STORY WRITTEN BY ROB LOWMAN
Southern California News Group
Last week, just before Netflix dropped the 13-episode “One Day at a Time,” the legendary television producer Norman Lear talked about reviving his 1975 sitcom with a Cuban-American family.
“It can’t be compared to another show,” says Lear, now 94, the man behind such TV classics as “All in the Family,” “Good Times” and “Maude.” “She was the first divorced woman on television with children — raising children alone.”
The original series ran nine seasons and starred Bonnie Franklin as Ann. In the new one, Justina Machado (“Queen of the South”) plays Penelope, an Army veteran with three children. Rita Moreno, the 84-year-old screen and stage star, is her mother.
Lear says that he and his co-creators — Mike Royce and Gloria Calderon Kellett — of the new version did not look at any of the scripts from the old show when creating the new one.
“This show is altogether different from the original. It enjoys the same title,” insists the producer, “but it’s utterly unique.”
He insists that it’s not simply about the fact that the family is Latino.
“There is no family of any other stripe or color or religion that you can’t relate to because of our common humanity.”
Kellett, whose parents came here in 1962 as teens from Cuba, based the show on her own family experience. She credits Lear and Royce for getting the series made.
“People listened, because these very talented men told them to,” she said.
Before Lear took over the TV landscape in the 1970s, few sitcoms ever took on topical or social issues. Since then, you can see the producer’s influence in such shows as ABC’s “Black-ish” or NBC’s “The Carmichael Show.”
In fact, Lear visited the “Black-ish” set last year, and while talking with the writers inspired an episode about gender roles. Later in the season, the show paid tribute to Lear with an episode that parodied “Good Times.”
As for the new “One Day at a Time,” Lear says, “You know Mike and Gloria and the writers have tackled some very serious stuff here. It’s a comedy and it plays like it because the actors are so great and the writing is so terrific. But they touch a lot of bases that go to the common humanity we’re speaking about very deeply.”
Contact Rob Lowman at firstname.lastname@example.org or @RobLowman1 on Twitter.