One Day at a Time, the CBS sitcom set in Indianapolis, ran from 1975-84 and since then has been basically gone, if not forgotten. But February is a sweeps month, and viewers tend to flock to reunion shows. So at 9 p.m. Tuesday on WISH (Channel 8), you'll have a chance to get reacquainted with Ann Romano, her daughters, Julie and Barbara, and their building superintendent, Schneider, on The One Day at a Time Reunion. The show brings together Bonnie Franklin, Mackenzie Phillips, Valerie Bertinelli and Pat Harrington for an hour that's as much introspective as retrospective. There's affection, sincerity and a genuine closeness among the principal cast members as they remember their years on the Norman Lear-created series and examine their relationships.
So you'll hear things like Bertinelli saying that she felt more comfortable talking to Franklin about sex than she did talking to her own mother. Franklin: "On set, there was certainly a sense of 'my kids.' " Bertinelli: "I felt that." Phillips: "I felt that too."
To refresh your memory, Franklin played Ann Romano, who moved back to her hometown of Indianapolis after divorcing the father of her teenage daughters. They lived in a downtown high-rise - evidence that the show paid no attention to its setting. Nothing was ever shot here, except for highway signs for the opening credits, and the reunion (much like the series) makes no reference to our fair city.
What was important to the show was what happened inside that high-rise. There, Ms. Romano learned to be an independent woman and her daughters went through teenage growing pains - all under the watchful eye of building maintenance man and would-be ladies' man Schneider.
The opening segment of the reunion show claims One Day at a Time redefined the American family, which of course overstates the case. But the show did reflect a changing culture of divorce and sexuality. (Oddly, the reunion special doesn't delve into the workplace, where one of Ann Romano's bosses condescendingly called her "M. S. Romano" rather than "Ms.")
Because One Day at a Time is stuck in a specific era, it hasn't aged well. Many moments are pure sitcom cheese (the musical numbers in particular), and the reunion takes some glee in pointing out the dated clothing and hairstyles. But there were a surprising number of moments in the series that had genuine heart, especially Ann's battles with rebellious daughter Julie.
As everyone knows, Mackenzie Phillips, who played Julie, was even more out of control than her character. Phillips was written out of the series twice to cope with drug and health problems, and her issues are dealt with honestly in this special. "I grew up in a place where there were no rules ... which did not serve me well," Phillips, who looks great, says in the special. "It was almost comforting to have a mother to tell me what to do."