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'One Day At a Time' will continue addressing serious issues

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'One Day At a Time' will continue addressing serious issues
Justina Machado (L) returns for Season 4 of "One Day At a Time," based on the original series from Norman Lear (R). File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, March 24 (UPI) -- One Day At a Time makes its debut on Pop on Tuesday after three seasons on Netflix. The 2016 series reinvented Norman Lear's original sitcom with a Cuban-American family. Episodes dealt with such issues as workplace sexism, immigration, coming out to one's parents and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Series creators Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce promised to continue to address such issues. They hope Pop's weekly format, versus Netflix's season-long binge, will make One Day At a Time the subject of conversations every week, even if they're not in the workplace.

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"We are going to buy America a water cooler for each home because we want that to be the kind of show," Royce said on a Television Critics Association panel.

Past "water cooler shows" would encourage co-workers to discuss them the following morning at work around the literal or metaphorical water cooler. Dallas' "Who shot J.R.?' provoked water cooler discussion, and episodes of Friends and Seinfeld did, too. Were Ross and Rachel on a break? Did Jerry or George win the contest?

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The streaming world made water cooler shows a bit redundant. Which episode did one discuss at work when you'd binged 10 to 13 of them over the weekend? What did you talk about when your co-workers hadn't caught up. Kellett hopes One Day At a Time brings water cooler talk back.

"We want the week for the conversation," Kellett said. "Mike and I would always joke that at 6 a.m. the following morning after launch, people would be, like, 'We binged the season. When is the next season?' We're like, 'What? It took so long to make that!'

Circumstances will make Season 4 of One Day At a Time last even longer. Producers had to shut down tapings due to the novel coronavirus and California's stay-at-home order. However, some episodes are in the can to run on Pop.

"We feel like we get to sit in the yumminess of each episode week to week and have a conversation just about that," Kellett said. "Our fan base is largely social media based, so we get to stop and talk about each episode with them and then with each other."

Episodes of One Day at a Time are inspired by the writers' families. Those families may be dealing with relevant topical issues, but Kellett does not begin looking for issues to address.

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"People are talking about what is happening in their homes, and that's what we reflect on the show," Kellet said. "So if it feels organic, it's because it's mostly always something that really happened to us or one of the writers in the room."

Justina Machado plays Penelope Alvarez, the mother of Elena (Isabella Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz). Penelope is a military veteran and Machado got to portray her struggle with PTSD and medication for it in past seasons. She also relies on the writers to prepare for her scenes.

"Whenever I have questions, I go and I talk to the person who the story is about," Machado said.

Todd Grinnell plays the Alvarezes' landlord and handyman Schneider. Schneider is a recovering alcoholic, which Grinnell, also a recovering alcoholic, gets to explore in One Day At a Time.

"[Kellett and Royce] are incredibly sensitive and caring and nurturing when it comes to all these stories," Grinnell said. "I admire how diligent they are about making sure that we get it right whenever we talk about any of these things."

Machado will make her directorial debut with a Season 4 episode. It will be a special episode for Rita Moreno, who plays Penelope's mother, Lydia.

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"It's the episode where Lydia is having a religious crisis," Machado said. "I'm very excited to direct this incredible woman and all of these incredible people. I hope they all listen to me."

Kellett added that she assigned Machado a Lydia-centric episode to direct so that they could write Penelope out of much of the episode's action.

"She's also the lead of the show, so we needed to find an episode where we could write her out of it largely," Kellett said.

Moreno teased that an upcoming episode would show the Alvarez family's life in Cuba.

"I cannot wait to see what happens in Cuba," Moreno said. "We are going to get to see Cuba."

Season 4 will also continue to explore the romance between Lydia and Berkowitz (Stephen Tobolowsky), Penelope's boss.

"The course of true love never runs smooth," Tobolowsky said. "I am very much looking forward to what bumps we'll find along the road still to come."

One Day At a Time returns Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on Pop.

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