No one ever said single parenting was easy, and no one ever said teenage girls were a walk in the park. With One Day at a Time, you had both. Ann Romano divorced her husband of seventeen years and headed back to her hometown of Indianapolis to raise her two teenaged daughters—though they were pretty independent already. Inside a homey and yellowishly-decorated apartment, sitcom crises sprung up like weeds, and Romano, as she darted from work crisis to home crisis, did her best. It was Donna Reed, 70’s style—no bra, no maternal omniscience, and no problem letting the world know when she was at the end of her rope.
Naturally, the daughters were opposites in many ways: Julie was the headstrong wild child, and Barbara the sensible and chaste one. When Romano and her girls took a breath from their arguments, there entered Dwayne Schneider, the mustached and tool-belted apartment building superintendent. Never had a fix-it man fixed that little, swaggered that much or bedded this many women—if you believed his tall tales, that is. Norman Lear, the sitcom giant also responsible for staple 1970’s shows like All in the Family and The Jeffersons, produced the show. And like his earlier work, One Day at a Time was known to poke around at realistic family dysfunction and sticky social issues.
As Julie and Barbara grew up, they had their share of boyfriends and teen torments. In 1979, Julie married Max, a male flight attendant, and after her new hubby lost his job, the couple moved into the yellow Romano pad. Later that season, they were both written out of the show as Mackenzie Phillips (Julie) struggled with a real-life drug problem. A few years later, Barbara married dentist Mark, Julie and Max were back on the show with a daughter, and the two Romano daughters moved into a house together. Which is not to say Ann wasn’t busy herself—she had several business partners and several boyfriends, often for just a season. Eventually she married Sam Royer, who was dentist Mark’s dad. Don’t knock it…if your choices were Indianapolis singles bars or the father of your daughter’s husband, you’d do the same thing. The series wound down in 1984, with Ann and Sam moving overseas to London for a great new ad job.
We remember the ‘tight jeans and boots’ look that The One Day at a Time ladies sported, we remember Schneider and his tool belt, and we’ll always remember those glimpses at a family life more realistic than most we saw on TV. Unlike Donna Reed, these ladies actually raised their voices. A lot.
USA / CBS – Norman Lear – TAT / x25 minute episodes / Broadcast 16 December 1975 – 2 September 1984
Creators: Whitney Blake, Allan Manning / Producers: Dick Pensfield, Percy Grant
Bonnie Franklin as Ann Romano Royer
Mackenzie Phillips as Julie Cooper Horvath (1975-80; 1981-83)
Valerie Bertinelli as Barbara Cooper Royer
Pat Harrington, Jr. as Dwayne Schneider
Richard Masur as David Kane (1975-76)
Mary Louise Wilson as Ginny Wrobliki (1976-77)
Charles Siebert as Mr. Jerry Davenport (1976-79)
Michael Lembeck as Max Horvath (1979-80, 1981-84)
Nanette Fabray as Grandma Katherine Romano (1979-84)
Ron Rifkin as Nick Handris (1980-81)
Glenn Scarpelli as Alex Handris (1980-83)
Shelley Fabares as Francine Webster (1981-84)
Boyd Gaines as Mark Royer (1981-84)
Howard Hesseman as Sam Royer (1982-84)