“One Day at a Time” made its season four debut on Pop TV Tuesday night and to no one’s surprise, the show came back with the same heart and spunk as its previous three seasons. The beloved show follows one Cuban-American household and its three generations as they navigate real-world social topics, LGBTQ themes, love, tradition, gender politics, class difference, and mental health, among other things. The show was at risk last year when its previous home with Netflix did not renew it for another season. Airing now as a weekly show on Pop TV has granted the family comedy a new life, along with a slimmed-down airtime of 22 minutes.
Moving homes from Netflix after a sudden cancellation even made its way into a playful quick jab at the streaming platform. “It’s like there’s nothing good on Netflix anymore,” Alex (Marcel Ruiz) says as the family gets ready for movie night. Right from the start, “One Day at a Time,” from creators Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, settles into season four with a friendly visit from the census worker, played by guest star Ray Romano. Here to check some essential boxes, Romano’s Brian knocks door-to-door, and after getting it slammed in his face by Penelope (Justina Machado) is finally able to ask the bunch a few key questions by way of Elena’s (Isabella Gomez) dutiful welcome. The introduction comes at a time when Americans will be surveyed for the census, making it a pointed reminder to participate however you can to be heard and recorded.
Entering the frame is Rita Moreno’s Lydia in untired, unfettered fashion from beyond her curtain. Lydia remains one of the show’s best laughs with every stroke of genius response to the world around her. As well as the show continues on track to be as good as always, it also welcomes back old feelings for Penelope’s arc. The top of the episode, checking the single box, reminded her that although she is a “strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man,” as everyone likes to tell her, she still yearns for a romantic human connection in her life. Last season finale, she saw her ex-husband get married, all the while feeling something has got to give in her romantic life. She is reminded of the thought that she needs no one, knowing how individually strong she is and how it has always set an excellent example for both Alex and Elena. But Penelope’s long-gestating need for love and comfort in a partner seems to be at a grand standstill.
The first episode sees Penelope coming to terms with her needs and admitting that maybe she looks to reach out to her ex, Max (Ed Quinn), whom she keeps seeing at every moment during a blind date. Their relationship fell through in the earlier seasons when Max told Penelope he still wants to have children of his own to raise with someone. While Penelope feels out at the thought of having more children, she and Max had to eventually part, as they had different visions for their lives. It posed as Penelope’s most mature romantic interest in the show, inferring that maybe something will give with Max and sparks will fly.
Elena, still in a relationship with Sid (Sheridan Pierce), is hoping to be accepted at Yale. As they try to be socially practical, the two vow to “not be those couples” and consider splitting before Elena’s eventual move. But, as Alex likes to remind them of their inseparable tendencies, the two decide to stick it out for the long run and see how things go. Their relationship to this point has been an incredible, nerdy nurture to viewers, and seeing them face some more significant adult milestones is surely a storyline to look out for. The show has always carefully and lovingly made Elena’s presence as a queer young woman a pivotal part of the show, utilizing her character to thoughtfully inform others and checks any toxic masculinity from any men and leaves it at the door. The season looks to shake things up for her even more now.
Probably more than anything, the newest introduction to the show is Alex’s big reveal at the end of the episode when he shares he has a girlfriend named Nora. “What?!” Lydia says, shocked from the curtains. Ruiz’s Alex has undergone the most significant transformation since season one, aging up throughout the seasons and becoming a teenager with increasingly more script work now as he ventures into more adult themes of the show. All his life, he has been doted by his Abuelita, who overbears him with love and showers him with kisses and all the benefit of the doubt in the world. It may even be a more considerable feat to impress the grandma here than any traditional American scenario of a boy meeting his girlfriend’s father. To Lydia, it’s new territory to see her Papito’s time engulfed by a new lady, but time will tell in the next episodes with how she deals with the news.
“One Day at a Time” is back and better than ever. With a tightened script and new time slot, the format of the show may be exciting to gestate as fans as it moves along. The new season premiered just at a time when the world is looking for comfort at home. Many don’t know how to process some of the bigger changes in the world at the moment, but this show knows how to alleviate our worries for just a few moments as it continues to reel out new laughs, lessons, and great times.