Let me get this out of the way first: I am not the target audience for “Younger.” I am a 20-year-old male college student, not the type of person TV Land goes after with a show about a woman in her 40s pretending to be, well, younger. However, there’s one element that peaked my interest in the series: its star, Sutton Foster. She has won two Tony Awards for her Broadway work (and has been nominated for several more), and she starred in the short-lived “Bunheads.” After four episodes, it’s clear that the show revels in Foster, but it doesn’t quite have the supporting material to create an interesting series around her.
Series Premiere – First four episodes
Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
“Younger” follows the recently-divorced Liza Miller (Sutton), a 40-year-old woman trying to break back into the publishing industry after taking time off to raise her daughter (newcomer Tessa Albertson). After being berated for her age in an interview, she meets Josh (Nico Tortorella, “Make it or Break It”) at a bar. Josh thinks she’s in her 20s, so she decides to pretend to be 26. When she does, she lands a job as an assistant to Diana Trout (Miriam Shor, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) the head of marketing of a major publisher, and she meets Kelsey (Hilary Duff, “Lizzie McGuire”), Diana’s publisher.
If “Younger” has one saving grace, it’s the leading lady. On “Bunheads” and her other Broadway performances, Foster proved her wry sense of humor, which she uses effectively on this show. She plays off of her fellow actors well, as it is clear she and Duff have genuine comedic chemistry. However, what makes her performance strong is how, over the course of multiple episodes, she elucidates Liza’s vulnerability and uncertainty surrounding her work and relationship. She doesn’t get to show the range that she showed in “Bunheads” but she does more work than what’s on the page, making the series better as a result.
Unfortunately, the show around Foster isn’t nearly as strong. It tries to be funny, and some jokes work thanks to Foster (about Liza’s inability to use social media). However, the rest of the show’s humor comes off as lazy. If viewers took a shot each time they heard a line about lazy, entitled, bratty millennials, they’d probably die. It’s one thing if the show quips about the concept a few times in an episode, but that one-note idea is the center of all the humor in the office. Comedies become boring after they berate the audience with punchlines written using a thesaurus.
If it wasn’t for Sutton Foster, “Younger” would be terrible, especially for someone completely out of the target audience. However Foster’s genuinely funny and moving performance elevates the show from forgettable to bearable.