How long can you keep a lie going? “Younger” makes it clear early on in season six that, while everyone and their mother knows that Liza (Sutton Foster) isn’t 28, she’ll still have to keep the ruse up. TV Land’s sleeper hit show started as a comedy about a divorced Mom who moonlights as a young millennial to get back into the world of publishing. The show’s take on ageism and millennial culture was fresh, biting and loving. After six years, something’s gotta give. While the lie is still in full effect, “Younger” proves it is possible for a show to age like fine wine. When the show concentrates on being a workplace comedy about the challenges of being a female executive, “Younger” truly excels.
Kelsey (Hilary Duff) gets ready to start as head publisher of Millennial Print. Her “little imprint that could” takes over Empirical as the flagship brand. With Liza in tow as her editor, the pair looks unstoppable. Yet, difficult investors/authors, such as Quinn Tyler (Laura Benanti) prove to be a problem. Page Six also already knows that former Empirical Press publisher Charles Brooks (Peter Hermann) stepped down due to an affair with a 28-year-old employee (aka Liza). To prevent people from assuming Kelsey was said 28-year-old, Liza continues to present herself as Charles’ 28-year-old lover.
Broadway legend Sutton Foster can do no wrong. She’s winning and charming at every moment. Her and Charles have great romantic chemistry. However, nothing compares to the ride-or-die bond that she has cultivated with Hilary Duff’s Kelsey. While the show started as Liza’s show, Hilary Duff makes a compelling case for why Kelsey should be the lead moving forward. Duff brings wonderful punches of sass and strength, which are only further highlighted by the sensitive undercurrent she lets bubble up around Liza. Kelsey’s drive and rise to power has been one of the best arcs over the past six seasons.
The show makes a point to examine the statistic that companies with C-level women executives tend to show drops in performance. Yet, there’s a crucial bit of context behind this statistic. When women are given opportunities to run companies, it’s usually for companies already in distress or on their last legs. Kelsey hears this news and decides to rise above the statistics.As the show focuses more on Kelsey and Liza’s struggles to make Millennial a publishing powerhouse, the more the show comes alive.
The rest of the colorful cast of Brooklyn-ites offer many laughs, but not much else. Debi Mazar masters the art of one-liners as Maggie, Liza’s bohemian roommate and best friend. Still, she deserves to get more of a storyline. On the flip side, Nico Tortorella’s Josh, Liza’s former younger fling, finds himself to be a new Dad-to-be. Though this tattoo artist seems nervous about fatherhood, the show still finds ways to shoehorn in longing glances between him and Liza. Now that Liza is with Charles, Josh feels more ancillary to the story than ever before. Molly Bernard’s daffy socialite Lauren works overtime to tie Josh back to the core group. Yet, even she’s better served by a new subplot where she becomes Millennial Print’s social media/PR person.
Of the rest of the supporting cast, Miriam Shor stands heads and shoulders above the rest, and she knows it. Shor’s marketing VP, Diana, luckily gets treated better than the punching bag she was in earlier seasons. In fact, Shor gets the best moment of the first two episodes, involving an impromptu “Nine to Five” karaoke. Liza and Kelsey search for Diana leads them to Marie’s Crisis, a showtunes karaoke bar and Diana’s sanctuary. Many singalong moments are fun just because they show the characters let loose and have fun. However, “Younger” uses this moment to give Diana a moment to start and resolve the conflicts she has about working at Millennial. Miriam Shor leads a masterclass in how one can convey a full three act drama in the span of a minute and a half singalong.
Walking out of the bar, Kelsey and Liza experience delayed laughter. “Did people in the 80s only work from nine to five?” Liza asks. This underscores what makes “Younger” one of the freshest unsung gems of the past few years. What started as a comedy about ageism has become a rousing series charting women clawing their way to the top of an industry. Diana is the best marketer in the publishing world, but fears the youth will replace her soon. As a newly minted publisher, Kelsey wonders how can she rise to the pressure. “Younger” puts women in positions of power at work. They finally get to be the Don Draper, Jack Donaghey, Dr. House of their stories. Elements of the show’s “Liza gets her groove back” premise continues. Yet, “Younger” works best when we see these entrepreneurial women taking over the publishing world.
“Younger” Season Six premieres on TV Land on Wednesday, June 12th at 10 p.m. ET. The first two episodes were reviewed.
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