Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Younger returns with a charming pair of episodes

Sutton Foster, Debi Mazar (TV Land)
Sutton Foster, Debi Mazar (TV Land)
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Younger has returned and get comfortable, because it’s here for the long haul. The show’s impressive rate of in-season ratings growth plus healthy streaming numbers convinced TV Land to renew the show for a third season before the second season even started. The first two installments of this year’s run efficiently reestablish the character dynamics and shuffle some around in order to create new drama. This table-setting is the priority, but the show’s unique comedic voice also quickly reestablishes itself, serving as a reminder of what sets Younger apart from the all of the other series in an increasingly saturated television landscape. The writers’ room still loves its invented slang like “sick-lit” and ridiculous event themes like “Cold War-era ping pong diplomacy party,” not to mention its signature blend of media, pop culture, and literary references. Occasional lapses into cheesiness remain charming because the show’s continued sincerity offsets a variety of sins.

One red flag regarding this season’s direction—the entire series’ direction, really—rears its ugly mast when both episodes involve relationship drama between Liza and Josh. Not only does the drama involve similar patterns of behavior, but it repeats patterns previously explored during the first season. A misunderstanding occurs, Liza’s insecurity consumes her, Josh reassures her, and everything is fixed for the time being. Josh has only recently discovered that his girlfriend had been lying to him about her age so conflict is believable, but repetition leads to predictability. It was brave of the writers to pair the two up so early in the first season instead of relying on the typical mating dance to attract viewers. The downside, however, is that keeping a relationship interesting can be a challenge—in life and on television—and it’s way too early in the game for things to go stale between such a cute couple.

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Still, the complicated dynamics between two people so far apart in age are worth exploring. It becomes clear, however, that the age part of the equation isn’t nearly as big of a factor in their disagreements as Liza thinks. Liza’s anxiety regarding the age difference and Josh’s discomfort about lying in order to sell said difference are what’s driving them apart. Once confronted, these issues could be worked out but other issues of compatibility remain. Liza and Josh lead very different lifestyles at this point, which is an issue that can be attributed to personality type as much or more than it can be attributed to age. The scene during trivia night highlights the couple’s differences, but also illustrates how these differences make them a good team. In this case, age may be an excuse because the actual underlying problems might require real work or compromise to overcome.

The truth is that for now, Josh is a man with few responsibilities, a slobby roommate, and a job that involves working irregular hours. Meanwhile, Liza’s life may be in a state of flux, but her priorities remain intact. Liza is a mother and her daughter has just returned from her sojourn to India. She works regular hours, though those hours will soon be spent differently now that Kelsey is becoming her supervisor. This new arrangement is a welcome shakeup to the show’s character dynamics. Liza and Kelsey will be working more closely together, which is an ideal scenario for someone with a secret. Liza already finds her diplomatic savvy being tested when Josh tries to shake her down for information about Kelsey’s career plans. She keeps her cool, but things will soon get even trickier as she’s now a forty year old masquerading as a valuable team member working for a publishing wing focused on young adults. Given this development, the next difference between Liza and Josh that needs to be addressed is a potential difference in ethics—one of the more uncomfortable topics to breach. Adulthood is fun.

Stray observations:

  • “I bet Seabiscuit would love a Gallup poll.” “I swear, it’s like you have some form of literary Tourette’s.”
  • Diana is as dependable a source of comedy as ever, elevating a potentially cliché B-plot that involves some impressively awkward sexual innuendo and Bobby Flay. It’s much better than that sounds. “Spit roast”—enough said.
  • “She says I’m having a midlife crisis.” “The crisis is your boring life before this.” Maggie’s still stuck in that apartment, but at least she is really acing her role as The Best Friend. She’s there when you need her, whether you need advice, wine pairings, or someone to sass your ex-husband.
  • “I’m gonna squeeze their nuts until they’re squirting money in your face.” “Vape? Let’s blaze it up, brah.” Thad may be this season’s Lauren, as he’s started off the year with some killer lines and delivery. I see his value now.
  • “Why are you so shy?” is the new “You should smile more.” I love the show’s subtle feminist commentary.
  • “On again, off again. Classic.” Hanging that lampshade doesn’t make the dance any less tedious, writers.
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