Youth doesn’t have to be wasted on the young — if you can pass for a twentysomething.
That’s the gist of the endearingly funny new Darren Star comedy “Younger,” which premieres Tuesday on TV Land. While Star’s “Sex and the City” gravitas gives the show an authentic sense of place and culture in Brooklyn’s trendiest enclave, it’s Tony Award winning actress Sutton Foster who delivers the heart and soul on “Younger.”
Foster (“Bunheads”) convincingly stars as Liza, a 40-year-old divorcee and mother of one who lies about her age to get a new job after her gambling degenerate of an ex-husband loses the family home and leaves her in a lurch. It’s a lie that also lands her a sexy young boyfriend named Josh (Nico Tortorella, “The Following”) and a loyal young work friend named Kelsey (Hilary Duff).
Debi Mazar (“Entourage” and “Jungle Fever”) costars as Liza’s wise and hip lesbian friend/roommate Maggie and Miriam Shor (“GCB”) plays Liza’s cranky fortysomething boss Diana.
Liza’s wonderfully written interactions with each of these characters, especially the women, will undoubtedly draw you in and keep you watching. For instance, it’s Josh who initially mistakes Liza for someone his age. Later, it’s the undeniable sexual chemistry between them that convinces Liza that she can love again even if she has to lie to make it work.
Her friendship with Maggie is also ripe with engaging plot potential. Although it’s Maggie who convinces and helps Liza to pass for a 26-year-old to land a much needed and desired job in publishing — a field she pursued before becoming a stay-at-home mom — it’s also Maggie who loses out when Liza starts spending more time with the younger set.
Meanwhile, when Liza finds herself caring for Kelsey in a way that is more motherly than friendly, she eventually realizes she needs to connect more with her own daughter, who is studying abroad in India.
The Liza and Diana dynamic also sparkles with each installment as Diana slowly reveals that she is more than a bitter executive desperately dependent upon the social media savvy of her younger underlings.
This is certainly the case on Episode 6 titled “Shedonism.” Jane Krakowski guest stars as a demanding author and one of Diana’s oldest and most volatile friends and someone Diana actually cares for deeply.
Krakowski’s appearance doubles as a meta moment because she costars on another likable show about female reinvention, Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Krakowki’s character also is one of the few people to notice that Liza is older than she says with one simple tell — Liza’s hands.
Well planted details like that give “Younger” the depth it needs to make the series more like the heartbreaking movie “Imitation of Life” than the silly 1980s sitcom”Bosom Buddies.”
Take away the lie of disguise conceit and “Younger” is without a doubt a commentary on the damaging ways ageism tears women down. It’s just masked in the honey sweetness of comedy and pretty clothes. A budding relationship between Kelsey and an older man serves as an impressively subtle juxtaposition for Liza and Josh’s romance, for example.
Once the viewer moves past whether or not a rather winsome Foster, who is 40 in real life, could pass for someone 14 years younger — she can, by the way — the real enjoyment is in watching what she learns about herself and others along the way.
“Younger” is a like a new twist on those Oil of Olay commercials from 25 years ago. Why grow old gracefully when you can come of age in reverse?
“Younger” premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. on TV Land.