Saturday, October 8, 2011

New TV for Retirees

The fall TV schedule is underway. A recent Time magazine had an article on the new shows. A trend is emerging of sitcoms using formulas that used to feature male leads but now use women. I’ve learned that the next big trend will be sitcoms based on retirees. Some of those shows will build on the success of the female-centric ones.

One breakout hit this fall is Two Broke Girls, a sort of Odd Couple. A trust-fund baby now down on her luck hooks up with a blue collar have-not. Coming soon to retirement TV: The Odds and Ends Couple. This show features retired women who have become roommates; one has a pension, the other does not. The have-not’s survival strategy is to make do with stuff she finds in other people’s trash. She decorates her space in the shared apartment with odds and ends that are mostly odds. This causes tension with her pensioned roommate. I’m told there will be unpredictable plot twists, but I think we all know where this relationship is headed.

Another new fall show is New Girl, a reverse Three’s Company, where a nerdy girl moves in with three guys who take her under their wing like a sister. Retirement TV will be launching Four’s Company, featuring three widows and a widower. The producers hope that by having three women (instead of two) and one man, they’ll avoid the inevitable odd woman out of a threesome household. Good luck with that.

Last year’s hit Mike and Molly, whose female lead, Melissa McCarthy, earned an Emmy, provides a template for Bill and Betty. This new retirement show stars William Shatner and Betty “the cougar” White. The megawatt power of these two actors will guarantee initial success. I love both of them, so I hope the writers can provide the witty dialogue fuel to propel the sitcom into a second season.

The success of mainstream shows Modern Family and Parenthood has inspired the retiree equivalent, Dysfunctional Family. As with the other two shows, DysFam has an ensemble cast in roles that are so realistically disparate it’s like looking into a mirror. Every family has at least one of these folks in it somewhere. Picture the characters in Modern Family and Parenthood twenty years from now and you have an idea of where Dysfunctional Family is taking us.

Merry Widows is built around two retirees whose spouses recently died. They buy condos in the same development, with a shared goal of living a life of wanton delight. The show’s lead sponsor will be lingerie purveyor Victoria’s Secret. The stars’ identities are being kept under wraps, probably because there’s a lot of skin in each episode. This is one sitcom I expect to be mesmerizing. Or at least eye-popping.

My sources tell me that a role-reversal remake of the Golden Girls is planned. The working title is Platinum Boys. The premise is that once we reach retirement age, available men are at a premium. Worth their weight in platinum, so to speak, and hence fodder for some great story lines with cameos by well-known actresses. No word yet on who will be the male leads, but here are some suggestions to pick from. In alphabetical order—no favoritism: Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Richard Gere, John Lithgow, Steve Martin and Donald Sutherland. I’d ask for Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery, but I know that’ll never happen.

I also hear there’s a reality TV show on the drawing board that will feature retirees in an Amazing Race scenario. The winners get free hip or knee replacement surgery. All contestants must be in dire need of joint replacements in order to qualify to race. Needless to say, I’m skeptical that this one will ever get out of the starting blocks. Maybe the producers will have the foresight to make it a miniseries.

As you can see, there’s a lot of exciting TV fare planned for the retiree audience. It’s about time TV executives are taking us seriously. (As if.)

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