Plot: Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) is fresh off a divorce, looking to build a new life with her two teenage daughters, Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli) and Julie (Mackenzie Phillips). The chance at a new start is intoxicating, but the reality isn’t quite as much fun to experience. Ann is struggling with financial issues, various parenting concerns, and of course, being single and wanting that romantic connection again. But the world is a much different place than when she was last single, so she has to adjust to those changes, not to mention the lack of time, between work and her daughters. And teen girls can be quite a handful, especially Julie, who seems to be boy crazy and always on the brink of trouble. Meanwhile, her building’s super Schneider (Pat Harrington, Jr.) tries to offer his support, though that often involves poorly timed romantic pleas or questionable advise on various topics. But regardless of the problems, Ann pushes on, determined to make a better life for her family.
Entertainment Value: One Day at a Time stumbled a little out of the blocks, but would soon correct course and become a popular sitcom. Norman Lear’s spin on the life of a single mother, One Day at a Time presents an obvious female perspective on all of the issues, but the entertainment and resonance is universal. Ann is rough around the edges, but easy to connect with and relate to, especially given how driven she is to provide a good life for her daughters. A fair amount of the stories involve dating woes, but more of them involve family issues and broader topics. The show deals with a lot of social issues that were timely when the show was broadcast, but come off as dated or mild now. But it also remains topical and relevant in many ways, especially with how women are treated in the workplace and in a broader social sense. So yes, it is a little dated, but few television shows can avoid that, in all fairness. The show’s 70s (and later 80s) style will delight those who cherish those decades, as they capture that window of time quite well in most aspects. I think the show remains a lot of fun to watch, despite some inconsistent stretches, but with nine seasons, that is to be expected. A brisk, fun show that sometimes dips into more substantial social issues, One Day at a Time is a more than capable sitcom series.
The cast here is well chosen, with Bonnie Franklin in the lead as our strong, at times out of her element Ann Romano. I’ve heard a lot of stories about Franklin’s on set temper leading to problems, but her performance is solid throughout the series and she is a solid anchor. She plays off the others well, especially those in the close inner circle of the cast, but also the one off characters. She is sometimes overshadowed or lost a little when she isn’t the core of a narrative, but she is also a consistent, solid performer who helps keep the show centered. Mackenzie Phillips is fun as Julie, despite her endless personal issues that plagued her around this time. She would be removed from the cast twice, but when she is around, I think she is a great part of the troupe. Valerie Bertinelli is good, but isn’t often given substantial material to work with. But when she is given a good chunk of story, she tends to shine. When it comes to stealing scenes however, Pat Harrington, Jr. takes the cake as awkward, sometimes creepy super, Schneider. He is an ideal foil for Ann’s determined female presence, but he is often held back out of stories and just unleashed to get some big laughs. The writing is often silly for his role, but it works and his appearances are almost always hilarious, if wildly inappropriate. With nine seasons and over two hundred episodes, One Day at a Time had a great run and for sitcom fans, remains a fun, worthwhile show.