One Day at a Time

One Day at a Time
One Day at a Time
One Day At A Time title screen.jpg
The title screen, used during the later seasons
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Genre Sitcom
Created by Whitney Blake
Allan Manings
Directed by Norman Campbell
Hal Cooper
Selig Frank
Bonnie Franklin
Herbert Kenwith
Sandy Kenyon
Howard Morris
Noam Pitlik
Alan Rafkin
Don Richardson
Tony Singletary
Starring Bonnie Franklin
Mackenzie Phillips
Valerie Bertinelli
Pat Harrington
Richard Masur
Mary Louise Wilson
Michael Lembeck
Nanette Fabray
Glenn Scarpelli
Shelley Fabares
Boyd Gaines
Theme music composer Jeff Barry
Nancy Barry
Opening theme "This Is It" performed by Polly Cutter
Ending theme "This is It" - Instrumental
Composer(s) Jeff Barry
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 9
No. of episodes 209 (List of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Dick Bensfield
Jack Elinson
Perry Grant
Mort Lachman
Norman Lear
Alan Rafkin
Bud Wiseman
Producer(s) Dick Bensfield
Patricia Fass Palmer
Perry Grant
Katherine Green
Allan Manings
Bud Wiser
Running time 24 min
Original channel CBS
Picture format standard
Audio format Monaural
Original run December 16, 1975 (1975-12-16) – May 28, 1984 (1984-05-28)

One Day at a Time is an American situation comedy on the CBS network that aired from December 16, 1975 until May 28, 1984. It portrays Ann Romano, a divorced mother, played by Bonnie Franklin, her two teenage daughters Julie and Barbara Cooper (Mackenzie Phillips, Valerie Bertinelli) and Schneider, their building superintendent (Pat Harrington).

The show was created by Whitney Blake and Allan Manings, a husband-and-wife writing duo who were both actors in the 1950s and 1960s. The show was based on Whitney Blake's own life as a single mother, raising her child, future actress Meredith Baxter.[1] The show was developed by Norman Lear and was produced by T.A.T. Communications Company (1975–1982), Allwhit, Inc., and later Embassy Television (1982–1984).

Like many shows developed by Lear, One Day at a Time was more of a comedy-drama, using its half-hour to tackle serious issues in life and relationships, particularly those related to second wave feminism. The earlier seasons in particular featured several multi-part episodes, serious topics, and dramatic moments. As in other Lear shows of the era, the show was shot on videotape in front of a live audience, giving it a sense of immediacy, and close-ups were often employed during dramatic scenes. As the social climate changed in the 1980s, the show's writing became less edgy, and as the girls became adults, the innovation of the original premise — a divorced mother raising teenage children — was lost. The show's nine years give it the second-longest tenure of any Lear-developed sitcom under its original name, after The Jeffersons. (All in the Family and its continuation series Archie Bunker's Place had a combined 13-year run, but only eight of those years were under the show's original name.)

Franklin's character, Ann Romano, is often incorrectly cited as network television's first female divorcee as a regular series character (Vivian Vance's character on The Lucy Show in the early 1960s had been divorced).



The show starred Broadway character and former child actress Bonnie Franklin as Ann Romano, a woman who, echoing sentiments common to the 1970s, felt that she had always been either someone's daughter, wife, or mother and wanted to "find herself." She divorces her adulterous husband (played occasionally by veteran actor Joseph Campanella) and moves from Logansport to Indianapolis with her two daughters, seventeen-year-old Julie (Mackenzie Phillips), the older, more rebellious one, and the more mature fifteen-year-old Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli). The theme of the series rests on Ann's desire to prove that she can live and raise her children independently. However, during the first season, Ann is courted by steady boyfriend/lawyer, David Kane (Richard Masur).

Pat Harrington, Jr. as Schneider, 1976.

She is helped by Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington), the superintendent of Ann's apartment building who is often referred to only by his last name. His "drop-in" visits are so frequent that he is effectively an unofficial member of the family. One of Schneider's running gags is his attempts to hide that his middle name is "Florenz" (pronounced "Florence", in honor of Florenz Ziegfeld). Another running gag involving Schneider revolves around his fanatical obsession with his tool belt. Schneider also frequently hits on Romano, employing clumsy double entendres she breezily rebuffs.

During this time period the show reflected a trend found in other shows such as Barney Miller, M*A*S*H, Good Times and All in the Family in its mixture of a sitcom format with elements more commonly associated with drama series or made-for-TV movies of the week, including multi-week storylines dealing with social issues, including:

Pre-marital sex: Teenager Julie wrestles with the question of losing her virginity when her boyfriend, Chuck, wants to go "all the way" with her. After much self-examination, she decides against it. This subject was brought up in a later episode with Barbara facing that problem.

Teen runaways: In a four-part episode at the beginning of the second season, Julie gets into a heated argument with Ann about how she should live her life as an adult and turns to her boyfriend, Chuck, for support. She and Chuck end up running away from home and having to live in Chuck's truck and then in an old, abandoned home. Schneider eventually manages to find them via CB radio. Julie and Chuck soon find themselves robbed and having to seek aid from Barbara.

