Tired of TV with no characters you can relate to? All is not hopeless. The Emmy award-winning Grace and Frankie, with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, ran for seven seasons on Netflix and was a huge success, demonstrating that there IS an audience for comedy featuring women of a certain age.
Other Emmy-nominated shows with older actors have gotten renewed for multiple seasons. Examples are The Kominsky Method on Netflix with Michael Douglas that ran for three seasons, Only Murders in the Building on Hulu with Steve Martin and Martin Short has been renewed for a third season (an awful lot of people get killed in their building!). Hacks on HBO Max, with Jean Smart, has also been renewed for a third season.
Is TV Still an Ageist Desert?
You might expect there would be a surge new of shows starring older actors as a result? You would be wrong. Hollywood still hasn’t gotten the message that we seniors exist in large enough numbers to boost ratings.
Here’s what’s coming up for our demographic (not much) plus a few under-the-radar terrific shows featuring older characters that haven’t gotten much attention. (Money saving tip: Wait until a show has finished the season and do a free trial or subscribe for one month and binge-watch.)
So Help Me Todd
Starting Sept 29. on CBS this is a quirky-funny mystery series starring Marcia Gay Harden, 63, as a perfectionistic, workaholic lawyer and Skylar Astin as her ne’er-do-well former private investigator son. They wind up solving crimes together which tests their mother-son relationship.
These polar opposite humans are suddenly forced to spend a lot more time together when Margaret’s husband Harry goes missing, immediately sending Todd back into P.I. mode. Todd eventually catches Harry, who just wants to get away from Margaret — He says she’s too critical, and she doesn’t let him be himself, a pair of grievances Todd is all too familiar with. Streaming on Paramount + plus weekly episodes on CBS.
Streaming on Hulu starting September 20, thirty-something Hannah wants to reboot a 90s sitcom with the original cast, but make it edgy. The only problem is, the series creator (played by Paul Reiser, 66)–who also happens to be her estranged father–still owns the rights to the show.
He agrees to co-showrun with Hannah if she agrees to bring in his writers. A showdown ensues between her woke twenty-something writers, who are so young Reiser’s character assumes they’re interns, and his curmudgeonly Boomer industry vets who think they invented comedy. The generational conflict provides a lot of laughs.
First season streaming on Apple TV. Directed by Ben Stiller, this brilliant dark comedy posits a dystopian world where people’s work selves and non-work selves are totally separate—workers don’t remember their “outie” life when they’re at work and vice versa.
This leads to some sticky situations when the two worlds collide. John Turturro, 65, and Christopher Walken, 79 carry on a star-crossed romance in the office, while their outie personas remain clueless about their gay love affair.
These two veterans manage to be both touching and absurd as lovers traversing miles of surrealistic, fluorescently-lit corridors to find each other. Second season to premiere in Spring or Summer of 2023 on Apple TV.
War of the Worlds
Streaming on Epix, this stars Gabriel Byrne, 72, as a scientist who has to figure out how to defeat a mysterious, deadly invasion from Mars that is trying to take over our planet.
Unlike most sci fi thrillers – which rely on a young cast with maybe a couple of older characters thrown in for local color – this latest iteration of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds relies on a man well past his prime to save the world. Byrne’s character, with his tragic past (he failed to save his own wife from the aliens) curmudgeonly demeanor and air of authority is the go-to guy for all things alien. Season 3 now streaming on Epix.
The Good Fight
Streaming on Paramount +, this was originally a sequel to The Good Wife TV series. This series stars Christine Baranski, 70, as a glamorous high-powered attorney who is a partner in an ultra-liberal black law firm.
The series took off on its own and has been surprising and thrilling fans ever since. The plots are literally ripped from the headlines with each season tackling current social issues, sometimes with an outrageous twist. Season 5, the last season, is no exception, with plots that include Roe v Wade and voting rights.
The show hasn’t gotten a whole lot of attention, possibly because it’s on Paramount +, the streaming service of CBS, which few people even realize exists, but it’s a great binge watch.
Hopefully the great Baranski will go on to star in another series. Final season now streaming on Paramount +.
Do you love these shows? Hate them? Have we missed any of your favorite shows or characters? Let us know in the comments! In the meantime, happy streaming!
Erica Manfred’s articles and humorous essays have appeared in print and online publications including the Washington Post, Atlantic, Salon, Village Voice, and the New York Times. A self proclaimed Geezer Geek, now in her seventies, she specializes in writing about aging. She’s the author of four books, including her memoir, I’m Old So Why Aren’t I Wise; Snarky Senior in the Sunshine State. You can subscribe to her newsletter at SnarkySenior.com or visit her website at EricaManfred.com
Please explain “streaming” for me- what it is, how to get it, any costs, etc.
I have a PC and a supposedly “smart” TV. I am not, however, technically proficient.
I do have Netflix but don’t know how to get their series shows. Also, how can I get other stations such as Hulu, Disney, etc.
Streaming means watching a video/tv show/movie over internet.
Your TV is “smart” because it can connect to the internet and has applications like Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video, but you need to create an account with each one of them and pay for their services to stream their content.
Please mark your calendar and find more information about our next class about Smart TVs & Streaming at this link: https://seniorplanet.org/event/streaming-and-smart-tvs-9/.
I watched every season of The Good Wife and now The Good Fight. The cast is excellent, although as you said Christine Baranski usually steals the scenes she’s in.
I appreciate this list, Erica. For a darker show, try Law & Order: Organized Crime, starring the hunky, 61-year-old Chris Meloni. It’s on NBC after Law & Order: SVU on Thursday evenings.
right? I’ve been seeing a lot of stories about Chris Meloni. Yum!