What man my age didn’t have a crush on Barbara Cooper, Valerie Bertinelli’s character on the 70’s sitcom, “One Day At A Time”? Sad news for fans of that show, as Bonnie Franklin, who played her Mom, Ann Romano, passed away today.
It debuted at a time when I was first noticing the fairer sex, and Barbara Cooper represented the girl next door. The family dynamic, which included a drugged out MacKenzie Phillips as older daughter, Julie, was intriguing to me as a kid. I always fantasized that Ann was the kind of Mom who would let me smoke pot in their apartment, as long as I didn’t do it in front of her.
The show broke ground the way other Norman Lear sitcoms (All In The Family, Maude) did. It was also a novelty, in that it was set in Indianapolis, as opposed to New York or LA as was the case of most sitcoms of that era. And that only made Barbara closer to my Midwestern heart.
From her NY Times obituary:
Like Archie and Edith Bunker in “All in the Family,” Ann and her daughters, Julie and Barbara Cooper, used comedy in the service of grappling with serious and thorny real-world matters.
As a divorced mother who had reverted to her maiden name and relocated to Indianapolis, Ann fought her deadbeat ex-husband for child support, for example. Or she dealt with a daughter deciding whether to remain a virgin.
Some story lines continued for up to four weeks, as when Julie, to Ann’s consternation, dated a man more than twice her age. In one plot twist Ann’s fiancé is killed by a drunken driver. Later she marries her son-in-law’s divorced father.
Comic relief came from the frequent visits of the building superintendent, Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington). But Ms. Franklin was said to have pushed the producers toward greater realism, urging them to take on issues like teenage pregnancy and avoid letting the show lapse into comic shtick.
Bonnie was a child actor, who later had a stint as a dancer on Broadway.
I guess in my fantasy world, I should be buying some flowers, and driving Barbara to the funeral home.