June 9, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Younger”


Movies have the advantage over TV when it comes to telling gimmicky stories, because a movie only has to sustain the gimmick for 2 hours, and then it’s done.  YOUNGER could have been an effortless feature vehicle for [fill in the rom-com star blank], but after 12 half-hour episodes, the effort is already showing on the small screen.

It doesn’t help that the suspension of disbelief required for Younger‘s gimmick–that 40-year old divorcee Liza Miller (Sutton Foster), unable to get hired for an entry-level publishing job after her ex lost all the family money, is successfully passing as a 26-year old so that she can work as an assistant–doesn’t have a great deal of credence in the first place.  The lovely Foster can’t be carefully enough lit to pass for more than a decade under her real age, and after a while you have to wonder why none of the people who are interacting with her on a daily basis, including new BFF Kelsey (Hilary Duff) and tattoo artist boyfriend Josh (Nico Tortorella) have figured out that either Liza is faking it or there’s something terribly wrong with her.  They’re not meant to be stupid–there was an entire episode about Josh not being stupid–but they certainly seem nearsighted.  The deeper problem, though, is that there’s only so much comic mileage that can be made out of Liza’s ignorance about apps, texts, tweets, emojis, sexual practices, fashion and other territories of the young.

If anything, series creator Darren Star and the cast deserve credit for making the contrivances work as well as they do.  Foster, apart from being able to showcase her charm and the whip-smart comic timing she unveiled on Bunheads, enhances the material with an undercurrent of yearning and some melancholy; you believe her Liza has regrets about her gambit even when it’s working.  Despite the fact that Younger is basically a piece of wish-fulfillment for TV Land’s older female target audience, the young characters are allowed to have their dignity as well, and the friendship between Liza and Kelsey feels grounded, as does the more longer-lasting one between Liza and her Brooklyn roommate, lesbian artist Maggie (Debi Mazar).  Only Liza’s boss Diana (Miriam Shor) is a near-cartoon, and even she has her moments of quasi-humanity.  The show is also quite handsomely put together, with good use of actual New York locations.

At some point, the I’ve-got-a-secret structure will have to come tumbling down (as in a superhero story, eventually the other characters will learn about Liza’s alter ego), and a season finale is a natural place to accomplish that, but Star is taking it slowly.  Tonight’s Season 1 climax, written by Star and directed by Tricia Brock, followed through on Liza’s stoned confession to Josh about her real age, but while Liza bumped into an old acquaintance (guest star Martha Plimpton) who could have blown her cover entirely, Liza was able to get rid of that threat with ease.

All of that is likely to give us a Season 2 not much different from Season 1, aside from Josh (who quickly forgave Liza’s falsehoods) being in on the truth.  At one point in tonight’s episode, Liza’s old friend mused “I wonder how long you think you can really get away with this,” and although Younger‘s ratings, while moderate, are skewing in the less elderly direction that TV Land was hoping to see, giving it some security on the air, it’s a good question.  One far-fetched joke isn’t enough to keep a series rolling forever.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."