Judge Cynthia Boris is experimenting with living life two days at a time, but keeps missing out on the good stuff.
"Why settle for a tricycle when Kawasaki makes the good times
She went straight from high school to marriage and now she's getting a divorce. Ann Romano is taking on the world, as a single mother trying to raise two daughters alone without losing her sense of self. Working in a man's world. Living down the stigma of being a divorcee…did I mention that it's 1975? Man oh man, how times have changed.
Facts of the Case
Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) is divorced, and in 1975 that's a big thing. She's now considered to be a wicked woman; a lonely, crazy soul who's bound to fail without the support of a man. She does have the support of her two daughters—the wild and untamable Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) and the tomboyish, innocent Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli); her apartment super, Schneider (Pat Harrington); and her lawyer/boyfriend, David (Richard Mauser). But is it enough? How will Ann survive without a husband? By living One Day at a Time.
One Day at a Time was one of my favorite TV shows, when I was a kid. My sisters often compared me to the whiney and dramatic Barbara, but I always saw myself as more of a Julie. Since I was a teen during the first run of the series, I watched it mostly for those storylines and maybe that's why I didn't notice the degrading to women dialogue or Bonnie Franklin's pinch-faced acting style.
I'm sorry to say, but this show does not hold up well at all.
Most of the problems come from the premise itself. Thirtysomething Annie Romano gets a divorce, takes back her maiden name, and sets out to raise her two daughters in the big city—alone! She dates. She flirts with a man ten years her junior. She dares to try to get a job in a "man's world" and everyone in the building thinks she's easy because that's how gay divorcees are. Why would any self-respecting woman give up a nice house, a husband, and a sink full of dishes? A little independence? A chance at being something other than Mrs. Ed Royer? It's unheard of!
Yeah, right. Welcome to the '90s. Oh, wait, the '90s are over, and so is the concept for this show. On TV these days, gay divorcees really are gay, a woman in a man's world is one who serves beer at Hooters, and as for making it alone…exactly how many happily married housewives are there on TV today?
Another thing that dates the series is it looks like a stage play shot for TV. This was a common style in the era, but by today's standard it looks flat and overly scripted. The show was also shot on tape and not film, which adds to the flat look. The quality of the DVD transfer is also an issue. The opening credits, for some odd reason, are so dark it's hard to see what's happening. The episodes aren't as bad, but still look old and washed out.
Now, let me take a moment to whine over the character of David. I like Richard Mauser. He's a great character actor, a sweet and funny guy but seriously—what were they thinking? We're supposed to buy into Ann being this strong, independent woman who has the courage to divorce her husband, move to a new town and start over on her own. And then what does she do? She allows herself to be wooed by a man ten years her junior, but not just any man—her lawyer!! Come on! This series spends half the time convincing us that Ann can make it on her own while the other half is spent with her chasing men or asking them for their advice because she's too meek to make up her own mind. And while we're on the subject, no insult to Bonnie Franklin but do we really believe all of these men (David, Schneider, and a whole range of guest stars) find her so irresistible that they're willing to fight each other for her? We're not talking Pamela Anderson here.
It's all kind of a shame. At the time of its original run, this really was a top notch, well-written TV series. It was a Norman Lear production and the writers and directors were all highly experienced in the art of making people laugh. But watching One Day at a Time now, I'm appalled that I ever bought into the series.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I will admit there is some good in the series. Pat Harrington is a scene-stealer and undoubtedly the funniest guy on the show. Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips are both fine actresses who would, eventually, grow into their own. If I'd started with a later season, I might not have ended up as disappointed. In this first season the cast looks uncomfortable and stiff, but after watching the reunion show clips (included in the bonus features) I found myself smiling at scenes from later in the run.
It was a good idea at the time. It was groundbreaking to show a mother having sex with a stranger she just met while warning her daughter not to do the same. It was refreshing to see a cast of normal looking people instead of shiny, polished actresses. And they did address the tough issues of parenting and being parented.
Yes, I was disappointed to find that one of my old favorites wasn't as good as I remembered but I'm not giving up yet. I'll check out future seasons to see if the show can find it's way back into my heart.
Please always remember and don't ever forget…hmm, let me get back to you on that one.
This court finds One Day at a Time: The Complete First Season to be guilty of setting the women's liberation movement back a good ten years.
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Scales of Justice
• "The One Day at a Time Reunion"
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