Younger: Seasons 1 - 3 Recap
Al and I love to think and talk about TV, which is the point of this entire blog. When we started conceptualizing how we would put our ideas out in the world, we thought we would want to discuss a specific show. But since both our personalities tend toward extreme procrastination coupled with bingeing behavior, we ended up watching the show all the way through rather than discussing it as we went along. Oops. Here are our EXTREMELY SPOILER-FILLED thoughts about Seasons 1-3 of the TV Land show, Younger.
<SERIOUSLY THERE ARE LOTS OF SPOILERS>
Annie's first take We started off watching Younger because 1) we both have an affinity for "Shiny" shows, aka good fashion, beautiful people, some saucy plot lines, a city setting and 2) we wanted a female-centric show. Three seasons in, (2 1/2 of which were binged, which was extremely enjoyable and maybe we can come back to this point later) I think we got what we were after and then some. Younger deals with age and its relationship to work, friendship, romance, and sex, in really interesting ways. The premise of Liza being stuck between two "generations" is consistently interesting, to me, because of all the nuances. She and Kelsey bond almost instantly - there's no tired competitiveness between these "young" working women, just support. It's clear their personalities are good together, but Kelsey is also assuming that she and Liza have more in common than they actually do. Liza and Maggie's relationship is tested from the opposite direction - is Liza too "young" for Maggie now? How do friendships form, and what are they based on? seems to be a central question that the show is exploring, even more so now that Kelsey knows the truth and the friendship is in jeopardy.
I've also really enjoyed the tension between Liza's love interests. Love triangles can be boring, but the question of age, experience, and compatibility explored by contrasting Josh and Charles is full of nuance. (Also they are both so sexy in their own way so it's like YES more of both of them please.) Where should Liza be headed in her relationships? If there's one thing I haven't loved so far, it's the use of Liza's daughter. She is used conveniently as a plot point, in situations where Liza needs to be "almost" discovered, or whatever. But some of their moments together ring false as "mother/daughter", and it's jarring because the friend and romantic dialogue is done pretty well. Overall, this show and its ensemble cast are as addictive as popcorn, and can't wait to see what hilarious publishing jokes are on the way.
Alison's first take It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the first 5? 6? 7? episodes, but the second half of Season 1 and all of 2 and 3 I watched in the last week. I remember someone – either Margaret Lyons or Emily Nussbaum – mentioning that Younger is best watched in a binge, and since it was added to Hulu recently, facilitating my own bingeing process, I can say that agree wholeheartedly. First and foremost in my takeaways from this experience is that I think the best thing about Younger is its overall sensibility. Delightful, sparkling, warm. One night, I had to pause in the middle of an episode to go somewhere, and opened my computer to keep watching as soon as I got back, and just seeing the freeze-frame of Liza and Kelsey reacting to something ridiculous they were looking at made my heart feel like it had confetti in it.
There’s a fair and fairly obvious argument to be made that the construction of the show isn’t as technically strong as it could be, and I can agree to that, but I think that any analysis that focused on that would be missing the point, by a woeful mile. This show is so much more than a sum of its parts, and by not subscribing to realism as its highest order, it is freed up to pursue other objectives – namely entertainment and delight. I think that the one place where a stricter adherence to quality (not the best word for what I’m trying to refer to here, do you know what I mean?) could have served the show would have been in the first five episodes. I don’t know that I would have watched past them had we not been doing this project and had you not come back to it after we stalled out early on.
Annie: Woah, you're so coherent here I can't stand it.
Alison: NO YOU ARE. We DO like shiny shows. That is exactly right and this show is so ridiculously satisfying in that way, I'm obsessed with it.
Annie: It seems like we both have opinions on why this show should be binged — do you want to start off with your thoughts on that?
Alison: Sure. I started getting into this a little bit in my introduction, but I think Younger's greatest strength is tone. And in order to feel the full effect of tone, you need to spend extended time inside something. Does that make sense? Maybe tone accumulates. And I think this show especially has a very specific tone, and it takes a couple episodes to realize that certain quirks are due to tone and not to poor construction? Like Liza and Kelsey's friendship. At first it felt a little off to me - it registered as "too easy," and therefore maybe lazy - when in fact it's a hallmark of this show that it often circumvents tv tropes so ingrained that they have become invisible. In this case it was that DIFFICULTY feels like the norm, when in fact, the ease and camaraderie and support that characterizes the dynamic between Liza and Kelsey from the first moment they meet is so much more realistic (ALL of my female friendships started with a sense of kinship, just like theirs did).
Annie: Excellent point dude. A lot of the kookiness, especially with characters such as Thad, Lauren, Lauren's parents, and Diana, are much better-served when seen as a running joke rather than a one-off weird moment. Diana's accidental innuendos (which I know you love) are WAY funnier when you see that she does them ALL the time and can't seem to stop herself, even though she is an otherwise competent and professional woman. Or Lauren's parents. WHY is her dad so creepy? Who knows, but it is extremely funny and you run the risk of forgetting the oddball moments with him if there are several weeks between his scenes. And yes, Liza and Kelsey's relationship may seem to start off "easily" but the more time you spend with Kelsey, you see this kindness is an actual character trait, rather than a lack of personality.
Alison: Also, for what it's worth, this is a very light show, and that is easier it consume in high quantities. Heart is easier to consume than misery.
