A Very Special Episode

I’ve been enjoying the second season of One Day at a Time (the 2017 Netflix series). It’s very light, compared to just about everything else that I watch. And it’s very strange watching something filmed in, essentially, the multi-camera sitcom format, given how that format is essentially gone from TV.

In the first season, there were many many scenes in which I could really feel the hand of the writer shaping the structure of the scene. The acting was a little choppy. The second season, the acting is more solid, and I believe the characters a bit better. And it’s cute to see the 21st century equivalent of “very special episodes”. Thus far, we’ve had “Racism in the Shadow of 45’s Administration”, and “Gender Non-Binary People Exist and Confuse the Old People”, and “I Can’t Believe We’re Still Talking about Gun Ownership as an Individual Choice Instead of Actually Changing the Laws.” They’re ham-handedly on topic, but not entirely trite.

Part of my interest is that I used to devour the original series back as a kid. And while I can’t say that it was a good series, I watched it fairly regularly for the first five seasons. I started to lose interest when the core cast broke up (when MacKenzie Phillips was fired for drug issues). I like how the new series is using a re-scored version of the original theme music (although I otherwise find the “family album”-style opening credits underwhelming).

And here’s the thing I’m thinking about now. I watched a lot of TV as a kid (because what else was there to do in Sarnia, except develop a drug habit?), and I loved and consumed anything genre-related, even if it wasn’t very good (I’m looking at you, Star Lost). But when I filled the gaps between the few-and-far-between sf shows, I sought out sitcoms with female leads. One Day at a Time, and Alice, and The Facts of Life, and even Laverne and Shirley, and so forth. The show that feels like it should be on this list, but isn’t, is Mary Tyler Moore, which was approaching the end of its run in the mid-70s, which was when I started asserting my own tastes in TV. And then there’s Maude. One Day at a Time and The Facts of Life were probably the two that really leapt head-first into the “Very Special Episode” formula.

It’s really only just occurring to me now to think about the fact that, as a trans kid in the 70s, I hungered to see depictions of women interacting with other women and supporting each other through the twists and turns of life. And that that was going on at the same time that I was desperately trying to deny that trans-ness.

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