This year’s winner of the TV Land Awards Innovator Award is “One Day at a Time” (1975-1984), which focused on a single working mom (played Bonnie Franklin) and her efforts to raise two teenage daughters (Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli) — with a little help from the building’s wisecracking super, Schneider (Pat Harrington). The show broke ground at the time for tackling subjects not often seen on television, but what was “One Day at a Time” really all about?
Check out these 10 facts about the long-running sitcom, then watch the stars of the show reunite when TV Land airs the 10th Anniversary TV Land Awards at April 29 at 9PM/8C.
A Landmark TV Mom. Bonnie Franklin’s character Ann Romano, who leaves her husband to raise two teenage daughters on her own, is often cited as TV’s first female divorcee. She wasn’t — Vivian Bagley (played Vivian Vance) preceded her on “The Lucy Show,” as did Diana Rigg’s character on the 1973 series “Diana” — but “One Day at a Time” was still the first time a divorced mother’s struggles had been portrayed so prominently on a successful network television show.
Family Tie.“One Day at a Time” was co-created by former TV actress Whitney Blake about her own experiences as a single mom raising raising three kids — one of whom, Meredith Baxter, grew up to play a TV mom herself as Elyse Keaton on “Family Ties.”
Very Special Episodes. Though there were plenty of laughs, the sitcom embraced its serious side, covering controversial topics such as teen sex, teen suicide, birth control, alcohol and drug use, infertility and sexual harassment. (It’s no coincidence that “One Day at a Time” was produced by “All My Children” creator Norman Lear, known for tackling social and political issues head-on.) The episode in which a married Barbara learns she may not be able to have children won an Emmy for Best Directing in a Comedy Series.
Schneider. The unofficial star of “One Day at a Time” was building superintendent Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington), more commonly known to the world as “Schneider.” A reliable source of comic relief, the tool belt-clad Schneider drops by the apartment frequently to fix things, check on the girls and hit — unsuccessfully — on Ann with lines like “The ladies in this building don’t call me ‘super’ for nothing.” Smooth! Harrington won an Emmy in 1984 for Best Supporting Actor.
Off-Screen Drama. The show’s nine seasons didn’t all include star Mackenzie Phillips, who played Ann’s rebellious daughter Julie Cooper. Phillips’ substance abuse problems were well publicized, and she was fired from the show in 1980, with Julie written off the show to marry her boyfriend Max and move to Houston. After a stint in rehab, Phillips returned to the cast in 1981 (Julie was by now pregnant and had admitted to cheating on Max), but was fired for good in 1983.
TV’s Good Girl. The show made a star of Valerie Bertinelli, who was 15 when she started playing obedient daughter Barbara Cooper. (On the show, Barbara remains a virgin until her wedding night.) In 1981, while still starring on “One Day at a Time,” she married guitarist Eddie Van Halen, and the new rock-star lifestyle of TV’s good girl added even more to her appeal. The couple divorced in 2007; the “Hot in Cleveland” star is now married to financial planner Tom Vitale.
Ann’s Romances. The premise of the show is that Ann is a single working mom, but she isn’t exactly a nun — she has several romantic interests, a few of which turn serious. In the first two seasons, she dates a lawyer, David (Richard Masur), whose proposal she eventually turns down; in the sixth season, she gets engaged to her business partner Nick (Ron Rifkin), who is killed by a drunk driver; and in the eighth season, she marries Barbara’s father-in-law, Sam (Howard Hesseman).
Adding a Heartthrob. In the show’s sixth season, with Barbara a college student and Julie married and off the show, the show re-injected the teen factor — and created a pinup star — with the addition of Glenn Scarpelli, who played Alex, the son of Ann’s fiance Nick. After Nick dies in a car accident, Ann raises Alex until he moves back in with his mother. After “One Day at a Time,” Scarpelli co-starred in the short-lived sitcom “Jennifer Slept Here” and had a few appearances on “The Love Boat”; he now lives in Sedona, Arizona, and is CEO of the TV station Sedona NOW, which he co-owns with his husband, Jude Belanger.
Two Finales. In its ninth and final season, the show more or less had two series finales. In “Off We Go” — the actual series finale — the remarried Ann leaves Indianapolis to take a job in London. In the series’ final episode, “Another Man’s Shoes,” Schneider moves to Florida to take care of his niece and nephew. That episode would have served as a pilot for a “One Day at a Time” spinoff centered on Schneider, but it was never picked up.
Future Stars. Boyd Gaines appeared in 51 episodes as Mark Royer, Barbara’s dentist boyfriend and, eventually, husband. But he’s gained fame since then on Broadway, having won four Tonys — in fact, he’s the first actor to be nominated in all four Tony categories for which an actor is eligible. Ron Rifkin, who played Ann’s fiance Nick, would later go on to star as Arvin Sloane on “Alias.” And close watchers of “One Day at a Time” may recognize the guy who plays Schneider’s nephew Harvey, who dates Barbara and gets busted for stealing her tape recorder: It’s Mark Hamill, the man we all know by now as Luke Skywalker.