BWW Recap: Sutton Foster 'Embraces Her Inner 26-Year-Old' on New Dramedy, YOUNGER
Hey, all you Broadway buffs! Guess what, guess what, guess what?! Two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster (ANYTHING GOES, THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, SHREK, LITTLE WOMEN, DROWSY CHAPERONE, etc.), most recently seen on television in ABC Family's BUNHEADS, is back on the small screen!
In quite a different role than we've ever seen her before. The show itself is a little TOOTSIE - as Ms. Foster said in an interview - meets PARENT TRAP meets SEX AND THE CITY (which makes all the sense in the world, as it's co-created by Darren Star). It's a bit raunchier than I expected - but then again, maybe that's just because, as I said, I'm used to Broadway darling Sutton Foster and haven't seen Hilary Duff since LIZZIE MCGUIRE when I was 10.
But no worries. These are just general observations, that do not and should not take away from the fact that it's a fabulous show and I'm hooked. Here's what goes down in Episode 1:
We open and meet Liza Miller (Foster), struggling in the job market, which she owes to being older than the Twitter, Facebook, FaceTime, iPhone, etc.-obsessed applicants of today. Within the first few minutes, we also find out she's divorced, selling her house (because she can't afford it), and she's disconnected from her daughter, who is off studying abroad in Bombay. Sorry... Mumbai. Life is crap.
While out at a bar with her friend, Maggie (Debi Mazar), lamenting her crappy state of being, Liza's picked up by a hot, young 20-something tattoo artist named Josh, who thinks she's 26, and asks her out on a date.
With that (and some persuading from Maggie), she decides to make herself over as a younger woman, in a fast-paced, PARENT TRAP-esque montage (Remember that "And this is Grandfather" bit at the Isolation table? There's a YOUNGER equivalent).
With the new guise comes a new confidence to go out and interview again, and she turns up at Diana Trout (Miriam Shor, Yitzhak in the original HEDWIG)'s publishing firm, where she not only gets the job, but makes a new friend in co-worker Kelsey Peters (Duff). Turns out, too, that "Trout Pout" is also essentially the Queen of Mean, because she's "43 and divorced." Just like Liza. The one difference? Diana's bitter, and is out to make life a living hell for all her staff. This plot detail is why I think I'm really attracted to this show.
There's an actual plot to follow, like a movie, or dare I say, a Broadway show, with a clear "villain" - Diana - and an obstacle for Liza to overcome - trying to pass off as younger than she is. But the twist provides something a little bit more, and adds a little fuel to how important Liza's "disguise" is at the moment and how essential the eventual reveal will be to her relationship with her boss:
Diana's bitter 'cause she's fed up with the younger generation; Liza, who Diana thinks is of the younger generation, is actually in the same age group, but remains cheery and optimistic. It's a great dynamic for the characters and I think it's the key to making this show so exciting. Something tells me there's gonna be a big reveal somewhere down the line - a la TOOTSIE and MRS. DOUBTFIRE - but being that this is a TV show with a 12-episode storyline, where that reveal comes must be carefully placed ('cause what do you do if it's revealed, and then the show gets picked up for S2?!) , and for that reason, it's all the better that I can't see where or when that reveal is coming.
With the obstacle in place, Liza continues to get adjusted to the universe of the 20-somethings, while dodging bullets that may give away her actual age (see: "Don't you wax?" and "I participated in a lot of sit-ins, so I got arrested, like, every weekend"), and getting on the right side of her b*tchy boss. I'll also mention, too, as a side-note, that Kelsey makes note of how pathetic it is to lie about one's age... in front of Liza. It raises the tension and adds an extra layer to the severity of the consequences for Liza, which makes her hiding her secret all the more crucial... and for us, all the more appealing to watch :-).
Nonetheless, despite however on edge Liza may be about her new identity - or "age-dentity," rather - the episode ends on a sentimental note, when she has a heart-to-heart talk with her daughter, Caitlin, and reassures both her daughter and herself, "We'll figure [our life] out," and that everything's going to be okay. And finally, caught escaping by Josh, she gives in, goes along with the ruse, and enters the bar, ready for her date. I guess we'll see what happens in the next episode.
It's an enjoyable half-hour, and despite the comparisons to all the above films and TV shows, it's a new and refreshing concept that I think TV needs right now. Makes you laugh and tugs on your heartstrings, deals with real-life issues, but isn't so much "Hey-it's-real-life-coming-and-slapping-you-smack-in-the-face." Of course, this episode in particular, is a pilot, so its purpose is to set up the premise of the series, and on the whole, doesn't provide much overall that you couldn't get from the promos aired ad nauseam on TV Land and the Internet. But, as I said earlier, they've definitely ignited the flame that will burn throughout the series - and it's quite an attractive flame at that.
If TV Land is looking to reinvent their network with these single-camera comedies, this show is a great place to start. Foster, as she does with everything IMHO, is really at the top of her game here, and it's a character very different than she's played before - even wino Michelle Simms from BUNHEADS. Her work and the refreshing concept - plus fantastic performances from the supporting cast - is sure to make this show an addictive, on-the-edge-of-your-seat must-watch.
So, what are YOU waiting for? Embrace your inner 26-year-old, and dive in to YOUNGER!
Photo Credit: Twitter / TV Land