Penelope Alvarez – One Day At A Time
Don’t mix this smart, quirky One Day At A Time with the ’70s version starring a young Valerie Bertinelli. This modern update features Penelope Alvarez as a quick-witted single mom and former veteran raising her children under the watchful eye of her Cuban mother, Lydia.
Although Rita Moreno as Lydia routinely steals the show, Justina Machado holds her own in every scene. Penelope lives with her mother and two children in a neighborhood in Los Angeles’ Echo Park and is managed by the silly and hapless Schneider.
Penny has a lot on her plate, and she is consistently pulled in about a million different directions. She’s a nurse, but she is also the sole breadwinner for her entire family and suffers from PTSD as a result of her time in the war in Afghanistan. She grapples with her mental illness in a genuine way, not in the dramatized or over-simplified television kind of way.
Although the show is a half-hour comedy, it is as heartfelt and authentic as any “peak TV” drama. Penelope’s oldest child, Elena, came out to her in season 1. It was one of the most well done coming out moments on television. Leave it to Netflix to let its stars shine and not smother them under tired tropes and archetypes.
Penelope and family are one of the only representations of Cuban-Americans on TV currently, and they are incredibly deft at offering insight and understanding. Watching Penelope handle all the things in her life with such grace and balance is incredibly inspiring. It also makes for a hilarious 25 minutes.