Last June, One Day at a Time made TV history when it became the first series to move from a streaming outlet—Netflix, where it ran for three seasons—to a linear network: Pop TV, which picked up the sitcom three months after Netflix had canceled it.
Tonight, the show—a Cuban-American reboot of Norman Lear’s 1975 sitcom, starring Justina Machado and Rita Moreno—will debut in its new linear home for Season 4. One Day at a Time’s season premiere will be simulcast on ViacomCBS sibling networks TV Land and Logo. As part of last year’s deal, the season will also air on CBS after its Pop run. (Only six of Season 4’s 13 episodes were filmed prior to production being shut down amid the spread of COVID-19, and plans for the season’s second half remain up in the air.)
Executive producers and co-showrunners Mike Royce and Gloria Calderón Kellett spoke with Adweek about One Day at a Time’s new lease on life, adjusting to an ad-supported network (bring on the brand partnerships, they say) and how long they want the series to continue.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
It felt like every year, you were fighting publicly to save the show for another season. Were you surprised by Netflix’s decision to cancel it?
Royce: We were surprised because we never in our hearts thought it could happen. They did a little bit of a job laying some groundwork, which is part of the reason we were on social media, like, “Hey, everybody!” But we didn’t know. Mostly spiritually surprised.
You were always optimistic on Twitter about saving the show, but in your heart of hearts, did you really think you would find another home?
Calderón Kellett: There was something in me that maybe was denial, that I just thought, “It doesn’t feel done.” And that just could be, anybody thinks that at the end of their show when they’re not ready, when they didn’t want to end it that way. So there was a part of me that was always optimistic, but it did feel like our show was on life support and every day we were like, “Do we pull the plug? Is it done? Do we weep and say goodbye again?”
Royce: We don’t want to string people along, but it’s still technically possible [that the show could come back], so …
Calderón Kellett: But then we did get that call that it was maybe going to happen, and then looking more likely. It’s not like there was one call that was like, “It’s happening!”
Royce: There was a day where it just turned a corner from, “This is a long shot, but it’s still alive,” to “This shit might happen!” It wasn’t anything definite, but the tonnage started to be like, “Wait a minute, we’re not fooling ourselves? That’s insane!”
What’s it like to be on a network that is incredibly excited about having you and promoting your existence, and going from being a small fish in a huge pond to being a big fish in a very small pond?
Calderón Kellett: I feel like Netflix was like the cool guy, this cool senior that was dating me that when we’d be in public, wouldn’t tell his friends he was dating me. But when we were alone, was so awesome. And Pop feels like the junior that’s not as well-known and is in the band, but he’s fucking telling everybody that I am his woman!
Will you structure the season premiere to welcome new viewers to the show who hadn’t seen it on Netflix?
Calderón Kellett: Yes. There is a delightful device that, for anyone who’s not seen the first three seasons, they can jump on board.
What has it been like to have to write for ad breaks now that you’re on an ad-supported network?
Calderón Kellett: Well, we both came from that. We were literally both on CBS for a long time. So it felt like, “Oh right, OK, cool.”
Season 4 takes place during an election year. You guys have always incorporated the real world into the show in very organic ways. How will you be doing that this year?
Calderón Kellett: We don’t feel like the show is political, or like we’re trying to do an issue a week. It really is, what is happening to a Latinx family right now in America? What are the conversations they’re having? What are things that they’re talking to their kids about?
So being a woman and being a Latina, I guess I’m political by existing. People have things to say about what I can do to my body. People have things to say, mostly white men, about a lot of things that affect me as a woman. So in that regard, we talk about things. It comes from an organic place for us, and we really are hoping that it starts conversations. Our only agenda is to start conversations in people’s houses.
Royce: Pretty much all of the stories, at some point, come from somebody saying, “This happened to me. Here’s a story about my life.” So they are based on all the talented writers we have in the room; they all come from a lot of different backgrounds. We have a lot of Latinx writers. Things come forward. Sometimes they sound more political than others, but they’re always personal.
Have you talked with Pop about potentially doing branded content, which is something they have done with their shows in the past? Is that something you’re open to?
Calderón Kellett: It’s something we’re totally open to. This is a middle-class family. I was always a television viewer that would be like, “What is ‘no brand beer’?” It’s so weird to me. We’ve done stuff before where people have been like, “Do you guys have some sort of partnership with Target? Because you talk about Target a lot.” No! This is a family that goes to Target a lot. This is a family that wears Old Navy and Gap. It’s stuff that is as it would be in life. So for me, that type of partnership makes the most sense. There are certain types of products we use, types of restaurants that we go to. It’s all organic, and so for us that makes sense.
Did you change how you structured this season, knowing it would be released weekly as opposed to dropping all at once on Netflix, so the story will unfold over three months instead of…
Calderón Kellett: Six hours! It would be 6:30 a.m. and we’d have Twitter blowing up saying, “When’s the next season?” We’re like, “What? It just released at midnight!” We’re delighted by that. Delighted that it becomes more of a happening and more of an event and something that people can take into their week.
You are the first streaming show to go from streaming to linear. What do you think about the unusual journey this show has taken?
Calderón Kellett: I think hopefully it just means that with 500 shows, there should be enough to feed all of the people that want content for them. There is a deep starvation for representation, and I really like that there can be people that say “This is meaningful to me,” and somebody will make it because it’s important to them.
Royce: You can never tell now; everything is niche. Every single program. Nobody has a gigantic audience like it used to be. Niche can turn into [something] bigger and bigger. It’s all shifting. One thing we know from Netflix is that our audience went up every year. So we’re hoping to continue that trend.
Now that you have a new lease on life, how long would you like to continue to be able to tell this story?
Calderón Kellett: Many years.
Royce: We want to be where people are like, “Should you do another year?” Like that tone of, “You probably shouldn’t.” [laughs] And then we do three more years.