As the saying goes, age ain’t nothing but a number.
That’s a concept Younger, which moves to Paramount+ for its seventh and final season, has long played with. In the show’s original conceit, recently divorced Liza Miller (Sutton Foster, winsome as ever) quickly realized that no one wanted to hire a fortysomething woman for an entry level publishing job. So she pretended to be twentysomething (Foster is gorgeous so just go with it). As the seasons progressed, everyone from her work buddy Kelsey (Hilary Duff), to her much younger tattooed boyfriend Josh (Nico Tortorella), to her boss Charles (Peter Hermann) eventually found out. The age reveals were big and dramatic. As was the Josh/Liza/Charles love triangle that the show milked for all its worth for five seasons. Last season Charles and Liza finally got together. But, of course, that can’t last (more on that in a moment).
The truth about aging is that if we are lucky, we all get to grow old. And your time in the sun as the new kid on the block is oh-so-brief. When Kelsey’s best friend Lauren (Molly Bernard) turns 30—in a bash only Lauren could throw (suffice to say it involves a grand entrance)—Kelsey must face that Millennials, by definition, are getting older. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that age is irrelevant,” Liza says trying to comfort her.
In this final season, there are cast changes as Zane (Charles Michael Davis) and Diana (Miriam Shor) are no longer on the show. Both show up via separate video calls to explain their absence. “Are you breaking up with me because I got promoted over you?” Kelsey asks Zane. While Zane had his charms, the show is fine without him, as Younger always has a revolving door of love interests for Kelsey. The absence of Shor’s acerbic Diana, who is on an extended honeymoon because she’s saved “221 vacation days” is a huge loss. Her brief, quick-witted appearance will leave viewers hungry for more. There’s no such thing as too much Diana. Thankfully, that loss is somewhat mitigated by the increased presence of billionaire Quinn (Laura Benanti). Quinn makes for a delightful villain and her clever putdowns and dismissals are a lot of fun. She’s also the anthesis of Liza. “You’re Maria Von Trapp and I’m the Baroness. Nobody roots for the Baroness,” she tells Liza. (A fun reference because Benanti did indeed play Baroness Elsa Schrader in NBC’s live version of the beloved musical. )
One of the true joys of Younger, which continues into the new season, is how delightfully it trolls the publishing world. Over the years the show has parodied the likes of Kellyanne Conway, Marie Kondo, John Green, Elizabeth Gilbert and, in the piece de resistance, George R. R. Martin. Sometimes the homage is subtle, sometimes it hits viewers over the head as with this season’s Fupa Grünhoff, a not-so-subtle-reference to climate change activist Greta Thunberg. “She’s incredible. She’s like one of the Von Trapp children but hangry,” Liza laments. (Clearly someone on the writing staff loves The Sound of Music). This season the show also mocks every House Hunters type reality show and beloved classics being modernized. “It’s really a way to explore the gravity of marriage in a zero gravity world,” deadpans the novelist who wants to send Little Women to space.
Led by creator and executive producer Darren Star, the show is such fizzy, fluffy fun. Once you start watching you won’t want to stop. Debi Mazar is still hilarious as Liza’s best friend Maggie Amato. Bernard gets some terrific one-liners. “I’m so glad Josh impregnated her into our lives,” she says of Josh’s ex-girlfriend Claire (Phoebe Dynevor). And, in addition to Benanti, there are some great guest stars including Janeane Garofalo as a college dean who offers Maggie a job. Michael Urie is also back as Redmond, a literary agent who is now trying to convince Liza and Kelsey to embrace middle-aged readers. “You publish the book. CBS turns it into a procedural starring Betty White. Metamucil pays the ad sales up front… Lean into your identity ladies, we all gotta eat,” he tells them.
Even the throwaway jokes on the show are so much fun. Liza attends a fundraiser for the Children’s Literary Fund which goes by the acronym CLIT. “They better hope those kids don’t read,” Kelsey says. The dialogue is so enjoyable you can excuse the occasional awkward product placement like when everyone is gushing over Dove chocolate.
Where this final season falters is in the break up of Liza and Charles. Again. I love that the show had the kind of juicy love triangle usually reserved for teen dramas. I loved Josh, especially the mature way the series has allowed Liza and Josh to remain friends. But I was always #TeamCharles. Their breakup this season is forced and an obvious way to bide time. It feels as if the show is treading water. And the writing leans in to Charles’ least favorable personality ticks—his stubbornness, his inflexibility, and his condescending attitude—to make the break up stick. Paramount+ made 11 of the 12 episodes available for review so I’m not sure exactly how their romance is going to end, but I found myself hoping Liza would pull Kelly Taylor and choose herself.
But even with that criticism, I’m still not ready to say goodbye to the series. A spinoff starring Duff’s Kelsey is in the works which honestly would be delightful. The potential franchise remains young at heart. I want to keep turning the pages.
The first four episodes of Younger premiere April 15 on Paramount+. The final eight episodes will premiere every Thursday after that. The show will also air on TV Land at a later date not yet specified.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).
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