Bunheads and Broadway fans alike will be thrilled to see Sutton Foster back on television, but they’ll be even happier to know she’s starring in a funny, feminist series on TVLand called Younger. Sutton plays a 40-year-old mom named Liza who is going back into book publishing after her husband leaves her for a younger woman. She has to get a job, fast, so she can keep her house and her sanity.
Liza’s best friend Maggie (Debi Mazar) is an out lesbian (donning a black blazer and white button down shirt when we first meet her) hoping to help Liza back into the working world. In the pilot, Liza praises Maggie for “doing the right thing”: “You followed your artistic dreams, you stuck with the lesbian thing, and you moved to Brooklyn before it became hot.”
“I moved to Brooklyn because I couldn’t afford Manhattan,” Maggie says. “And now thanks to all these bearded cheese-mongers and chicks who look like Macaulay Culkin, I can’t afford Brooklyn.” Maggie is sarcastic, witty and self-assured. She also tells her BFF they can take some X she’s been holding since the ’90s and go dancing, so she’s exactly what Maggie needs right now. When Liza meets a tattoo artist at the bar, she introduces Maggie as “My girlfriend, Maggie. My friend who is a girl named Maggie.” Just so there’s no confusion!
Liza can’t believe this guy, Josh, thought she was around his age—26—which gives Maggie a great idea. Back at her Brooklyn loft (of course), Maggie tells Liza she needs to embrace the whole lying-about-her-age thing and cue a makeover montage set to a song by St. Vincent. (Nice touch, TVLand!) Not only does Maggie help her friend with a refreshed new look, but she updates her AOL to a Gmail, gets her a fake ID and gives her a flashcard test with some One Direction trivia. It is hard to believe, though, that Liza knows none of this kind of stuff with Maggie as her hip best friend and an 18-year-old daughter named Caitlin.
Sutton Foster is beautiful and youthful, though, so it’s not too crazy to believe she’s just under 30, and she goes into a job interview with Head of Marketing Diana Trout (Miriam Schor), saying she’s been out of work because she’s been working on a novel and volunteering in India. Liza meets Kelsey (Hilary Duff), a junior editor, in the bathroom, who warns Liza that Miriam is a little bit of a bitch. Then she quotes Taylor Swift.
The generation divide on this show will be made very obvious, including Kelsey’s locker room discovery of Liza’s “gray bush.” (Later Liza asks Maggie about her experience with many vaginas: “I’ve seen my fair share,” Maggie says. “Why do you ask?” When Liza explains, Maggie responds with a joke that is a little transphobic for my taste, both unnecessary and not funny: “I’ve got someone that you should ask. I know this girl, well technically she’s a man now, but he’s great.”)
Despite the multiple mentions of Liza “being in her twenties” (we get it, she has fooled you all!) and the “she’s a man now” comment, Younger seems like it will be a nice addition to spring TV. Written by out Sex and the City creator Darren Starr and two women (Pamela Redmond Satran and Alison Brown), I’m happy that four talented actresses are leading the show (including Miriam because she’s expertly bitchy in her role) and that one of them is an out and proud lesbian character who will hopefully do more than be a sidekick to her straight, beautiful best friend. The ageist comments are a little off-putting, too, but part of the comedy of Liza’s harmless deception. If we weren’t laughing with her at the irony, it might get to be frustrating. Luckily Sutton is perfect at delivering distressed reactions that let you know Maggie is finding it all a bit funny despite the sad truth that young women like Kelsey thing older women are sad and jealous.
Younger reminds me of one of my favorite movies of all time: Don’t Tell Mom, The Babysitter’s Dead, which had a similar premise although Sue Ellen (Christina Applegate) was pretending to be older than she was to get a job in fashion. However, in these kind of situations, the truth always comes out, and Liza will eventually have to own up to being older than she said she was, and lies don’t always go over so well with bosses, friends and romantic partners.
Kim Hoffman will be recapping Younger after it premieres on TVLand next Tuesday. You can watch the pilot episode of Younger on TVLand.com.