100 years of lear

By Marc Berman

Contrary to popular belief, Bonnie Franklin as Ann Romano on the original One Day at a Time was not the first divorced female character on a TV series. That distinction goes to legendary “second banana” Vivian Vance on The Lucy Show (1962–68). But One Day at a Time was the first to deal with the issues of raising a family as a divorced woman.

Debuting on December 16, 1975, the show followed the lives of 30-something Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) and her two teenage daughters—Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) and Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli)—as they began a new chapter in Indianapolis. Pat Harrington Jr. was their apartment building superintendent, Dwayne Schneider, who became a personal friend and a surrogate father, of sorts, to the girls. And Richard Masur as David Kane was Ann’s divorce lawyer, whom she was dating.

When Masur asked to depart the series early in Season 2, Mary Louise Wilson as cocktail waitress Ginny Wroblicki was briefly added for comic relief. But Wilson, like Masur, made a quick exit, and the focus remained on the three women, and Schneider, through Ann’s tribulations facing single life and the girls’ young adulthood (including eventual marriage and parenthood).

Dealing With Real Issues

Mackenzie Phillips sits in an overstuffed chair in the living room while Schneider lurks in the background listening at the front door.

One Day at a Time cast members Pat Harrington Jr. as Dwayne Schneider and Mackenzie Phillips as Julie Cooper.

Photo credit: CBS via Getty Images

Like any Norman Lear sitcom, One Day at a Time dealt with real issues: teen runaways, workplace sexism, shoplifting, infertility, etc. And, like any series on the air for a certain number of years, there were cast additions: Michael Lembeck (Max Horvath), Glenn Scarpelli (Alex Handris), Shelley Fabares (Francine Webster), Boyd Gaines (Mark Royer), and Nanette Fabray (Katherine Romano).

The action in the ninth season switched to the two young married couples (and eventually the three young adults after Mackenzie Phillips left the series for the second time) living together, which led CBS to express interest in a two-season renewal. But Franklin decided it was time to move on. At series end, Ann Romano Royer, now married to Mark’s father, Sam (Howard Hesseman), decided to accept a job in London. “Look at you, Mom, all grown up and married,” said Bertinelli’s tearful Barbara as the series concluded.

A New Generation

In 2017, 33 years after its conclusion, Netflix created a reboot of the show. Lear was still onboard, but the focus this time was on a Cuban American family (Justina Machado, Isabella Gomez, Marcel Ruiz, and Rita Moreno). Todd Grinnell played Schneider, Gloria Estefan sang the snazzy, updated theme song, and the series tackled serious issues like immigration, homophobia, gender identity, mental illness, and racism.

After three seasons on Netflix, Pop TV picked up the new One Day at a Time for an abbreviated seven final episodes.

While both the original and the reboot of One Day at a Time showcased a single woman with two children, the first pilot (titled Three to Get Ready) featured Bonnie Franklin’s Ann raising one teen daughter and not two.

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Factoids about One Day at a Time

  • One Day at a Time was created by husband-and-wife acting and writing duo Whitney Blake and Allan Manings. Blake, actor Meredith Baxter’s mother, was best known for playing Dorothy on the 1960s Shirley Booth sitcom, Hazel.
  • The travel agency set where Barbara and Max worked in the final season was later used as Al Bundy’s (Ed O’Neill) shoe store on Married with Children.
  • One week after the series finale of the first version, Pat Harrington Jr. starred in a pilot called Another Man’s Shoes. Here Schneider had left Indianapolis and moved to Florida to take care of his orphaned niece (Natalie Klinger) and nephew (Corey Feldman). The pilot was not picked up.
  • Harrington Jr., who won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1984, also won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television in 1981.

By Marc Berman

I could not believe what I was hearing out of Carroll O’Connor’s mouth the first time I saw All in the Family,” Isabel Sanford once said. Sanford made her first appearance as neighbor Louise Jefferson in the first season episode titled “Lionel Moves into the Neighborhood” (March 2, 1971). “But, at second glance,” she said, “I just fell down laughing. And then I received a call for an audition, initially to play Louise Jefferson’s sister.”

Flash-forward to January 18, 1975, and Archie and Edith’s neighbors—George (Sherman Hemsley), wife Louise (aka “Weezy”), and son Lionel (Mike Evans)— were “movin’ on up to that dee-luxe apartment in the sky” in spinoff The Jeffersons.

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By Marc Berman

If you happen to be a fan of Good Times, you might wonder how Esther Rolle as Florida Evans segued from being Maude Findlay’s (Bea Arthur) housekeeper in suburban Tuckahoe in Maude to living in a housing project in inner-city Chicago on Good Times. Then, of course, there was John Amos, who went from Florida’s husband Henry on Maude to James in Good Times.

Those cast-evolution questions aside, Good Times was yet another hit for Norman Lear, and the first series centered on an African American family with a loving mother and father present. At the heart of the show was the strong bond shared by the Evans family: Florida and James and their children, James Jr., aka “J.J.” (Jimmie Walker); Thelma (Bern Nadette Stanis); and Michael (Ralph Carter). Ja’Net DuBois played Willona Woods, Florida’s next-door neighbor and former schoolmate.

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By Marc Berman

Bea Arthur as Edith Bunker’s cousin Maude Findlay, an outspoken middle-aged liberal woman, the polar opposite of conservative Archie Bunker, was perfect for Lear’s next sitcom after All in the Family.

Originally appearing in the Season 2 All in the Family episode “Cousin Maude’s Visit” (December 11, 1971), Arthur made enough of an impact to return in a backdoor pilot in the season-ending episode on March 11, 1972, titled “Maude.”

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