Tuesday, March 24, 2020

REVIEW: 'One Day at a Time' - Penelope Contemplates What the Future Has in Store for Her and the Family in 'Checking Boxes'

Pop's One Day at a Time - Episode 4.01 "Checking Boxes"

After a census taker comes to the house, the Alvarez family reflects on their relationships, and what else the future may, or may not, have in store.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Pop's One Day at a Time.

"Checking Boxes" was written by Gloria Calderón Kellett & Mike Royce and directed by Pamela Fryman

The comedy returns for its fourth season on a new home. Netflix cancelled the show after three seasons but Pop picked it up for a fourth. It was the first time a show has originated on a streaming service and moved to a cable outlet after being cancelled. It hasn't happened since. It may never happen again. This show may just be special in that way. It's fascinating to see how it makes that transition as well. There is no longer time for the full title sequence. The episode is cut down to a brisk 21 minutes. The season has to start with a grand reintroduction of the characters and their relationships to one another. The show actually has a smart idea for going about that as well. It can detail the personal dynamics of the Alvarez family while also highlighting the importance of being counted in the Census - especially for communities of color. It depicts the understandable fear that this information could be used to target these families. They are right to be skeptical. But it's also just silly fun to see how many people are constantly hanging out in Penelope's apartment who don't actually live there. It's just the four members of the Alvarez family but Schneider, Dr. B and Syd are frequently present. Those relationships mean something and it's just a fun way to start the season while featuring a nice appearance by Ray Romano. It establishes these relationships right before challenging them. The previous season finale articulated that professional accomplishes were more important for Penelope than any personal relationship. It was a huge achievement that she became a nurse practitioner. She worked hard for that promotion and fully achieved it. She didn't need her life to be defined by who she was dating or who she was in love with. That didn't need to be the sole barometer of success. She explained that over and over again. And yet, she lives in a world that still sees people as needing to be with someone in order to be perceived as happy. Penelope may want that as well. She is allowed to want more than one thing. Her mind is allowed to change over time. Sure, the previous finale teased a possible reunion between her and Max. It's now clear that those thoughts will continue. It proves that her relationship with Mateo really wasn't as significant as they both wanted it to be. She was more focused on her career and education. With Max though, it was a major relationship that ended because they wanted different things. This premiere doesn't feature their reunion. It just further highlights how much she misses him or at least the thought of being seen and loved fully by another person. Her family knows how to say the right things about being a strong, independent woman. Lydia also knows how to make Penelope feel as if she will die sad and alone. The perfect balance is in between. That may be what Penelope is striving for now that she has accomplished her career goal. That should be very interesting to watch as the season continues. Meanwhile, Elena and Syd are realizing just how much they have come to depend on each other in their daily lives. They understand that they shouldn't be this invested in a relationship while they are still in high school. It never works out in the long run. They are already planning their breakup. Preparing for things to end badly isn't the proper way to approach a relationship though. It may block people from truly investing in any kind of future together. They shouldn't be worried about that right now even though college will likely linger throughout Elena's stories this year as she is faced with the first prospect of preparing for her own future outside of the family. Things change and evolve. Right now, Elena and Syd are happy together. They should just embrace that. Sure, they may annoy Alex with their uncertainties. However, he can surprise the family just as easily as everyone else. That is especially true with the last minute reveal that he too has a girlfriend. Seeing Lydia cope with that should be a delight as she is already freaking out about the prospect of sharing him with someone else. This family is growing up. Their lives are changing. Schneider has asked Avery to move in with him. But there is also the reassurance throughout this premiere that the Pop iteration of the series will be just as charming as the Netflix version was. That is all that the loyal audience could have hoped for even if the future remains uncertain for a cable network currently undergoing a rebranding of its scripted portfolio.