Hilary Duff (TV Land)
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Jane Krakowski running into a glass door—not once, but twice—in order to chase down her coke dealer is a scene that takes Younger to a new level comedy-wise. That sounds crazy, but bear with me. In its premiere season, Younger is enlisting some well-seasoned female comedy veterans like Krakowski as guest stars, and that decision helps legitimize Younger as a show that takes comedy seriously. Krakowski—and others who I won’t mention because I don’t want to ruin the surprise—aren’t big names who will attract hordes of new, younger viewers, but they are performers well-respected in the comedy community. Asking these particular actors to appear in episodes demonstrates good taste in comedy that isn’t necessarily expected from TV Land and Darren Star, though I’d argue that the show’s funniest lines should speak for themselves. This scene also shows that the writers are having fun experimenting with the show’s comedic language. Some attempts, like last week’s cold open, won’t work for everyone; last week’s comments proved it to be as divisive of a scene as I though it would be. Technology, pop culture, and sex jokes are expected from Younger at this point, though; more explicit female body humor and physical comedy are more divisive wells to go to, but they’re surprising in the moment as a result, and surprise is often at the heart of humor.

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This is a crazy, brazen episode centered around Diana’s old friend, Annabelle, an author promoting a book called Shedonism, which encourages older, divorced women to reinvent themselves by embracing their wild sides and announcing their decision to never marry again with the classy hashtag, #slutpact. The book party where Annabelle gets out of control is very over the top, but Krakowski’s performance is as fun as always, even though it does feel derivative of earlier characters she’s played. Despite all of the shock for shock’s sake, there are some meaningful, interesting parallels drawn between the characters’ circumstances in this episode. Both Annabelle and Liza have dealt with divorce by acting younger, but Liza has directed her energies at furthering her career. Both Diana and Liza avoid being dragged down by destructive people in their lives. Diana rescues Annabelle from her drunken escapade at the book party, but only for professional reasons; their friendship was over the day that Diana decided to prioritize her career over Annabelle’s partying lifestyle.

A conversation about that relationship inspires Liza to refuse to bail out her ex-husband when he needs her to take their old boat in order to avoid paying a gambling debt. It seems like that wouldn’t have solved his problem, as he’d still have a debt to pay, but it’s the lack of thought that counts. The moment where Liza’s daughter mourns the loss of this boat and the history that it represented is touching, and the way that Liza comforts her speaks to the wisdom that maturity brings. Sometimes old things must be destroyed in order to make room for the new; things are just things and family is forever. Conversations between Liza and her daughter are often the quiet highlights of these episodes; they show a different side of Younger’s protagonist and depict a different mother/daughter story than the majority of those that appear on television. These scenes aren’t long enough to even qualify as subplots, but their healthy mundaneness grounds the show.

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The issues raised in this episode are thought-provoking, but the lack of follow through on these topics raises more questions than answers. Liza’s decision to stop bailing out her husband is a productive decision for that particular circumstance, but it doesn’t speak for every circumstance. It’s difficult to assess Diana’s decision to cut Annabelle out of her life and, as a result, Diana herself, when the details about that decision aren’t clear. According to her, both she and Annabelle were wild children until Diana decided to grow up and advance in her career. But at some point, Annabelle married and presumably settled down before this latest destructive post-divorce phase. If she ever calmed down, Annabelle may have deserved a friend like Diana to help her recover from her divorce, which would have prevented this meltdown in the first place. Either way, this episode’s look at the implosion of one of her past friendships sheds more light on Diana, depicting her as a very practical woman, but one who also seems very lonely.

“Shedonism” could have been more effective at balancing the comedy and tragedy of the Annabelle character. From the beginning, she’s written as a walking punch-line, but the cause that inspired her book and her intuition that Liza may not be who she says she is suggest that there’s more to Annabelle than meets the eye. The specific concept of “shedonism” is irresponsible and over the top, but isn’t there some value to it? A divorcée is trying to reinvent herself as an independent woman without the need for a man and it’s treated like a completely bad thing. Annabelle has gone off the deep end, but the root of her behavior deserves more attention than this episode delivers. Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce isn’t perfect by any means, but its interest in the challenges that face women who find themselves single again after many years is admirable. Younger clearly shares that interest, given Liza’s backstory, but it fails to follow through on the parallels between these characters in a meaningful way. Hot messes like Annabelle deliver on the comedic front, but there’s too much human drama in their stories to treat them more like punchlines than people.

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Stray observations:

· “It’s still glass. Go around; it’s okay.”

· “I still have my underwear on? This was a terrible party.”

· What is with Jane Krakowski’s makeup? The styling on this show is instrumental to the story, but it can be a bit much. That is an actress, not a clown.

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· Kelsey makes out with her client, as the prophecies foretold. Liza confronts her about this decision, but bites her tongue during her exploitation of the youth rant? There’s only so far you should go to maintain your cover, Liza. Have some self-respect.

· This week’s insight into the world of lesbian dating: the unforeseen challenge of accidentally hitting on pregnant women. Good to know, Younger. Noted.

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