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How Queer Fandom Saved One Day at a Time

How Queer Fandom Saved 'One Day at a Time'

How Queer Fandom Saved 'One Day at a Time'

"In order to break through, you have to be somebody's favorite show," Pop TV president Brad Schwartz tells PRIDE.

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The story of how fan-favorite comedy One Day at a Time was saved from cancellation by Pop TV is a full-fledged drama — and as network president Brad Schwartz tells it, they couldn't have pulled it off without fans in the LGBTQ community.

ODAAT and Pop first crossed paths in January 2019 at the Critics Choice Awards. ODAAT and Pop's flagship show Schitt's Creek had both been nominated for Best Comedy Series, along with heavy hitters like The Good Place and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

"We were all there together in this category of five or six of the best comedies on television," Schwartz told PRIDE. "Literally just a few months later, you’re reading that Netflix is cancelling One Day at a Time. I almost didn’t believe it, because it was such a critically praised and beloved show."

His next thought was, "That’s a Pop show. Let’s go see if we can get it."

The last few months have been a roller coaster for ODAAT, a reboot of the classic Norman Lear sitcom that ran from 1975 to 1984. The new version centers on the Cuban-American Alvarez family, bringing some welcome diversity to the TV landscape; and LGBTQ+ viewers have loved seeing themselves represented in lesbian teen daughter Elena (Isabella Gomez) and her non-binary love interest Syd (Sheridan Pierce).

Fans were so passionate and loyal to the series that when news broke in February that Netflix might not renew it for a fourth season, #RenewODAAT started trending worldwide on Twitter. #SaveODAAT was the top trend a month later when Netflix officially pulled the plug, with celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Stephanie Beatriz rallying behind it. The outcry was so intense that Netflix had to post a Twitter thread explaining their decision.

"And to anyone who felt seen or represented—possibly for the first time—by ODAAT, please don’t take this as an indication your story is not important," the company tweeted. "The outpouring of love for this show is a firm reminder to us that we must continue finding ways to tell these stories."

It was that passion from the audience that caught Schwartz's attention, he told PRIDE — because he'd seen it before with Schitt's Creek.

"The elements of [Schitt's Creek] that are really resonating for people is how kind it is, how joyous it is, and how it deals with inclusion and acceptance and family and love," he said of the queer-inclusive series. "Even in dark times of our world and a very divisive political climate, there was this little town you could go to where everything felt like that’s the way it should be, and was escapist."

The show's popularity turned it into a breakout success for Pop TV, a small CBS Corporation/Lionsgate channel that rebranded with a fandom focus in 2014. (CBS Corp. has since bought out Lionsgate's stake in the company.) Schitt's Creek is now being discussed as a serious Emmys contender, even though Pop didn't have the budget for a big For Your Consideration effort.

"It's breaking through and becoming part of the conversation without a $10 million Emmy campaign behind it," Schwartz said. "The awards love the show is getting is very authentic and very real, and not bought."

While ODAAT is a different kind of comedy in many respects, he felt that it hit the same emotional beats. "It dealt with family; it dealt with love. It dealt with issues of inclusion and acceptance, and veteran issues, and alcohol issues, and single mother head-of-household issues, and socio-economic issues. Much like Schitt’s Creek, it can make you laugh and it can make you cry."

In the Peak Television era, with more choice and diversity than ever before, Schwartz told PRIDE that a series needs that kind of emotional connection to draw viewers to a network they may have never watched before.

"In order to break through, in order to be significant, you have to be somebody’s favorite show," he said. "I feel the same way when it came to UnREAL on Lifetime — I’d never gone to Lifetime before in my life, but there was this great show that I wanted to go watch. Or Orphan Black or Killing Eve on BBC America, or Portlandia on IFC, or way back when Mad Men was on AMC. There are a handful of shows that are so special that even though they’ve been on under-the-radar networks, they’ve broken through. It takes that kind of specialness and it takes that kind of fan passion for people to find those shows, become evangelists for those shows, tell other people about those shows, and really take ownership of those shows. Schitt’s Creek and One Day at a Time both have that."

Queer viewers in particular have championed both shows for the uplifting way they've represented LGBTQ characters and relationships. Schwartz credits Schitt's Creek co-creator Dan Levy for showing him how important that is. 

"Dan and I have worked together for over 12 years, and Dan has taught me a lot about this world. It’s amazing to see how pioneering Schitt’s Creek has become in the way they represent love on that show. It’s been a really big source of pride for me personally, and for our network, to be involved in a show that does treat these issues so beautifully and without judgment.

"One Day at a Time makes me feel very much the same way. I’m proud to be involved with a show that deals with issues like this, but more importantly it's how they deal with the issues."

Schwartz has stated that it's his goal to keep ODAAT on air for the long term, telling Vulture that "I hope it becomes our huge flagship series that goes on for five, six, seven seasons" after Schitt's Creek wraps its sixth and final season next year.

"It’s a perfect fit for our network as we are getting ready to say goodbye to the final season of Schitt’s Creek," he told PRIDE. "We have another show with a very passionate audience and a head start that’s ready to take the baton and lead us forward."

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Christine Linnell