One Day at a Time deserved way more Emmys love than its one nomination
The Emmy nominations for the 2018-2019 season was a mixed bag for diversity. While there were welcome nods for actors including Sandra Oh, Billy Porter, and much of the cast from When They See Us, this year’s 24 nominations for people of color trailed behind last year’s 38.
A particular disappointment is the near shut-out of beloved sitcom One Day at a Time, save for one editing nomination. The comedy, which aired its third season in February (making it eligible for nomination), was recently saved by Pop TV after being canceled by Netflix in March.
The show deserved a plethora more nominations, especially for the outstanding performances by leads Justina Machado and Rita Moreno, who played the matriarchs of the Alvarez family. In nearly every episode, the actresses succeeded in walking the tightrope of comedy and drama with grace and aplomb. Machado, in particular, gave a captivating performance in a season 3 episode about her character’s anxiety. That she could convey Penelope’s shame, frustration, and tenacity all in 20-something minutes is a testament to Machado’s acting dexterity. As a viewer, the episode made me feel less embarrassed about my own anxiety, and judging by reception, it seems to have resonated with many other fans.
And as for Moreno — well, there’s a reason she’s a living legend. There are few in the biz who are as adept as she is at physical comedy or jazzing up the simplest of lines. And I would argue that Moreno deserves an Emmy just for her dramatic entrances. I mean, who else does it like Lydia Riera (“Elena, that’s how you come out of the closet” she once quipped to her lesbian granddaughter).
We need actresses like Machado and Moreno, especially as actors of color were shunned this year from categories like Lead Actress in Comedy and Supporting Actress in Comedy. Latinx representation is few and far between in the media, and it is vital for people to know that those who look like them can be called up on that stage and snatch awards like the rest of them.
The show is also buoyed by stellar efforts from its other actors, especially Todd Grinnell as Schneider, the Alvarezes’ landlord. The actor and the show’s writers have crafted the trust-fund man-baby into one of the most fully-developed characters in the sitcom landscape. His portrayal this season, especially in the episodes where Schneider deals with the aftermath of his relapse, was a deft demonstration of how to handle addiction story lines with nuance and compassion.
Above all, ODAAT is a pitch-perfect family sitcom with heart and soul. And while some shows decline in quality as seasons progress, the third season only got better in delivering laughs and boundary-pushing conversations. There are few shows like it that make anxiety and alcoholism a recurring topic, instead of just a Very Special Episode. Plus, it’s damn funny (I still chuckle from the Oprah weed joke), and that’s a testament to the writers, showrunners, directors, as well as the actors.
Although Netflix is cagey about releasing numbers, the passion from ODAAT fans (including Lin-Manuel Miranda!) tells us there are many, many people who care about the show. If Schitt’s Creek, a cult hit on a small network like Pop TV can score (deserving) nominations, the same case can be made for One Day at a Time. It deserved to be recognized for its merits, especially as it shined despite Netflix’s lacking promotion for the project.
So 2019 was a somewhat disappointing year for recognition of diverse talent. Let’s hope 2020 will see ODAAT get its dues (especially now that it will be coming to Pop TV).