One Day At A Time
“Locked Down/Work Hard, Play Hard”
Season 2, Episodes 5 & 6
Shag city got shut down by the popo.
Traditional sitcoms – that is those that are multicamera – were very inspirational for modern comedies. This fact is compounded especially for the shows that originated back in the 80’s and 90’s. Almost always, shows would follow the more or less the same format. A family or tightknit group of friends took center stage. Extended cast a la nosy neighbors or estranged family members would round out the cast over the years. Stories always repeated themselves; it just mattered how shows played with the format. And “ A Very Special” episodes – ones focusing on drugs or alcohol or sex – had not-so-hidden messages ready for the audience to gobble up. One of the main characters or one of their friends would find themselves in a pickle and the other cast members would reflect on how the event could have impacted them forever. Very special episodes aren’t really prevalent now (the tremendously wonderful Crazy Ex-Girlfriend actually had one this past season and it went over well) but they’re foundations of the sitcom world.
One Day At A Time, a show built off of the husk of another and unafraid to skirt sappy territory, finally had its own “A Very Special” episode in “Locked Down.” It was, admittedly, sloppy to see the episodes’ first two thirds get thrown out in favor of the choppy gun control debate addition but it paid off in emotional dividends. How can a show not come off as trite with the subject matter if it’s trying to tell four other stories while also being a pseudo-bottle episode? The simple answer is it can’t. As stated before, two episodes are taking place for the duration of the 30 or so minutes. Credited writers Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit ultimately nail both sets of stories but their execution of transition is lacking. It feels as if there’s a halt to the action when Lydia mentions in passing she has a gun. The audience stops laughing, the jokes stop flying and the characters get deathly serious. There’s nothing wrong with it per se; it’s just a shame that it was done without a smoother motion.
That being said, the emotions on display in the latter act of “Locked Down” are the truest, most tender moments ever put into a sitcom period (until later in the season). When Penelope confronts her mother on the elderly woman having a gun in the house only to herself be confronted by Alex, it triggers a bolt reaction not just from the studio audience but the regular viewer as well. In one swift instance, Samit and Hernandez paint Penelope as the bad guy; the one who could be a cause of harm for the very family (she later confesses this as a fear in this seasons’ “Hello, Penelope).
On the other side of the spectrum is “Work Hard, Play Hard” which comes off as silly when packaged with “Locked Down”’s story. Elena and Alex are told to get summer jobs (by the way, it’s summer now; the timeline in this show is the worst thing about it) so the eldest starts streaming video games on Twitch and the youngest is forced to work with his mother. For once, Alex gets to see what his mother has to put up with. Sometimes she has Rockstar days with compliments from patients as the icing on the cake. But, of course, all good things come to an end when a hypochondriac patient accuses Penelope of wasting his insurance payment and ultimately heads to another doctor. He berates her, screaming disheveled nonsense in her face with Alex a mere few feet away. This patient singularly ruins Penelope’s day and even rattles Alex. What’s interesting is this happens all the time. She does so much for the family that she can’t bring home the fact that sometimes patients are jerks. But having Alex in the same room must have added a new layer of embarrassment. To be yelled at in front of your child – for nothing that’s in your control – cannot be the best feeling.
Elena’s Twitch B-story is a good interstitial between the doctor bits. Sitcoms can only do so much to get the point across on certain subjects and credited writer Andy Roth can only paint so much of the complete picture. For instance, Elena is supposedly livestreaming her gameplay but she’s using a video camera that’s hooked up to nothing. Both she and Schneider rapidly press buttons yet there is no console game on the face of the Earth that requires buttons to be pressed that quickly for that long. Also Elena is depicted as not having showered for days on end and using the bathroom every 10 hours…that’s just lazy writing. Gamer stereotypes have been out since Drake and Josh’s GameSphere. At least there were some great one liners to come from it and the live audience was really feeling them too. Below are a couple of my favorites.
Lydia: "Are you going to sit on that couch eating junk food and watching TV all day or are you going to be an American?"
Alex: "I got some money; I spent some money. What are we doing here?"
Should you watch “Locked Down” and “Work Hard, Play Hard?”
Yes! I also forgot to mention the lunch joke from Lydia with three sandwiches and two halves of a rotisserie chicken. Roth can write visual humor.