We gave it a B+
After ABC Family’s Bunheads was canceled, it seemed like the only way to get a weekly dose of Sutton Foster was through old cast albums. Now the pain is over: Broadway legend-in-the-making Foster makes a glowing TV return in TV Land’s delightful new comedy Younger, fresh from the mind of Sex and the City creator Darren Star. The producer and his lead are an inspired match. Here, Foster exhibits the same fast-talking wit she flexed on Bunheads, albeit with noticeably feistier jokes and she-wolf roar.
Foster (who turned 40 in March) plays Liza, a 40-year-old divorcee who can’t seem to re-enter the age-phobic workforce after spending 15 years out of the office raising her daughter. After yet another failed interview, Liza is mistaken for a 26-year-old at a bar (by The Following’s Nico Tortorella), inspiring her to pose as a Millennial in order to land a job at a publishing company. It works, and soon she’s handling the office’s social media under an insecure boss (Miriam Shor) who’s not very different from Liza’s real self and a young colleague (Hilary Duff) whom Liza must restrain herself from mothering.
There’s merry if repetitive humor in the nuances of Foster’s physical and digital transformation into a 26-year-old—swapping her AOL e-mail address for Gmail is a subtle yet sharp move, and it’s almost as painful as Liza’s first bikini wax. And Foster wins whenever she’s on screen, displaying that persuasive charm that’s made her such a gem both on camera and onstage. The dialogue is surprisingly bold, and offers perhaps a little TMI for the TV Land demo (psst, TV Land demo: that stands for Too Much Information)—but bawdy is in these days, and Younger’s feistiness still feels smart.
The supporting cast is strong and could grow into that rare scorching ensemble, if Shor’s high-strung boss backs away from the absurd and Duff’s friendly but subjugated Kelsey makes more of an impression as the series grows. Debi Mazar is as yet underused as Liza’s fedora-flaunting, age-appropriate friend Maggie; Tortorella could not be more charming as the tattoo artist who believably falls for Liza, even if he has to play a duped beau.
Therein lies the big question: How long can Liza plausibly keep up her ruse, and could/should/would the series evolve into a workplace comedy once its main conceit is gone? (Hey, Suits is still rocking the Mike-didn’t-go-to-Harvard secret.) Younger will have to contend with that question while also making a swift decision on how long it can rely on “That’s the problem with your generation” jokes. But for now, the series surely delivers, as the incomparable Foster is wont to do.