Retro Recommendations: One Day at a Time (1975-84)

Written Conjuring Independent Women by Bridger Cunningham

Image result for one day at a time TV GuideToday marks the 2nd season premiere of Netflix piece One Day at a Time.  Inspired, original and critically-acclaimed.  One part of that sentence is false, as 2017's One Day at a Time as a reboot of an original Norman Lear piece from 1975 on CBS.  Lear, ruling the CBS airwaves with his social relevance sitcoms, decided to do a sitcom about a divorced family.  Sounds like common fodder for today's world, but divorce was scandalous during this era.  So much so, employers would ask the question "Have You Ever Been Divorced?" on job applications prior to 1988.  Either way, One Day at a Time became one of CBS' most durable players from the mid 1970's-mid 1980's, surviving timeslot, format and cast changes.  One Day at a Time traipsed the top of the Nielsen lineup, landing in the top 20 for majority of its seasons and finishing in 44th place during its declining last season.
Image result for valerie bertinelli TV Guide
Image result for valerie bertinelli TV GuideImage result for one day at a time TV GuideOne Day at a Time followed recent divorcee Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) as she struggled to raise two teenage daughters in Indianapolis and start over in a tiny apartment.  16-year old Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) was a typecast teenager, screeching at her mother with every act of defiance.  Younger daughter Barbara (Valerie Bertenelli) was tomboyish and the more level of the two girls.

Add quirky handyman/super Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington) to the mix, and the dynamic was formed as he was a surrogate male head of the household/building looking after his beloved tenants.  ODAAT was known for its frequent cast changes, most notably the frequent coming and going of Phillips.  Behind the scenes, the embattled young actress was entrenched in a crippling drug addiction and was fired in 1980.  She subsequently returned in 1981 and again fired early in the final season in 1983.

Image result for valerie bertinelli TV GuideSeveral notable players came and went throughout the show's run, keeping an adaptable format.  Franklin's character evolved through three romantic leads, all with contracts -- David Kane (Richard Masur) from 1975-76, Nick Handris (Ron Rifkin) from 1980-81, and Sam Royer (Howard Hessman) from 1982-84.  Aside from these leads, several recurring characters upgraded their statuses during the run, such as Nanette Fabray as Anne's mother Katherine.  And of course, what is a female-centric show without an antagonistic foil, as Shelley Fabares traipsed the later seasons as conniving business counterpart Francine Webster.  Ann and Francine's barbed rivalry often peppered clever, biting insults such as "If I'm a witch, we rhyme."  Or "It's just business," followed by a return insult of "the oldest."

One Day at a Time was one of Lear's leading social relevance pieces, taking on contemporary issues such as sexual harassment, adultery, teenage runaways, depression, infertility and health ailments.The series created a lucrative career launchpad for its star, Valerie Bertenelli.  And of course, a plethora of TV Guide covers for the entire cast!  One Day at a Time is streaming online, as well as on Antenna TV.  Take a peek back and enjoy an antique which can relate to today's modern world, as independent women never go out of style.


Bonnie Franklin (Ann Romano Royer)
Mackenzie Phillips (Julie Cooper Horvath) 1975-80; 1981-83.
Valerie Bertenelli (Barbara Cooper Royer)
Pat Harrington (Dwayne Schneider)
Richard Masur (David Kane) 1975-76
Mary Louise Wilson (Ginny Wroblicki) 1976-77
Michael Lembeck (Max Horvath) 1979-80, 1981-84
Ron Rifkin (Nick Handris) 1980-81
Glenn Scarpelli (Alex Handris) 1980-83
Nanette Fabray (Katherine Romano) 1978-84
Shelley Fabares (Francine Webster) 1978-84
Boyd Gaines (Mark Royer) 1982-84
Howard Hessman (Sam Royer) 1982-84

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