Hollywood may offer fewer roles to mature actors, but it’s not because they lack talent. Check out these award-winning shows starring veteran performers.
When the Oscar-winning film The Graduate hit the big screen in 1967, it quickly broke box office records and became a cultural phenomenon. Back then, critic Jacob R. Brackman said in The New Yorker that discussion of the film crossed the boundaries of age and class.
Indeed, the premise of the older woman seducing a young man appealed to all ages. In real life, the stars of the movie were only six years apart. Anne Bancroft was just 35 when she starred as the older Mrs. Robinson. Co-star Dustin Hoffman was 29 when he played the young college graduate.
Young actors playing older characters has been common in show business. This is particularly true for female characters. The lack of roles for older female actors hasn’t gone unnoticed.
In fact, an organization started by actor Geena Davis has studied the issue. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media examined how women 50 and older are portrayed in film.
The institute’s study looked at the 30 top-grossing films of 2019 from the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany. It found no women over 50 in any leading roles among those movies.
Davis, famous for her roles in Thelma & Louise and A League of Their Own, called the results “dismal.” Despite those findings, there are plenty of must-see shows featuring older actors. We talked to some pop culture enthusiasts to find out what they like when it comes to shows with age-appropriate actors.
Jan Watson, 70, says she’s happy when she sees performers acting their age.
“Grace and Frankie, The Kominsky Method, and Schitt’s Creek are recent favorites,” she says. “I like that they show multidimensional, non-stereotypical views of aging.”
Watson lives in a community for people 60 and up in San Mateo, California. She says her age has nothing to do with what appeals to her when she’s surfing for entertainment.
“Just because I’m a senior doesn’t mean I only want to watch shows that feature other seniors,” she says. “I enjoy any show that has interesting, well-rounded characters. For example, I enjoyed the son and daughter in Schitt’s Creek as well as the parents.”
Next time you’re looking for a show, try one of these award-winning picks.
The Kominsky Method
The cast of this show features several veteran performers. The story centers on Michael Douglas’ character, Sandy Kominsky, an aging actor-turned-acting coach. His co-stars include Kathleen Turner, Jane Seymour, and Alan Arkin.
With its ensemble cast, this comedy-drama is at times both tragic and funny. It’s not exactly sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, but the show covers a range of situations older adults face. Loss of a spouse, drug addiction, prostate trouble, tax debt: The Kominsky Method has it all.
Grace and Frankie
This popular Netflix comedy stars Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston. Fonda plays Grace Hanson. Tomlin plays Frankie Bergstein. The two have known each other for years through their husbands (Sheen and Waterston), though they’re not exactly friends.
Then their husbands announce they’re in love with each other and plan to get married.
Despite their uneasy relationship, Grace and Frankie cope by moving in together. That results in a series of hilarious situations. You’ll laugh out loud as they work through their family drama and eventually become best friends.
When a wealthy family loses nearly everything, they find themselves living in their only remaining asset: the small town of Schitt’s Creek. Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara star in this show.
When the story begins, there’s not much to love about the Roses. They’re spoiled, snobby, and even disrespectful. But as the family adjusts to their new circumstances, they begin to grow. Soon you’ll be cheering them on, celebrating their victories and mourning their heartaches. And you’ll laugh a lot too.
One Day at a Time (the reboot)
This update of the 1970s comedy follows three generations living together. Rita Moreno plays Lydia, the matriarch of this Cuban American family. Her Army veteran daughter, Penelope, is raising two kids while juggling work, school, and her battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
You'll see how mother and daughter handle dating again after being widowed and divorced. (Surprise: They have different approaches.) The show also tackles bigger issues, including gender identity and sexuality. And it does it all with humor.
Despite being canceled by Netflix in 2019, its dedicated fans got it picked up by Pop TV. It ran there until COVID-19 ended production of its fourth season.
Three generations live together in this comedy show too. Laurence Fishburne and Jenifer Lewis play the grandparents. The show follows their son Andre Johnson as he struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity.
While many shows shy away from discussing race and racism in America, Black-ish doesn’t. As a Black family living in an affluent, mostly white neighborhood, the Johnsons’ story tackles everything from Black Lives Matter to how to style Black hair. The show will make you laugh, and it will also make you think.
The Golden Girls
Betty White, Estelle Getty, and Bea Arthur were all in their 60s while making this comedy about four women living together in Miami. The series ended in 1992, but it’s still popular today.
Perhaps that’s because the show was considered ahead of its time. Not only was it laugh-out-loud funny, but it also featured four strong female characters. All over the age of 50. The series showed the fun and frustrations of dating later in life. It also addressed issues such as race, homophobia, addiction, and more.