Norman Lear and Rita Moreno on 'One Day at a Time' and the Agony of Death By Data at Netflix (Guest Column)
Two icons weigh in on how their sitcom reboot became a victim of the streaming algorithm: "There’s a lesson here."
Yes, of course we're disappointed that Netflix canceled One Day at a Time. And we fully understand that unless you're the evening news, eventually your show is over and you're on to "next." But if "over" and "next" were connected by a hammock, it would be considered living in the moment, which is where we find ourselves now. As elder statespeople of a business that continues to evolve, we find ourselves struggling to understand the irony of living at a time of supposed transparency — you can find anything on the internet — yet we have no understanding of the data that ultimately led to the cancellation of our beloved show.
It wasn't that the show failed to serve underrepresented audiences or address real-life issues with heart. We're told by critics and fans alike that our show was "smart, funny, and, most crucially, empathetic toward people who rarely get such attention and consideration." We've learned from our younger peers that we have 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and that we should be proud of that! We're assured that we never once failed to advance Netflix's stated commitment to representing diversity in its content — yet, because of the data, we're on to "next."
So we've learned that evidently all the details are in the "data." We get it; corporations are responsible to their stockholders. And one could argue that it's the data — what we've known through the years as Nielsen ratings — that inevitably drives the decision-making process. But something is missing if that is the only criterion for survival of a show, the only data point, the only litmus test. Perhaps media has gone the way of managed care — the focus no longer patient and doctor, but bottom line.
In this golden age of "content," the outlets are innumerable, the content vast. In our day, new technology was a "remote control," needed to navigate only between the big three — yes, only three: ABC, CBS and NBC. Today, our entertainment is no longer tethered to a box on the floor or a screen on the wall. It travels in a pocket and is viewed anywhere, anytime. And conversations don't require a watercooler or telephone but evolve around blurbs punctuated with emojis — texted and tweeted. We're becoming communities of one who cheer our heroes and boo our villains alone. Which we feel is inevitably why we woke up one morning to the news: "Canceled."
There's a lesson here for all of us — content creators, artists and consumers — to speak up. When you find a show you fall in love with, something that matters to you, something that makes you laugh louder and love harder, share it. Scream from the rooftops and swing from the chandeliers talking about it. Join your voice with others before, not after.
It's true, the Alvarez family is still looking for a home. And what we're hearing, according to the "online data," is that there happens to be an enormous audience hoping and praying we succeed.
We're hoping and praying, too — for the beloved fans, our incredible showrunners, Gloria Calderón Kellett and Mike Royce, and our fabulous cast and, of course, for us two old farts who still enjoy waking up and going to work every day.
So here's some final data for your consideration: 183, our combined age, the Jew and the Puerto Rican. And, hey, we're still learning, too.
Seasons 1-3 of One Day at a Time continue to stream on Netflix.
This story first appeared in the April 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.