I initially found this Stan series too annoyingly hyper and perky for its own good, but in the end it was a (near) perfect light and frothy lockdown watch.
It could be the influence of Melbourne’s sixth lockdown, but in the last few weeks I’ve had more appetite than usual for getting stuck into a multi-season TV series over one-off movies. First my evenings were dedicated to re-watching and completing all seven seasons of Mad Men, and then I found this comedy-drama series that had started back in 2015 and wrapped up its run just earlier this year. After an unsure and slightly grating start, it grew into quite a compulsive watch and I spent hours gobbling up one snappy 22-minute episode after another, like a packet of Lindt chocolate balls (I know tradition dictates a packet of chips, but I’m sweet over savoury when it comes to food vices).
Younger is the story of a 40-year-old single mother named Liza, who is desperate to get back into the publishing industry after a long break, and ends up pretending to be a 26-year-old millennial in order to bypass the age prejudice and get a job at New York’s prestigious Empirical Press. The law of drama means that of course Liza’s deception will never last, so right from the start, the show has an in-built suspense in how long she can keep her secret hidden, and what the reaction of all the new people in her life unaware of her real age will be like.
Complicating the drama is Liza’s developing romantic triangle. On the left, there’s Josh, a soulful and spunky 20-something tattoo artist whose flirtation with Liza in the first episode sets the whole thing in motion. On the right there’s dashing silver-fox Charles, Liza’s boss at Empirical, cultured, patrician and more age-appropriate. Inevitably, next to Liza’s age reveal, the question of which rival love interest she’ll eventually choose is another big tease of the series. Love triangles can be annoying, but Liza has real chemistry and connection with both men, and the show does a great job highlighting what makes each relationship appealing, and what makes for potential landmines.
There’s also a tremendously fun and delightful supporting cast, with my personal favourite being Diana Trout, the marketing chief at Empirical, who at first comes off as a Devil Wears Prada-style scary boss. She eventually shows a softer and more vulnerable side behind her icy exterior and outrageous statement necklaces, but thankfully never loses her knack for a deadpan verbal smackdown. Younger was created by Sex and the City’s Darren Star, and just like SATC it makes strong and supportive female friendships one of its pleasures, while not avoiding their complications either. Liza’s growing friendship with her younger, highly ambitious colleague Kelsey (Hilary Duff) is one of the pillars of show.
There are many other reasons why Younger succeeds: warm and immensely likeable main heroine (played with earnest and adorkable charm by Sutton Foster), generational rift between Gen-X and millennials at work (the former fear being displaced and feel disoriented by the new world of social media and acronyms, the latter struggle to prove themselves), genuinely emotional and affecting moments, hilarious satire of the publishing industry and its trends, many many delicious shots of New York City that made me miss travel even more. Though Liza’s lie is not exactly ethical, there’s something very attractive about the idea that it’s never too late to re-invent your life, be young at heart and have brand new experiences. Oh and naturally everyone has an endless wardrobe of fabulous work, casual and event outfits. There may not be an iconic SATC tutu, but Diana’s oversized jewelry comes close.
The last seventh season is admittedly patchy; the show is not exactly out of fizz but the characters’ mistakes become too repetitive, and the bizarre Greta Thunberg parody in the second episode is excruciatingly bad (seriously WTF were they thinking??). The final episode is massively disappointing well beyond any personal preferences of which romantic interest should have been Liza’s final pick – the writing is simply off however you look at it. But this stumble at the finish line doesn’t detract from the pleasure of the series as a whole; thank you Younger for brightening up my lockdown nights.
P.S. You know how fast-paced our modern world is when the cultural references circa 2015 already feel like ancient history in 2021. Is anything going to have real longevity anymore??