“Younger,” premiering Tuesday on TV Land, is a suitably sparky half-hour comedy that stars Sutton Foster as Liza, a suburban New Jersey woman facing both divorce and foreclosure just as she’s hitting 40. She attempts to find a job in the New York book-publishing biz — a cutthroat career she once had some success in, until she left 15 years ago to raise a daughter (who is now studying abroad).
But the younger women interviewing Liza are inordinately cruel about the dust on her résumé, so, at the suggestion of a wise and wacky Brooklyn friend, Maggie (Debi Mazar), Liza decides to move into Maggie’s loft and undergo a slight makeover in order to pass herself off as a 26-year-old.
This presto chango works, to the extent that Liza is offered an entry-level job as the assistant to Diana (Miriam Shor), an embittered 43-year-old director of marketing who immediately starts in with demands that Liza come up with Twitter and Instagram campaigns for new book releases, using all the hashtaggy high-tech miracles that young workers today are under burden to produce.
Despite some obvious lapses in her ruse (“Trending is good, right?”; “Who is Lena Dunham?”), Liza befriends a dangerously ambitious young co-worker, Kelsey (Hilary Duff), and, at a hipster bar, attracts the attention of a handsome tattoo-shop owner (Nico Tortorella as Josh).
With the new-life-built-from-a-lie premise firmly and expertly locked in, we once again find ourselves living in the brightly hued world of creator Darren Star, whose “Sex and the City” on HBO launched a million fantasies about what life in the Big Apple should look and feel like — an expensive dream world that many young women and men are still subliminally, sometimes desperately, trying to realize.
It’s sometimes difficult to tell whether “Younger” is geared toward slightly older, possibly jaded viewers or a millennial audience — or whether it has an abiding interest in bridging that ever-widening chasm. So much about “Younger” makes perfect sense as a Darren Star project for 2015, telling the usual young-adult-conquers-New-York story, only this time from the downward slope of the mountain rather than from the perspective of naive, uphill striving. (Is it simply a very cheerful retort to “Girls”?)
The expected and obvious generation-gap cliches make up most of the humor at first (at a gym locker room, Liza’s new millennial friends nearly pass out when they glimpse the retro grooming of her private area), but the writing travels both ways: Many of the insults and barbs here simply prove that either age group could benefit from more commingling, if they weren’t so busy regarding each other with simmering resentment. “Oh, God,” mutters Jane Krakowski, in a cameo role as a Candace Bushnell-type, past-her-prime author. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those millennials who’s never had a cigarette and thinks her parents are heroes.”
As in the too-quickly-canceled “Bunheads,” Foster makes for an energetic and engaging lead, never missing a beat; the rest of the cast is equally snappy-snippy, thanks to scripts and story lines that keep everyone prancing along like trained poodles. Liza’s separate worlds constantly threaten to collide and expose her as (gasp!) a shriveled old woman. It’s only in these moments, spooling out a story that has nowhere to go but down, that “Younger” seems like it will run short of breath and collapse.
Fox’s “Weird Loners” (also premiering Tuesday) is a playful, slightly twisted new comedy about four determinedly single people in their mid-30s — also in New York, of course.
Zachary Knighton (another alum from ABC’s lamentably canceled “Happy Endings”) stars as Stosh, a successful medical sales rep who is fired after he sleeps with the boss’s fiancee. Along with the job, Stosh also loses the lease on his corporate-owned Manhattan apartment, so he journeys to Queens to live with his unsophisticated cousin, Eric (Nate Torrence of “Hello Ladies”), who lives alone in his late parents’ townhouse and works nights as a toll-booth operator.
Next door, dental hygienist Caryn (“Ugly Betty’s” Becki Newton) is under intense pressure from both her mother and ailing Florida nana to marry the nice, boring doctor who keeps proposing. The foursome is rounded out by Zara (Meera Rohit Kumbhani), an artist and free spirit who winds up renting a room in Caryn’s place.
Creator Michael Weithorn (“The King of Queens”) effortlessly pulls “Weird Loners” past the usual pilot-episode blues to deliver a single-camera show that is harmlessly offbeat and even fun to watch (with something of a “Happy Endings” vibe), thanks to a cast that clicks instantly. Weithorn’s vision of Queens is less heavy-handed than Star’s glammy notion of Brooklyn in “Younger”; there are little touches, such as the Polish immigrant ancestry shared by Stosh and Eric, that contextualize the characters in a way that’s rare on network comedy.
“Weird Loners” got only a six-episode order, and there’s no getting around the fact that it’s not a standout, even though it’s better than most of the comedies that premiered last fall. Sending a show with such promise off into prime time feels a little like sending it off to its first day of school on a route that begins by crossing eight lanes of freeway traffic. All you can do is hope it gets to the other side.
(one hour; two episodes) premieres Tuesday at 10 on TV Land.
(30 minutes) premieres Tuesday at 9:30 on Fox.