Annie: We keep coming back to Younger's tone, which is extremely offbeat and irreverent. I know I've talked to you about my personal love of the publishing jokes, which are occasionally SAVAGE as well as goofy. (A fake John Green author whose book is called Hashtag I'm Dying, anyone? Also their send-up of George R.R. Martin and the Song of Ice and Fire series borders on heartless.) It can be emotionally resonant one moment—as Liza struggles with the pain her secret is causing Josh and Maggie, for example—and the next moment that same secret is temporarily protected by Kelsey's fiancé Thad getting smushed to death by a beam falling from the sky!?!?! It is silly and out-of-left-field but also entwined with the main tension of the show—when and to whom Liza's secret is revealed. There don't seem to be many "rules" to the Younger universe, which always allows for surprises. And that's probably what feels so fresh about it, to us, who are veteran TV watchers and have watched pretty much every type of show you could name.
Alison: I think "irreverent and offbeat" are exactly right, as well as the point about the lack of rules in the Younger universe, with one caveat. I think there are very few rules the physical world, but the emotional world feels very true and honest. They may manipulate physical events like [SPOILER] Thad getting crushed by falling steel right after swearing he was going to reveal Liza's secret [SPOILER] but RIGHT before that (if I remember correctly) Liza had said that he should go ahead and tell everyone, because he couldn't blackmail her into keeping the secret that he was cheating on Kelsey. Which is exactly right for who Liza is and what their friendship is like.
Also, YES. I almost wonder if there's a direction correlation between how much tv you've watched and how much you enjoy this show.
Annie: Yes, the emotional beats of the show are 100% realistic. (With the exception of Liza's daughter's reaction to things, which...is not great. I don't get it. They gotta figure that out.) But the universe around them can do...whatever.
Alison: This also has to do with how annoyed I get, and how much of a turn-off it is, when shows have their characters behave in ways that I don't believe they normally would. The show has a character keep a secret, or betray someone, or do something else shitty that they, and most other normal people wouldn't do, because there seems to be a belief that the only way to make a show interesting is for the characters to CAUSE problems that the show will then spend many episodes resolving. And, in the meantime, we've lost our emotional center, and can't believe in the invented reality of the show anymore, which sucks.
Which might be what feels so fresh about this. The problem is the secret of Liza's age, which is set up to be very understandable, and then various external forces that necessitate hijinks and problem-solving episode-to-episode, not the shitty behavior of the characters.
And yeah, totally agree about the daughter. It's like the writers haven't spent enough time thinking about her to really figure out who she is.
Annie: Yup. Now...let's tackle one more topic.
Alison: How about, THE AGE REVEAL.
The first reveal happened in the second to last episode of Season 1, "Hot Mitzvah" (genius and hilarious episode title and party concept). I think that timing was exactly right, because my initial fear was that they would drag the secret out for a million years, until we got exhausted of it. But once she told Josh I realized that there was so much comedy and intrigue to be mined from some people in her life knowing her real age and others not, and that her secret could be reveled bit by bit, person by person, which would cause a shift in the dynamics of their social world each time it happened. I was actually thinking about - what if Kelsey knows but no one else in the office does? Which, as it turns out, is exactly where we are right now, two episodes into Season 4. Except we're not experiencing what I thought would be fun or funny about that, which might be because of a couple reasons. One, I think they might have waited a tad too long for a second person to find out. I thought that maybe one person would find out at the end of each season, but they didn't do anyone in Season 2, and I don't know why - just a gut feeling - it feels like they waited a little too long. Another reason is that it also feels like Kelsey is a little more mad than I expected her to be. I get that there's betrayal going on here, but it would have been more in keeping with their friendship and the feel of the show, IMHO, if Kelsey hadn't been so upset. I don't know, is this crazy?
Annie: First of all, I totally agree that the staggered reveal was the way to go for this show. It was way more interesting to have one person find out. And while many shows might have started with a friend (like Kelsey, or someone else at work), they started with the person who might feel the most betrayed: the boyfriend. Having Josh know and having this be a major factor in his misgivings about the relationship was really fascinating—because his misgivings were not about age (at least after he got used to the idea of dating a 40 year old) but about dishonesty and his character's innate discomfort with it. Also, the tension between the friends naturally defending Liza during breakups, not knowing that it was Liza's secrecy that led to both breakups, was emotionally accurate and very painful. Talk about dramatic irony!!
I agree that maybe they should have revealed to someone else a little sooner than end of Season 3. However, I think that since they DID wait so long, I totally see Kelsey's reaction being the way it is. Kelsey has staked her professional reputation on Millennial Print, and even though Liza has been on the verge of telling Kelsey a few times, and has been "foiled" by various plot points, you can definitely make the argument that there were still plenty of opportunities. From Kelsey's perspective, her professional life is in jeopardy and she has lost a trustworthy friend. Remember, Liza basically gave that EW girl a book deal to protect herself, and even though they ended up working it out...that's really not great. From Kelsey's point of view Liza probably looks much more opportunistic than she really is. As viewers, we know Liza's love for Kelsey is real but I can definitely see how Kelsey would feel differently. So in a nutshell what I am saying is since they DID wait so long to get the secret out...I am on board for this reaction thus far.
Alison: FAIR. I agree with this take! This is VERY well put.
Clearly Al & I have some similar takes, but hopefully as we move forward with this and other shows, we'll get into some down and dirty debates. Thanks for reading, and remember: TV is better than outside!