Younger: “Pilot”/“Liza Sows Her Oates”

(Episodes 1.01 and 1.02)

TV Reviews
Younger: “Pilot”/“Liza Sows Her Oates”

I’ve never understood people who are rude or snarky about getting old. It’s in the same way that I don’t get people who rolls their eyes and sigh with exasperation when they’re near a crying baby. We were all crying babies once (do not let your mother tell you otherwise) and if we are very, very lucky we’ll all live to be very old.

But the truth is, the gap in generations has never been so stark. There are people in their early twenties who probably can’t remember a time without social media, Google, DVRs and American Idol. I mean, I still remember when you had to be home at your computer if you wanted to check your email. If I’m being totally honest, I remember when there wasn’t even email. And that dates me. No matter how young I think I am, or how much anti-wrinkle cream I use, I’m not 26.

And that’s the problem facing Liza (Sutton Foster). She’s a 40-year-old woman re-entering the workforce after 15 years. She left work to raise her daughter. Now her daughter is spending her senior year in Mumbai and Liza is newly separated from her gambling, soon-to-be ex-husband. Trying to get a job in the publishing world is tough. Liza’s too old to be an assistant (that would be weird as one interviewer tells her) and she has been out of a job for too long for anyone to seriously consider her for a higher position. The solution according to her friend Maggie (Debi Mazar)? Pretend to be 26. Liza gets highlights, buys a hipper wardrobe and learns the names of the members (and one former member) of One Direction. Bam! She’s hired by the perpetually cranky Diana (Miriam Shor).

The show has so much going for it. First up, it’s from Darren Star, the man who brought us Melrose Place and Sex and the City. He knows how to create great female characters. There’s always something inherently relatable about them. The second thing the show really has going for it is Foster herself. If you watched the canceled (much too soon) Bunheads, you know how awesome she is (and if you didn’t watch Bunheads you need to immediately. Seriously.) Foster is likeable, charming and funny. I wanted to be her friend.

Younger requires a healthy dose of willing suspension of disbelief. Foster, who according to IMDB is 40 in real life, certainly looks young for her age, so I can buy that she could pass for 26. But would Liza be hired without her references being checked? Wouldn’t someone be able to confirm the year she graduated from Dartmouth? I liked that in the second episode she deletes her entire online identity, but wouldn’t someone have already searched for her? In this day and age, could you really get away with what Liza is trying to pull? I would really like Kelsey or perhaps Liza’s romantic interest Josh (Nico Tortorella) to figure out Liza’s secret. Like a superhero, she needs someone who is in on her deception.

I also don’t really believe that young people talk about people in their forties as much as the characters on Younger do. Sometimes if felt like they were hitting the show’s premise a little too hard. “Before you know it, you’re going to be in your 40s. Living in a house in the suburbs with a husband who watches TV all night while you’re in your bathtub spritzing your shower hose on your special place,” Kelsey tells Liza. And Diana has way too much contempt for the younger generation. But these are the broad strokes that are sometimes necessary in the early episodes. Hopefully things will be smoothed out as the first season progresses.

With her quippy one liners and droll delivery, Maggie seems to have stepped off the set of Sex and the City. And Tortorella is more than a little smoldering. If Liza doesn’t date him, Samantha from Sex and the City would.

The show also has the pulse of the current pop culture climate down. A publishing house creating a Twitter page for Jane Austen and using a “Show us Your Oates” topless campaign to promote the new book by Joyce Carol Oates both seem totally legitimate.

Younger is a marked departure for TV Land which, to date, has enjoyed great success with shows such as Hot in Cleveland and The Soul Man. Younger feels like it belongs on a different network. And that’s probably a great thing for TV Land. The series should drive many new viewers, who previously had no idea where TV Land fell on their cable line up, to the network.

I’m excited to see where the show goes next. How about you?

Amy Amatangelo is a Boston-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Paste. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.

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