Valerie Bertinelli played Barbara Cooper Royer in the hit sitcom One Day At A Time which premiered in 1975 – and boy, was she a looker. She could make any teenage boy blush back in the day. Although her looks made an impression on viewers and resulted in her becoming a fan favorite, there was so much more to the show than just being a vehicle for a few pretty faces. That being said, stick around to see how Valerie’s natural beauty nearly stole the show.
One Day At A Time gave us an intimate look into the life and times of three generations of a Cuban-American family living together under one roof.
Netflix rebooted the show in 2017 and that particular revival has been going strong ever since – even surviving cancellation after season 3 as a direct result of fan outcry by means of an effective social media campaign.
That being said, it’s a great time to take a look back at the show that got the ball rolling in the first place. One Day At A Time was groundbreaking at the time. Under the direction of Norman Lear – a producer that wasn’t afraid to raise a few eye-brows- the show tackled controversial subject material like premarital sex, teen pregnancy, suicide, and countless other envelope-pushing topics.
Let’s take a peek at some little known facts about the show that unexpectedly stole our hearts and became a cultural sensation. You’re not going to want to miss number 6. It turns out that Valerie Bertinelli’s status of being the show’s breakout star was hard to keep up with.
The Show Was Partly Autobiographical In Nature
Whitney Blake starred in the 1960s sitcom Hazel in the role of Dorothy Baxter. Ms. Blake was also a mother of three. One of her children was the actress Meredith Baxter – whom you might remember from Family Ties.
Blake left her husband after being married for 10 years and had to take up several laborious jobs to provide for her children. She was only 26 at the time and somehow managed to balance a grueling work life while still taking acting classes in the evening in hopes of pursuing her life long dream of becoming a professional actress.
Meredith Baxter recalled that she and her siblings were forbidden from calling their mother ‘Mom’ back in those days. Blake made sure that they always called her ‘Whitney’. She was hardcore committed to her career.
Blake went on to take her devotion to her work while being a single mother and develop a TV series out of her experiences. Along with the help of co-creator Allan Mannings and Norman Lear, that show became One Day At A Time.
It Was The Second TV Show To Depict A Divorced Mom
Whitney and Manings got married in 1968. Manings had previously poured his creative energies into the sitcom Good Times. As such, he had an established connection with Norman Lear already.
So when he pitched his wife’s idea about a divorced mother trying to balance work and family, Lear agreed that the show’s risque premise would likely draw in viewers who might be in a similar life situation while simultaneously causing enough controversy in conservative America to produce another hit series. Lear was no stranger for taking this boundary-pushing approach with his other series like All In The Family and Maude.
Back in those days, audiences hadn’t been exposed to non-conventional family situations on the TV screen. Previous to All In The Family, the only divorced woman to appear on a television show was Vivian Vance’s character on The Lucy Show.
The majority of critics and viewers alike saw Romano’s portrayal of a mother struggling to raise a family and balance a career as being the first realistic depiction of a divorcee in television history.
The Original Pilot Only Had One Daughter
When Lear filmed the first pilot, Franklin was a divorced mother working as a nurse while raising a teen daughter who was played by Mackenzie Phillips.
The working title for the series was Three To Get Ready and co-starred Pat Harrington as the apartment building superintendent Schneider and Marcia Rodd as Romano’s next-door neighbor and best friend.
That pilot never saw the light of day. Network brass weren’t impressed, so Lear tweaked the premise a bit – nixxing the hospital setting and adding in an extra daughter. Marcia Rodd also got the boot and Mary Louise Wilson was called in to take her place.
The last major change was the title. One Day At A Time had a much better ring to it, and CBS execs must have thought so too because the show was greenlit for the 1975 season starting in December.
A Couple Characters Vanished
Attorney David Kane was played by Richard Masur – who happened to serve as a love interest for Ann in the series first season.
Masur discovered after a few episodes that his character was slowly being pushed into a corner. For example. David was constantly proposing to Ann, but she rejected his offer every time. He became increasingly aware that his character was running out of steam and was further frustrated by Norman Lear’s insistence that the couple’s relationship be chaste.
