Younger

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

There’s a reason why people get tougher as they get older: It’s tough to get older.

Liza Miller’s tough. Marriage, divorce, raising a kid and 40-plus years of experience have made sure of that. And while all that experience seems like it’d be a good thing, the publishing world—where Liza earns her living—would quibble. In an industry suffering through a midlife crisis of its own, publishers are looking for new blood and fresh faces. Experience? Sooo Dickensian.

But Liza is undaunted. She’ll prove to the world that all the clichés are true: that age is just a numberl, and youth is wasted on the young. She’ll succeed at work, at love and at life in her 40s in a way she never managed in her 20s. 

And if some people mistake her as someone in her 20s? Well, so much the better.

Youth and Treachery

In the first season of Younger, Liza successfully passed herself off as a fresh-faced Millennial, circumventing the ageism rampant in the publishing industry and dating a young tattoo artist (Josh) to boot.

She started coming clean about her age before the season ended, though, and the secret was well out of the bag by Season Six. Now, as Younger heads into its own home stretch (Season Seven is reportedly its last), the show has settled into more typical terrain—a crisply written, slightly soapy dramedy that focuses on the oft-overlapping worlds of work and romance.

And keep in mind that after seven seasons, her Millennial co-workers are starting to get older, too. Liza’s advice just might come in handy.

“We’re not the young kids on the block,” grouses Kelsey (played by one-time Disney star Hilary Duff). “I’m not sure what defines me now.”

Turns out, it’s the same stuff that defines many: career, family and love.

Oh, and chaos, too. All of those elements are constantly submerged in soapy chaos in Younger. But again, that’s hardly surprising for a melodramatic television show, is it?

Milleni-ick

Younger, which began its run on TV Land and winds it up on Paramount+, really wants us all to be aware that the show’s in touch with what Millennials think and feel and value.

Those values aren’t all bad, of course: Friendship? Freedom? Honesty? Understanding that life satisfaction is about more than just who brings home the biggest paycheck? Those are good things.

But when the show tells us what it doesn’t value—and what it doesn’t think Millennials do, either—we can run into problems.

Younger’s take on relationships isn’t so much youthful as loose. The idea of monogamy is great, but to expect anyone to be monogamous for life? Or to wait to have sex before marriage? Yeah, hopelessly old-fashioned. Values are largely disconnected from faith (which rarely appears in the show), while sexual habits, partners, anatomy and quirks all become free game for discussion and jokes. Liza’s roommate is lesbian, a coworker is pansexual and pretty much everyone has had plenty of bed partners during the show’s run.

Younger’s dialogue includes plenty of profanities, too, including the s-word. Lots of critical scenes take place in bars or alcohol-rich parties, and some imbibe to excess.

All that is stuff we’ve seen before, of course. The Bible says that there’s “nothing new under the sun,” and television retorts, “You got that right: Let’s detail it for you. And while Younger is hardly the most titillating or tawdry soap-edy on screen, it certainly still joins a hefty clique of similar offerings. The writing might be a bit better, but that doesn’t’ make it a better show for families.

That leaves us with a certain irony in play. The show may be called Younger. But honestly, in today’s television landscape, it feels a little old and tired to me.

Episode Reviews

April 15, 2021, Episode One: “A Decent Proposal”

In last season’s cliffhanger, Millennial publisher Charles proposed to girlfriend Liza at a wedding, and Liza spends much of the episode considering that proposal. Meanwhile, tattoo artist Josh allows daughter, Gemma, to go to Ireland with Gemma’s mother and her new boyfriend. Kelsey and Charles talk with the board for the Millennial publishing house and get some unexpected news, while Kelsey’s boyfriend, Zane, breaks up with Kelsey after she’s promoted over him. Liza’s co-worker, Lauren, throws an extravagant 30th birthday party.

Lauren enters her birthday shindig on a trapeze contraption, dressed in a fairly revealing sequined bathing-suit-like getup. (Her mother, who just told the crowd that Lauren “twisted my pelvis like a corkscrew” in utero, tells her to smooth out the crotch part of her outfit, which Lauren extravagantly does.) Maggie, Liza’s lesbian roommate, recalls how she made out with Debbie Harry on her 30th birthday. In a video clip/flashback to last season’s climactic wedding, Maggie asks Lauren (who’s pansexual) if she’d like to dance. She does, and we see the two women twirling about on the dance floor. Maggie later asks Liza whether she’s seen “the goods,” meaning an engagement ring. “I’ve seen the goods,” Liza says, referring to other parts of Charles, “and I don’t need a big ring to make me happy.”

Liza asks Lauren why she’s dressed “like a drag queen.” Maggie confirms that sex between Liza and Charles is “hot.” Characters smooch. Some wear outfits that might be characterized as revealing. There’s a reference to an article someone wrote about “jellyfish sex.” Another mentions the same woman wrote an article about black holes, to which Lauren says, “She can make any hole fun.” Her book proposal—Little Women in Space—includes the death of professor Bhaer during a spacewalk. The would-be author says it’s to illustrate “the gravity of marriage in a zero-gravity world.”

People drink and swear: The latter includes the s-word (once), “b–ch” and “p-ss.” God’s name is misused nearly a dozen times.

[Spoiler Warning] Liza turns down Charles’ marriage proposal. She’d been married once before and it hadn’t turned out well. Her commitment to Charles, she insists, is still strong, but for Charles it’s not enough. “I may be old-fashioned, but I believe in marriage,” he says.

“And I think we’re finally free of the need to define ourselves by those rules and obligations,” Liza retorts, before the two of them part ways.

April 15, 2021, Episode Three: “FKA Millennial”

Both Charles and Liza deal with the aftermath of their breakup. But the publishing world pushes on, and the publisher Millennial—which reverted back to the name Empirical in the season’s opening episode—is considering two new books. One is by famous surfer Kai Manning, who doesn’t have an actual book to pitch but does have 18 million social media followers. The other, by scheming one-time publishing magnate/senate candidate Quinn Tyler, comes with a sure-to-sell title: The F-Word.

“The F is for failure,” Quinn says, “The dirtiest f-word there is.” Her recent failures have taught her how valuable it is. “It makes you grow, it makes you rethink,” she insists. “We should be popping champagne and French-kissing it.”

No one French kisses a concept here, but someone does come to tattoo artist Josh and asks him to slap some ink on her ample breast. (He convinces her to take a raincheck.) We hear some confusion as to how Millennial will be folded back into Empirical—given that the publishing house’s prestigious authors will be on the same backlist as a “feminist sex toy guide.” The prospective cover of Kai’s book features the surfer shirtless, and a video montage of his surfing days depict several women in bikinis. Kai references a wild summer with an unnamed celebrity as potential fodder for his book. Maggie complains about a high rise apartment complex, calling it a “40-foot penis”.

At a posh publishing party, specialized M&Ms are handed out, featuring “E” instead of “M” on the candy shell. (The woman handing them out jokes that some of the E’s are actually E—meaning the party drug Ecstasy. People drink, and Liza’s called out for “double fisting” (holding two drinks in her hand). Two people scream in a sound-proof wine room. Others speculate what it could be used for, and Kai says that he’d uses it as a meditation room.

The s-word is used about three times. We also hear “b–ch” twice and two misuses of God’s name.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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