if this was some white boy they’d have promoted better and taken the possible loss of money to keep it on air, bc they have done that and they continue to do it and just

    i dont want to end on a bitter note. carmen, i love the way you’ve written about one day at a time and i love how you love this show and im so sorry for this loss. i am still in awe of how, in almost every post, you still bring hope. even during this, youre giving us permission and room and reminder to feel what we need to and then keep going, i love that and i thank you so much for it.

  14. I also don’t get what they base their viewing statistics on. They released ODAAT’s last season a month ago. Do they expect everyone to binge it in a week or something?

    It’s one show that drops in Australia at the same time as it does in the US, which was great. But I sure as hell don’t watch many shows the first week – I didn’t with ODAAT, because I was bingeing Person of Interest, and I only have so many hours when I’m not working.

    Then there are shows like Wynonna Earp that take over a year to arrive, despite the fact we don’t get Syfy here. How do they calculate viewership for those?

    Given Amazon’s “long tail” model for selling books, does that not have any application to subscription TV? Because I would think it does. Much more so than broadcast TV. It’s not “appointment TV”, necessarily.

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