TV Land’s Younger moves fast.
Maybe it’s trying to keep up with the ADD generation its 40-something protagonist aims to emulate, but shortly after the opening credits of the show disappear, Liza (Sutton Foster) has already decided she wants to pretend to be a 26-year-old in order to secure a steady job. (I have news for her; it’s hard to get a job in publishing at any age— whether you’re 26 or beyond).
This is one quibble with an otherwise great premise on a network that doesn’t do scripted TV well (see: Hot in Cleveland). Where’s the struggle? We want to see Liza really fail at job interviews and get humiliated before she pretends to be peers with Hilary Duff. She needs to hit a big low point (for Duff, that might be Cadet Kelly or . . . Mike Comrie).
In the same way Kimmy Schmidt is wide-eyed and coming out of hiding, so is Liza, who just recently ended her marriage with her husband after he started shtupping some blackjack dealer in Atlantic City. Only, unlike Kimmy, Liza has less of an excuse for not knowing why dudes have tattooed arm sleeves (“You’ll definitely want to take that skull with the rose between its teeth to your grave”). Just what has Liza been doing for the past 15 years since she quit working at Random House? That’s a good question that’s posed in the opening scene of the Pilot, and while Liza explains that she quit to raise her daughter Caitlin (Tessa Albertson), not much else is gained from these MIA years. For example, why is her daughter studying in Mumbai for her senior year of high school? Did she want to get away from the mother?
Not necessarily so. Liza and Caitlin appear to have a strong relationship, except the latter wishes her mother wouldn’t call so much and find a hobby. What’s interesting is that when it comes to lying to get a job working in publishing, Liza uses her daughter’s life as her own, citing volunteer work in India as what she’s been doing since college. Perhaps Liza’s 15-year hiatus was spent living through her daughter.
“What makes you special?” says Diana “Trout Mouth” Trout (Miriam Shor), the Miranda Priestley-esque character who becomes Liza’s boss and resents the younger women in the office because of their fresh ovaries and faces with natural elasticity.
“I’m a grown-up,” says Liza. “Nothing makes me special.” This sounds like a line from 13 Going on 30. Which makes sense since Liza and her buddy Maggie’s (Debi Mazar) sense of “26-year-old” is really “16-year-old.” During a montage to make Liza a twentysomething, she gets a gmail account, says Katniss Everdeen is her inspiration, and listens to One Direction (not saying that 26-year-olds can’t and don’t do this, but this feels a little teeny-bopper-ish).
Somehow this awful line and strategy works, though. Liza gets the job, and in the bathroom after the interview, Liza meets Kelsey Peters (Hilary Duff) who says she’ll help her climb the corporate ladder.
“As Taylor Swift said,” says Kelsey, “‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.’”
This is actually Madeline Albright who said this (just like “haters gonna hate” is not a Taylor Swift-coined phrase, either). But instead of Liza correcting Kelsey, she doesn’t say anything; although given how clueless Liza is, maybe she doesn’t know.
This is another quibble with the show: Liza’s cluelessness. While she is certainly adorable (who doesn’t love Sutton Foster?), it’s often confusing. Sure, she quit work to be a mother, but did she quit the human race in general? One minute she can make a sharp reference like “Eat, Pray, Endure Chronic Diarrhea,” and the next she’s wondering who Lena Dunham is. After a Krav Maga class (“Refresh my memory: Is that a bird or a cocktail?”), she strips down in the locker room to nothing—NOTHING—revealing her less than manicured vaginal area (called “Wisconsin”). For someone so timid, this scene felt strangely out of character; Liza wouldn’t strip down like that. After all, she doesn’t even know that guys call their genital area “junk.”
But somehow her cluelessness doesn’t cause too many ripples. She doesn’t know how to set up a Twitter account, but once she learns, she immediately gains 1,000 followers for the Jane Austen tweets account. She also snags a date with a 26-year-old, the one who inspired her venture into becoming a Millennial to begin with.
This isn’t to say Younger doesn’t have potential. Its effervescent lead is a good draw, especially coming off of cult-classic Bunheads. Plus, it has Sex and the City writer Darren Starr crafting every woman’s fantasy. But if it wants to become more attractive with age, it should slow down a little to let us get to know Liza. Otherwise, people are going to lose interest. And not just the twentysomethings who’ve already found something better to do.