×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Netflix Canceled ‘One Day at a Time’ in the Most Frustrating Way Possible (Column)

A month after dropping the third season of “One Day at a Time,” Netflix announced that it won’t be renewing the acclaimed series for a fourth. It wasn’t a huge surprise; the scrappy family sitcom has been fighting for its life since day one, doing its best to stand out amidst Netflix’s increasingly enormous tidal waves of content. And yet every season found the show up against the wall, forced to justify its own existence by pointing out just how groundbreaking its heartfelt depiction of a Latinx family truly is and could continue to be, if Netflix would keep putting its money where its mouth is.

Canceling its own shows is Netflix’s right (and not for nothing, “One Day at a Time” being produced by Sony and not Netflix proper certainly had to be a factor, whether the streamer will admit it or not). But the way in which this particular cancellation unfolded in light of Netflix’s recent push to tout its commitment to diversity represented the company at its most frustrating.

There’s so much to be frustrated about with this cancellation. First, there’s the basic fact of its singularity in the vast (and vastly repetitive) TV landscape, now snuffed out unless Sony can successfully shop the series to another network. (For what it’s worth, the odds of this seem low; Netflix exclusively owns the licensing rights to the first three seasons and is unlikely to give those up.) Based on Norman Lear’s 1970’s sitcom of the same name, and boasting the legendary producer as an integral creative voice, “One Day at a Time” is smart, funny, and, most crucially, empathetic toward people who rarely get such attention and consideration.

Justina Machado’s Penelope, an army veteran struggling with anxiety and depression while single-handedly supporting her family, is a mother figure that TV rarely represents. Her daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez) came out as gay in the first season, and subsequently became one of the most realistic and grounded teen lesbians to ever grace TV. And if all that doesn’t convince you of the show’s worth, perhaps Rita “EGOT” Moreno will, since her every flamboyant entrance has more spark than most comedies are lucky to find within an entire season.

Over three seasons, “One Day at a Time” tackled racism, addiction, citizenship, mental health, and the evolution of LGBTQ acceptance with astonishing nuance — and it did so while centering working class Latinx characters who almost never get to be the stars of their own stories. At a time when racist dog whistles dominate political debate and demonizing Latinx people is par for the course, “One Day at a Time” provided a respite that isn’t just a relief, but a necessity.

Netflix understood the cultural significance of the show. As co-showrunner Gloria Calderon Kellett tweeted shortly after the third season premiered in February, the company “made clear that they love the show, love how it serves underrepresented audiences, love its heart & humor, but…we need more viewers.”

From there, Calderon Kellet, her co-showrunner Mike Royce, and the cast embarked on an earnest social media campaign to drum up attention for the show. The swell of support was heartwarming, but it was startling and frankly depressing to watch them take Netflix’s job into their own hands. They were, in essence, forced to beg the internet for their jobs while Netflix keeps trumpeting its diverse bonafides in order to prove the platform’s power.

But as per Netflix, that campaign was unsuccessful, and the show’s apparently soft numbers ultimately led to its definitive cancellation. Both chief content officer Ted Sarandos and the main Netflix Twitter account emphasized the relative lack of viewers in their statements on the cancellation, concluding that “simply not enough people watched to justify another season.” Of course, we’ll probably never know what “not enough people” means, since Netflix never releases specific numbers to the public unless it’s to say that a show or movie is “on track” to garner 40 million viewers. But every network is well within its rights to cancel or renew a show based on its ratings, and if “One Day at a Time” didn’t make the grade, that is sadly that.

Still: even while canceling the show, Netflix tried to have its cake and eat it, too. Its overly familiar Twitter thread breaking the news to its millions of followers waxed poetic about how heartbroken viewers shouldn’t “take this as an indication your story is not important.” It even insisted that “the outpouring of love for this show is a firm reminder to us that we must continue finding ways to tell these stories” in the same breath in which it was shutting those stories down. 

I don’t doubt that there are many Netflix employees who are “One Day at a Time” fans who are just as upset about the cancellation as the rest of us, and I’m genuinely thrilled at how many non-white and LGBTQ creators the company has lifted up over the years. But in trying to couch this cancellation in saccharine rhetoric about how important “One Day at a Time” truly is, Netflix comes off more condescending and disingenuous than anything else. No matter what its Twitter accounts would have us believe, Netflix can’t “yas, werk diversity!” its way out of being a corporation that puts numbers (whatever they are) first. 

Related: 

More TV

  • Mediapro Unveils The Mediapro Studio, With

    Spain's Mediapro Unveils New Studio, With 34 Series in Production (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Mediapro Group – the Barcelona-based multinational co-founded by Jaume Roures – is unveiling The Mediapro Studio, with 34 scripted series already in production worldwide. The new production company will be based in Fuencarral, northern Madrid, just a few miles from Netflix’s soon-to-open European production hub. It will be overseen by Javier Méndez as chief [...]

  • BBC Drama and Comedy Box Sets

    BBC Drama and Comedy Box Sets Coming to Sky, Now TV

    BBC Studios and Sky have joined forces to add a raft of catalogue comedy and drama from the pubcaster to the Sky platform and its Now TV streaming service. The deal kicks in next month and includes dramas “McMafia” and “Spooks” and classic BBC comedies “The Vicar of Dibley” and “Only Fools and Horses.” The [...]

  • Jim PackerPRESS PLAY: Variety Home Entertainment

    FilMart: Jim Packer Says Liongate Ready to Support Starz Global Rollout

    A keynote speaker at Hong Kong’s FilMart this week, Jim Packer, Lionsgate’s president of worldwide TV and digital distribution, shares plans to support Starz’ international expansion. And he recounts his experience of watching Netflix change up through the gears. Back in 2012, when Lionsgate was still casting “Orange is the New Black,” Jim Packer, Lionsgate’s [...]

  • Hong Kong's TVB Boosts OTT Plans,

    Hong Kong's TVB Boosts OTT Plans, Sets 'Court Lady'

    Hong Kong’s Television Broadcasts is set to boost its OTT platforms locally and abroad with new packages and initiatives targeting the Southeast Asian market. The city’s biggest broadcaster has also renewed its partnership with China’s Huanyu Entertainment following the wild success the two enjoyed last year with palace drama “Story of Yanxi Palace.” The new [...]

  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

    Stephen Colbert Cancels 'Late Show' New Zealand Trip After Mosque Shootings

    “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” had been scheduled to make a surprise trip to New Zealand this week — but those plans have been put on hold in light of last Friday’s terrorist attack that left 50 people dead. On Monday’s show, Colbert revealed the now-shelved trip, which had been kept under wraps but [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Hollywood Agents, Writers Guild Make Little Progress in Talks

    Leaders of Hollywood agencies and the Writers Guild of America made little progress in Tuesday meeting to negotiate proposed rule revisions to how agents represent writers. The WGA said after the meeting — the fifth since Feb. 5 — that talks would resume later this week but did not give a specific day. “The Agencies [...]

  • THE MASKED SINGER: L-R: Monster (T-Pain)

    New-Model Murdochs: Fox Corporation to Emerge Tuesday

    A new era for the Murdoch clan and the media business begins with the debut of Fox Corporation on Tuesday, a day before Disney completes its acquisition of 21st Century Fox. The new-model Fox will begin trading Tuesday on the NASDAQ under the FOXA symbol. On Tuesday, 21st Century Fox will initiate a complex transfer [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content