What’s new in Hollywood? Not much you might think by watching year after year of wife-killer murder mysteries; rogue surgeons with god-complexes; rom-coms with could-be couples; singing and dancing competitions with hard-luck contestants; and reality series with rotating stars.
The better question might be: What’s old in Hollywood? And the better answer is: an underrepresented genre — that is both new and old. Trending now, for your viewing pleasure: older adult characters and aging-related storylines.
First up, “The Cool Kids” premiers on Fox September 28. The eternal optimists at AARP Magazine describe the show as “rambunctious pals who keep things lively in a retirement community … until a new resident checks in and shakes up the trio’s social hierarchy.” The official trailer teases that storyline and others common to senior living environments, informed by creator-writer Charlie Day’s time working in a nursing home. And, according to a Deadline Hollywood article, by Day watching old “Golden Girls” episodes, from which his takeaway was to avoid “we’re old” jokes.
“Senior living” is also the setting for the romantic comedy “Welcome to Pine Grove!” With production scheduled to begin in late summer, the premise — inspired by real-life as well, in this case the story developer’s grandmother’s experiences, according to promotional materials — centers on a widow who moves to a retirement community and discovers — you guessed it — it’s just like high school.
Anyone who’s worked in or regularly visited older adult communities has witnessed some of these behaviors. Likely chuckling at the same goings on. That said, the funny business hardly scratches the surface of real life in “retirement communities,” let alone in assisted living, skilled nursing and memory care centers. Oftentimes it’s not remotely rom-com material; instead it’s about nothing more than survival — a concept with which Hollywood types should inherently sympathize.
Some unsolicited advice: Don’t always go for the cheap laughs of “old” stereotypes and clichés and slapstick. Show the authentic aspects of the aging experience; show older adults acting like us, not them.
TRENDING TAKES ON AGING
On his 96th birthday, TV icon Norman Lear inked a first-look two-year agreement with Sony Pictures TV. “I’m looking at ideas you’ve never heard of, Lear told Deadline Hollywood. “I have a about 100 ideas that go back 30 or 40 years …” Ironically, or likely because of the two other retirement community-based series, Lear’s own retirement village comedy series “Guess Who Died” is still looking for a home.
“The Kominsky Method” has real potential. The 10-episode series premieres November 16 on Netflix and stars veteran actors Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin and Nancy Travis. According to the press kit, Douglas plays “a revered Hollywood acting coach.” Worth noting, his character is not described as “old” and the theme is not specifically about “aging.” This could start an encouraging trend of presenting subliminal rather than intentional messages about growing old with dignity and purpose.
Although people 65 years of age and older are the fastest growing population, their representation on TV and film is proportionally low and arguably, disproportionally bad, it is promising to see Hollywood going “old school” and producing more inclusive, diverse and authentic roles and stories featuring older adults.
Follow Hollywood’s take on aging on Twitter at @WiseUpOnAging.