On-screen, the duo had only held hands and occasionally kissed, which made Masur feel insignificant.
He approached Lear and requested that he be written off the show. Norman was reluctant but he gave him what he asked for.
Another character that suddenly vanished without any explanation was Ginny Wroblicki, a showy cocktail waitress played by Mary Louise Wilson.
She had been making the rounds on and off-Broadway since the early 60s. It was when she was co-starring in a revival of the stage play Gypsy that she met Lear and was offered the part in his show.
She took the job mainly because Lear had developed quite a name for himself in show business, but very soon after taking on the role, she discovered that One Day At A Time was a major departure from All in the Family.
She butted heads with Bonnie Franklin, who was constantly critical and disapproving of Wilson’s performance. Wilson also never quite got used to the four camera production process.
Following in the footsteps of Masur, she approached Lear and let him know her desire to be released from her contract – which he granted her at the end of season two.
Valerie Bertinelli’s Beauty Nearly Stole The Show
She was cast as Ann Romano’s youngest daughter Barbara and totally embodied the whole girl-next-door look with her doll face, button nose, and lush locks.
By the end of season one, she had become the breakout star of the series. America had found its next sweetheart.
The fan mail started to flood into the studio. She couldn’t keep up with it all and neither could the network.
Valerie had gone from being a nobody to being featured on the cover of every teen magazine. Then suddenly she was on the cover of People magazine. That’s a lot for a young woman to adjust to – especially when they’re just getting their start in the entertainment industry.
Despite the sudden rise to fame and becoming somewhat of a natural obsession, Valerie struggled with her self esteem. She felt unattractive when comparing herself to Mackenzie Phillips, whom she worked alongside.
Phillips on the other-hand was jealous of Bertinelli’s popularity in the media, as well as her close-knit family life and upbringing. According to her autobiography, her personal life at the time was turbulent, to say the least.
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Mackenzie Phillip’s Departed The Show At The Peak Of Its Popularity
For the first several seasons, Mackenzie struggled with addiction. It wasn’t exactly a secret either. The rest of the cast and crew knew about her struggles. Even though audiences loved her character Julie Cooper and the series was experiencing impressive ratings, Phillip’s troubling behavior was becoming quite concerning for the producers.
In 1979, she was ordered to take six weeks off to ‘rest and put on some weight’ as they put it which was just a nicer way to say get clean off the drugs and get her life together.
Just a couple weeks after returning to the set, she was presented with an ultimatum. Either she could say she was leaving the show voluntarily for personal reasons or she was going to be fired. She chose the former and it was reported in the media at the time that she had come to the mutual decision with the network and producers to make her departure.
Schneider’s Tool Belt Was Added By The Actor
Pat Harrington Jr. had already amassed an impressive TV portfolio which included a stretch working alongside Steve Allen as a member of his comedy troupe when he was given the role of playing Dwayne Schneider on One Day At A Time.
He took his new job very seriously and even grew out a pencil mustache that Clark Gable himself would have been impressed by. Just shy of a half-hour into filming the first episode, he realized that something was missing from his character’s attire.
So he went to the prop department but came back empty-handed. He then paid an electrician who was working at the studio for his worn-in tool belt and hammer. Finally, his wardrobe was complete. He strapped the belt to his hips and looked like an old west gunslinger that also just so happened to be the guy that was going to fix your plumbing.
Bertinelli And Elton John Admired Each Other Greatly
Barbara Cooper was a huge Elton John fan and so was Bertinelli. It was a case of fiction mirroring reality.
In one episode, Mackenzie and Valerie sang “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” in full costume as Elton and Kiki Dee.
A copy of that performance was sent over to John and he sent Bertinelli a signed photo with a note that read “You look more like me than I do!”
Well, here we are at the end of another facts-packed video. Do you agree with the assertion that Valerie Bertinelli was the breakout star in One Day At A Time? Why or why not? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
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