“Nobody at work knows this, but … I’m not 26. I’m 40. […] and I have to make myself invaluable before anyone figures it out and I become a think piece on Slate.”
We heard that, Liza! What’s old is new again over at TV Land and not just in their relentlessly lauded new program “Younger.” The network officially announced its rebranding last summer, rolling out fresh original series aimed, they say, at Generation X. They marked the launch with the Darren Star dramedy, which tells a parallel story of revamping image for professional gain. When Liza Miller (Sutton Foster) attempts to re-enter the work force after taking a 15-year hiatus to raise her child, she’s abruptly faced with the harsh reality of today’s job market—you’re either too young and therefore inexperienced or too old and therefore overqualified.
While it’s highly unlikely that this particular plot would be feasible in reality (social security numbers are a thing, people), it does beg the question: To what lengths are people willing to go to find work that’s meaningful to them? Liza Miller, fictional as she may be, probably could’ve found employment somewhere at age 40, but she has her heart set on returning to an industry she loves. In a highly competitive market, especially found within publishing/media, would she have managed to convince a company to let her start “anywhere,” even if that meant being the only assistant not straight out of college? Where is the happy medium between inexperienced and overqualified? Does it even exist anymore?
Liza’s secret doesn’t get any easier to protect in the show’s sophomore season, which concluded March 23, but the burden she bears begins to weigh her down. In a trip to a psychologist in episode 2.08 to prove precisely why Millennial Print, Empirical’s latest venture, is the right outlet for the doc’s next book, Liza spills all. Her situation (“lie,” corrects Dr. Wray) makes her the perfect person to market a guide to your 20s because she’s already survived the era—and voluntarily gone back for more.
“I utterly admire you. It’s a completely ludicrous idea and you are pulling it off,” says Dr. Wray. While that may be true, it’s a bit shortsighted to believe that her victory should exist only in deceiving everyone close to her, from her new friends to her own daughter. Plus, Liza may be back in publishing, but not in her field of choice (she prefers editorial over marketing, which is understandable when you’re still not sure what a hashtag is) and she also lives in constant fear that she’ll slip up and be found out (which is possible when you drop Punky Brewster references into casual conversation with actual 26-year-olds).
Beneath all the thinly veiled attempts to be oh-so-relevant (every single commercial break is preempted with plugs for practically every social media platform), the show is rife with uncomfortable yet completely justifiable questions about personal and societal ethics. Lying about one’s age is a concept perceived to be so common, it’s inconsequential, particularly for women—but the show wastes many an opportunity to linger on why. With the potential to be an intense look at social norms disguised as fast-paced fun, the chief thrill remains only in discovering the next person to learn Liza’s truth.
Truth is, there’s a bigger story to be told here.