This past winter TV Land signaled a shift in its original programming strategy when it debuted the Darren Star sitcom “Younger,” starring Broadway star and TONY winner Sutton Foster. The single-camera comedy is a far cry from the traditional multi camera sitcoms the network has offered in the past (“Hot in Cleveland,” “The Exes,” etc.). The premise is built around Liza Miller (Foster), a 40 year-old divorce mother who is desperate to get back into the workforce. Liza left her career in publishing fifteen years ago and after a series of interviews she realizes returning to the workforce won’t be easy. After a 26 year-old tattoo artist mistakes her for being his age, Liza and her friend Maggie (Debi Mazar) concoct a scheme for Liza to pretend to be 26 to land a job and through the magic of television, it works!
“Younger” benefits from casting Sutton in the lead role, as she’s able to pull off playing under 40. I thing 26 is a stretch but because she brings so much emotional depth to the role, it becomes very easy to buy into the premise. The show aims to be a present-day basic cable version of “Sex and the City” (also from Darren Star). It’s not “Sex and the City” but that’s not a bad thing. “Younger” is a show where the initial setup drives the character while the characters on “Sex” drove the plot. But “Younger” does get you to care about the character’s and their journeys. With strong writing and nuanced performances from Sutton Foster and Hillary Duff (Liz’s co-worker turned bff) it becomes easy to be drawn into their world. The show accurately captures the disconnect between Millennials and Generation X. The younger group has no understanding or appreciation of those who came before them while the older set realizes adapting to a world filled with technology-based relationships is the new norm.
One of the fun aspects of season one of “Younger” is Liza’s “Devil Wears Prada” relationship with her boss Diana (Miriam Trout). Although the two are actually the same age, Liza’s easily believed lie about her age makes Diana instantly judge Liza as just another vapid twenty-something who doesn’t know or value the meaning of hard work. But, since Liza is really older, she’s able to help Diana through personal and professional tribulations. The show is smart in that Diana is not presented as a one dimensional villain, but as a multilayered woman.
TV LAND allows “Younger” to deliver a lot of sex talk with some sex on the side. While there’s not a lot of gratuitous nudity, there is frank language, as has become de rigueur on basic cable. Liza embarks on a relationship with the aforementioned sexy tattoo artist, Josh (Nico Tortorella). It’s fun watching 40 year-old Liza pretending to be 26 and immersing herself in Josh’s world trying to navigate the language, activities (dodgeball anyone?) and sexual fluidity. The series is also setting up a love triangle between Liza, Josh and her more age appropriate publisher Charles Brooks (Peter Hermann).
If and when Liza’s big secret is revealed to her new work family, it will be interesting to see if her talent as a writer/editor will allow them to look past her deceit or have her blackballed from the publishing world entirely. I have a hard time seeing “Younger” running for as long as five years on its initial premise, but I’m interested to see how season 2 plays out. Again, Sutton Foster is so engaging in the role that I want to buy into the premise no matter how silly the set up.
Here’s a look at “Younger”: