Thankfully, We're Getting Younger: On Sutton Foster's New Show
There’s been a definitive shift with women on sitcoms lately, especially with a mom-type character. In sitcom land, sometimes mothers were used as the butt of a joke, however, that trend seems to be changing. I have to admit, I thought that was going to be the case when reading the premise for the new TVLand sitcom Younger.
40-year-old Liza is a suddenly single mother who tries to get back into the working world, only to find out it’s nearly impossible to start at the bottom at her age. When a chance encounter with a 20-something guy at a bar convinces her she looks younger than she is, Liza tries to pass herself off as 26.
This was the first description of the show I read and I wasn’t really on board. For one, Liza is played by Bunheads and Broadway star Sutton Foster, and two, it smacked of “40 is the new 80!” but I was so very wrong. On TVLand, Younger is a breath of fresh air. The plot is as described above, but its so much more. If you liked Bunheads, then you need to watch Younger. Imagine if Michelle had a life in Queens, and then had children and a husband.
Liza (Foster) finds herself without a clue of what to do, because her husband has left for a younger woman, and she’s forced to sell her house. Her daughter is away for school in India, and Liza decides to hit the publishing houses looking for jobs. She’s being interviewed by women 20 years younger than her, and it’s like a whole new world or so they try to make her think. Here is where Sutton Foster shows her charm, even when she’s being slighted by someone barely older than a fetus. She has the same charisma and sparks that drove me to bingewatch Bunheads after seeing one episode. Younger, since it was created by Darren Starr (Sex and the City) doesn’t let Liza frump around in “mom clothes,” or get dissed for long, however. After meeting a charming 20 something in a bar, and realizing he thinks she’s in her 20’s, Liza decides to get her groove back, even if the fetuses at the office totally don’t get that reference. She gets a makeover from her friend (Debi Mazur) and decides to apply at a much younger age at a publishing house. It’s there she meets her new boss, Diana (played by Miriam Shur, who was perfect as Janet in Swingtown), who I imagine has a well-paged copy of Cheryl Sandberg’s Lean In on her nightstand. There’s also Kelsey (Hilary Duff), an editor at the house. It’s Kelsey who’s going to help Liza navigate the job world now, especially since when Liza was working, the Internet was a novelty, and most everyone had an AOL.com address. Kelsey’s character was a pleasant surprise to me, because I thought that the show was going to take that new girl in the office turn, like Mean Girls with women who are old enough to drink cocktails. I was happy to see that old thread of girl vs. girl that so many shows are guilty of (even Once Upon a Time has pitted their female villains against each other time and time again) isn’t present here. Instead we get an ally in Kelsey, someone who will show her the ropes, and help her stay on her boss’ side.
The pilot for Younger felt really fresh, and took a sidestep from all of the tropes I thought it would embrace. It also seems to herald a new leaf for TVLand, as this is the network’s first single-camera sitcom.
The show is not without its faults, of course, and I’ve yet to see the other episodes, however, these are the ones that stick out:
- Today’s moms are more than a little Internet savvy, and I refuse to believe that Liza would ever use Bing. It’s about as real as Spiderman using Bing in the Andrew Garfield version. Ah, product placement.
- I hope that we see more than an intense and demanding boss from Miriam Schur. For one, she and Liza have a lot they can see in each other. Both are women in the workplace, and one may have felt the call to postpone her career, while another became a mother. TV is increasingly adding moms who can be mothers and work, so it would be interesting to see the show tackle this topic that’d bandied about in comment sections and on forums for months now.
- Kelsey has a boring and jerk boyfriend that I hope Liza can help her see is not worth her time.
In all, Younger is a much-needed addition to the TVLand slate, and could be a promising new start for Sutton Foster. A final note: Younger is based on a novel of the same name.