Age disparity in relationships: In a four-part episode during the third season entitled "The Older Man," Julie is dating a man more than twice her age, much to Ann's consternation. When the couple comes home from a date very late one night, Ann berates the man, but when Julie gets in Ann's face ("You lonely, Ma? You want him??"), Ann angrily slaps her. (The slap loudly hit full in Phillips' face, causing a shocked reaction from the studio audience.)

Suicide: In a two-part episode during the third season, a new girl at school begins hanging around Barbara incessantly. When Barbara shuns the girl because she finally got on her nerves, the girl attempts suicide by drug overdose. Though she survives, it is revealed her problems go much deeper, owing to, among other things, a neglectful mother.

Birth control: When Ann confronts Barbara about "the pill", Barbara says that she's not on the pill, but just wanted guys to think she was. Ann replies, "If they think you are, you'd better be."

Infidelity: Julie moves back home with her new fiance and his friend Max in tow. As the two men leave, Ann and the others inadvertently catch Julie secretly kissing Max goodbye and exchanging 'I-love-yous'.

Sexual harassment: Barbara decides to fight back against a teacher who makes a blatant pass at her. She later finds out he made similar advances to a classmate. Initially, the two decide to expose him, but the classmate backs out at the last minute.


The basic setup of the show underwent many convoluted twists.

After her divorce, Ann Romano (formerly Cooper; she resumed use of her maiden name, while her children kept their father's) and her daughters move from Logansport, Indiana, into an Indianapolis apartment building and Ann gets a job as an account executive at the advertising firm of Conners & Davenport (Mr. Conners was played by John Hillerman, Mr. Davenport by Charles Siebert). In the beginning of the second season, David proposes to Ann, but she turns him down; David leaves to work as a lawyer in Los Angeles. That same year, a wisecracking neighbor is added, Ginny Wrobliki (Mary Louise Wilson), as Schneider's love interest; however, she lasts only one season (it was later reported that Bonnie Franklin had Wilson fired from the show, blaming her for being upstaged).[citation needed]

During the fifth (1979–80) season, Julie gets married and later moves to Houston with her flight-attendant husband Max Horvath (Michael Lembeck); this plot device was written in so that Mackenzie Phillips could undergo drug rehabilitation. This season also sees the introduction of Ann's mother, Grandma Katherine Romano (Nanette Fabray).

In the sixth (1980–81) season, Ann leaves her advertising job, rather than relocate to another city, and starts a freelance business with Nick Handris (Ron Rifkin). They become romantically involved, but Nick dies in a car wreck caused by a drunk driver, at which point Ann starts raising Nick's teenage son, Alex (Glenn Scarpelli).

During the seventh (1981–82) season, after hitting some bumps in her business, Ann goes into business with her ex-nemesis from Conners & Davenport, Francine Webster (Shelley Fabares - the real life niece of co-star Nanette Fabray). Alex moves back with his remarried mother, Felicia (Elinor Donahue). Actress Mackenzie Phillips returns when Julie and Max move back to Indianapolis. Barbara marries her new dental student boyfriend Mark Royer (Boyd Gaines).

During the eighth (1982–83) season, Ann marries Mark's divorced father, Sam (Howard Hesseman), Julie gives birth to a daughter named Annie (named after her mother), and the two daughters and their husbands move into a house together.

The show ends in its ninth (1983–84) season, with the family moving off for different reasons. Actresses Bonnie Franklin and Valerie Bertinelli announced that they were going to leave the show at the end of that year. After Mackenzie Phillips was fired a second time for using drugs, she was written out of the show, with the character of Julie deserting her family and disappearing. Ann and Sam move to London after she accepts a job offer. This episode, titled "Off We Go", is effectively the series finale, in which all the main characters go their separate ways, and Ann exits and closes the door of the Indianapolis apartment for one last time. One more episode was taped, however. The final episode, "Another Man's Shoes", is a backdoor pilot, in which Schneider moves to Florida to take care of his orphaned nephew and niece. This episode features only Harrington from the show's main cast; neither Franklin, Bertinelli, nor any of the other regulars appear. The pilot for this spin-off was not picked up.


Season Episodes Originally aired DVD release
Season premiere Season finale Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
1 15 December 16, 1975 March 30, 1976 April 24, 2007 N/A N/A
2 24 September 28, 1976 March 22, 1977 N/A
3 24 September 27, 1977 April 3, 1978
4 26 September 18, 1978 April 14, 1979
5 26 September 30, 1979 April 13, 1980
6 21 November 9, 1980 May 10, 1981
7 25 October 11, 1981 May 16, 1982
8 26 September 26, 1982 May 23, 1983
9 22 October 2, 1983 May 28, 1984

Real-life drama

Mackenzie Phillips became addicted to cocaine while the show was in production. In the 1977-1978 season, Phillips was arrested for public inebriation, and possession of cocaine. In the sixth season Phillips' addiction was getting worse, causing fatigue, constant runny nose, rotting teeth, and rapid weight loss. She was frequently tardy for rehearsals and forgetful of her lines. Finally, director Alan Rafkin could not shoot close ups because Phillips' face looked skeletal, and her clothing had to be padded to cover her frail figure. Executives ordered Phillips a six week vacation to seek help for her drug habit. Phillips reported that she went to the dentist, got a hair cut, new clothing, and a massage, but hadn't searched for help with her addiction.

In February 1980, Phillips was called for a meeting with the show's producers. She was given an ultimatum: "quit or be fired." Finally, she resigned for "personal reasons."

In the fall of 1981, Phillips won her job back as a guest star, and had a salary of a reported US$50,000. A year later, Phillips returned to using cocaine, and her weight plummeted to 99 pounds. There was a clause in her contract stipulating that she should submit to a random series of drug tests on demand. In the show's ninth and final season, Phillips collapsed on the set. When asked by One Day's producer Patricia Fass Palmer to submit to a urine test, Phillips refused and her departure became permanent. Co-star Michael Lembeck reported that he dissolved into tears, and he and the rest of the cast were concerned about her and whether or not she would live.

Theme song

The theme song for One Day at a Time, "This is It", was composed by Brill Building songwriter Jeff Barry, and performed by RCA recording artist Polly Cutter.


The highest the show ever got in the Nielsen ratings was #8 during the 1976-77 season, when it tied with the ABC Sunday Night Movie and Baretta, but it consistently placed in the top 10 or 20. However, the network moved the show around on the prime time schedule 11 times.

It was best known in the 1980s as a staple of the CBS Sunday night lineup, one of the most successful in TV history, along with Archie Bunker's Place, Alice, and The Jeffersons. Available annual ratings are listed below:

  • 1975-1976: #12[2]
  • 1976-1977: #8[3]
  • 1977-1978: #10[4]
  • 1978-1979: #18[5]
  • 1979-1980: #10[6]
  • 1980-1981: #11[7]
  • 1981-1982: #10[8]
  • 1982-1983: #16[9]
  • 1983-1984: #47


The seventh season episode "Barbara's Crisis" won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series for director Alan Rafkin in 1982. The episode dealt with Barbara learning that she may be unable to have children.[10] Pat Harrington won an Emmy in 1984 in the category Best Supporting Actor, Comedy. Bonnie Franklin was nominated for Best Lead Actress, Comedy in 1982.[11]


CBS aired daytime reruns of the show for three years. From September 17, 1979 to February 1, 1980, it aired at 3:30 p.m. (ET) on the daytime schedule; on February 4, 1980 it was moved due to Guiding Light moving from 2:30-3:30 p.m. to 3:00-4:00 p.m.; the time depended on the TV market. Most affiliates aired the show at noon or 4 p.m. It moved to 10 a.m. on September 28, 1981, and a year later, it was replaced by The $25,000 Pyramid. Soon after, the show entered off-net syndication, including airing on Chicago superstation WGN-TV, as well as TBS and the E! Network.

One Day at a Time has not been syndicated nationally since the mid or late 90's.

In 2006, the show was available to some Comcast digital cable customers as part of Comcast's retro-themed "Tube Time" on-demand network.

In Canada, the show can currently be seen weekdays on the digital cable specialty channel, DejaView at 2 p.m. ET and is repeated at 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. ET (showing back to back episodes). On weekends, it can be viewed at 3 p.m. with repeats airing at 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET (showing back to back episodes) on DejaView.

Selected "Minisodes" from the first three seasons are available to view for free on Crackle.

In Chicago, the series can be seen locally at 8 a.m. Monday-Friday on WWME-CA.

Cast reunions

The One Day at a Time Reunion was a 60-minute CBS retrospective special which aired on Tuesday February 22, 2005 at 9:00 p.m. ET, reuniting Bonnie Franklin, Mackenzie Phillips, Valerie Bertinelli and Pat Harrington to reminisce about the series and their characters. Recurring cast members Richard Masur, Shelley Fabares, Nanette Fabray, Michael Lembeck and Glenn Scarpelli shared their feelings about their time on the show in separate interviews. The special was included as a bonus on One Day at a Time: The Complete First Season DVD set.

On February 26, 2008, Franklin, Phillips, Bertinelli and Harrington reunited once again to talk about life on the set, Phillips' drug problems and the show's theme song on NBC's Today Show as part of a week-long segment titled "Together Again: TV's Greatest Casts Reunited".

Bertinelli, Harrington and (on tape) Franklin appeared on the September 10, 2008 episode of Rachael Ray to celebrate Ray's 40th birthday.

DVD release

On April 24, 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the first season of One Day at a Time on DVD in Region 1. It is unknown if the remaining eight seasons will be released at some point.


External links

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