One constant in the world we live in is that there will always be people of all ages, alternately clashing and collaborating, in both the work environment and in all things personal as well.
Is it possible for a half-hour comedy to accurately comment about this ongoing push and pull, all the while not really siding with one group over another?
One entity is proving that the exploration of any kind of actual generational gap is intriguing, realistic, and downright funny.
The series Younger follows Liza Miller, a 40-year-old suddenly single mother who tries to resume her career after raising a child, only to find that it’s nearly impossible to start at the bottom at her age. Given this, she decides to pretend to be 26 in order to re-enter the workforce. Once she commits to her new identity, Liza quickly lands a position at a New York publishing company and starts dating a 26-year-old tattoo artist.
“This is the world we’re living in,” says series creator and Executive Producer Darren Star. “This happens in every generation – people have to deal with the generation that’s coming up behind you. How do you stay relevant as you get older? In Younger, we’re particularly looking at how do the baby boomers and Gen X-ers navigate the world of the millennials?”
Liza isn’t the only one trying to make it in a complicated world. In the office, there’s Liza’s temperamental boss, Diana, who’s constantly struggling to maintain her success, and Kelsey, Liza’s work BFF, who thinks Liza is her contemporary, rather than Liza actually being closer to Diana’s age. All of the women show how the confusing mixture of personal confidence and self-doubt can both enhance and restrict one’s forward movement.
In her personal life, Liza spends her time with Kelsey, another millennial friend, Lauren, the aforementioned young boyfriend, Josh, while living with life-long friend Maggie, who knows, and supports, Liza in her ‘new’ life. In this arena, the blurring of the current concept of digital and personal contact is examined in often-heartbreaking detail.
A large part of the show’s premise rests on Liza trying to maintain her cover – passing herself off as a millennial rather than revealing that she’s actually a Gen X-er. Now that the series is in its third season, viewers have to wonder just how long this charade can go on. Star explains, saying, “When I set this up I knew it had to be about more than a woman maintaining a lie. It has to be about a need to do that and the consequences of doing it.”
He goes on to say that this fabrication is only a small part of the foundation of the series. “What this really is is a love affair between generations of women — how we have connections outside of our own age group. We set out to create an ensemble of strong characters and tell their stories, and if you have that, that’s the most important thing. That can sustain a show past its original premise. I don’t want to invalidate the premise because I think why Liza does this is important. Having a job, working and following a passion is important to her and I think the deeper she gets in, the harder it will be for her to get out of it, so that’s an important part of this, but it’s not all that it is.”
Along with her female friends and her boyfriend, Liza has now found herself attached to her co-worker, Charles, a divorced 40-something father of two.
While Charles has made it clear that he’s intrigued by Liza and what could be, he’s reluctant to get involved given their work status, and, ironically, her age – or what he thinks is her age.
“We didn’t set it up to have should a distinct triangle, we just wanted to complicate things for Liza, showing conflict with the age and life that she’s chosen and her real age,” says Star. He laughs a little as he says, “I love that the audience created a whole ‘Team Josh’ versus ‘Team Charles’ thing, with Twitter hashtags and everything. I love that they’re that engaged in this.”
Those rabid fans, and hopefully new ones, will be glad to hear that the series has already been renewed for a fourth season. About this, Star says that while he has ideas for what’s to come, “I kind of like to think one season at a time. I like it to develop organically – let the characters take you on the journey and not have things 100% mapped out.”
To craft the series, Star has filed the writer’s room with what he feels is the appropriate mixture of millennials and Gen X-ers. “We have Dottie Dartland Zicklin who created Dharma and Greg in the ‘90s, and her husband Eric, who’s worked on Frasier and Hot in Cleveland. Then we have Lyle Freidman, and Ashley Skidmore who created and starred in Hot Mess Moves on YouTube, so they’re definitely in the millennial world. We have a great group and I can tell you that the conversations we have in the writer’s room are extremely interesting, and I think a real representation of what happens in workplaces everywhere.”
Another morsel that Star was willing to reveal is that there is a just a little more Younger for viewers to take in this season. “The show is a little bit longer now.
I asked the network for that. I just pretty much plainly said, ‘guys, we need at least a couple more minutes to tell these stories,’ and it shows how supportive our network (TV Land) is that they gave it to us. It’s enough that in those couple of minutes we can tell more story and show more about the characters as well. For me, and I think for the audience, it really makes a difference.”
Those stories, says Star, should really appeal to all ages. “We’re exploring love, divorce, friendship, what success is, and, most of all, identity. If you’ve just entered the workforce or you’re further along in your career, you can relate to what these characters are going through. Their triumphs and setbacks will resonant with anyone who’s trying to pursue a meaningful career and a life, and really, who isn’t doing that?”
So, yes, it seems that a half-hour comedy series can provide relevant, and appropriately neutral, social commentary on the generation gap, or lack thereof. And, Younger, is doing it quite uniquely, with the focus, interestingly enough, not on numbers, but on love and laughter.
“Younger” airs Wednesdays at 10PM on TV Land.