How TV Is Embracing Late-in-Life Coming-of-Age Stories – The Hollywood Reporter

As fruitful as Peak TV has been over the past decade, the glut hasn’t exactly yielded limitless perfection. Between all the flavorless reshoots, franchise expansions, genuine outrageous dramas, and star-studded gimmicks, this season I found myself grabbing simple shows that exuded unaffected warmth and vulnerability. I wanted sincerity. I wanted calm. I wanted friendships.

This spring, I’ve faithfully clung to a few comedies that have drawn me in with their unmistakable lead roles, all actresses of late age whose characters experience artistic renaissances in the latter half of their lives. Few shows this year have given me greater viewing pleasure than someone somewhere, better things, Julia and hacks because it’s deliciously invigorating to just watch middle-aged women be themselves, with no apologies necessary. These series are as nourishing as they are fun, making them irresistible in a fragile time when the art we consume must be part of our self-care routines.

The protagonists at the heart of these coming-of-age shows are just beginning to forge identities beyond “caregiver”. On HBO’s semi-autobiographical half-hour comedy-drama someone somewhere, executive producer and real-life cabaret performer, the prickly and endearing Bridgett Everett plays Sam, an apathetic woman who has spent several years in her small Kansas hometown caring for her dying sister. Now that her sister is dead, her home is devastatingly silent, much like the bustling former Los Angeles home at the center of FX’s long-running comedy. better things. Pamela Adlon’s lovable yenta-mom Sam Fox has defined herself for the past two decades as a single mother of three daughters and barely knows how to cope as she faces a slowly emptying nest .

Such transformations don’t have to be defined by loss, as the heroines of two HBO Max series prove. JuliaBrave Julia Child (Sarah Lancashire) has been the devoted wife of a diplomat for so long that when she’s ready to put herself in the spotlight – literally, as a celebrity TV chef – she lies about his financial contributions to the production. her husband will put aside his apprehensions and support her efforts. Whereas hacksComedienne Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) has never been the most instinctive motherly type, she must make tough choices in season two about how to guide her protege (Hannah Einbinder) so both women can achieve greatness higher in their common profession.

These series highlight the power of leaning into creativity, regardless of age or status. someone somewhereSam, bored with her job as a standardized test assessor, finds meaning when she rediscovers her love for singing, a passion she put aside after leaving high school. When she befriends a band that has formed its own underground open-mic cabaret in a nearby church, she relearns how to use her voice to communicate what lies within her beleaguered soul. Fortunately, the stakes remain medium-low. While you can sense in the season finale that Sam might eventually become the brassy, ​​bawdy singer character that Everett plays in real life, the character doesn’t have to be wildly ambitious to “succeed” at our eyes. She’s just doing her thing. It doesn’t need to be for profit or fame, but the expression itself.

The protagonists of better things, Julia and hacks, of course, are careerists. But their own creative revivals are also more about self-fulfillment than reaching the next boss level. Sam d’Adlon has been in the public eye all her life, first as a child star, then as a voice artist and character actress. In better things‘ final season, which ended in April, the character finally bursts onto the scene as a television and short film director and does something she’s never had the nerve to do before: reject a job. perfectly good (and decently paid) actor simply because she doesn’t want to wear a corset. Sam worries about this instinctive choice, but it ultimately becomes a symbol to herself that she’s ready to make her own decisions about her creative life and no longer be driven by fear.

Julia and Deborah get their own respective “fuck you” moments that crystallize their confidence, with Julia winning the battle against the network when her unexpected popularity offers her bargaining power and Deborah avoiding lowball offers on her introspective new stand-up. special to self-distribute instead. It is no longer a question of money for any of them. It’s about self-respect.

This story first appeared in a standalone June issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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