Forever Young: TV Review
Ashton Kutcher's take on "The Real World" pairs young and old in what amounts to a beer pong-fueled extended visit with the grandparents.
TV Land, the channel for people who enjoy reruns of classic television (and shows devoted to Betty White), has tossed its hat into the reality TV game with Forever Young, a Real World-esque series (TV Land is owned by MTV parent Viacom) that puts five people under 30 and five folks over 70 in a house together to see what happens when people stop being polite and start needing Depends.
Ashton Kutcher (there's a Demi Moore joke in here, and I'm not going to make it) did something similar with his series Beauty and the Geek, another "social experiment" to see if people can stand being around those who are different from they are long enough to win money. There's no money to be won on Forever Young, but there are small prizes along the way as the two groups match up to complete tasks designed to make each more aware of the other's generation.
The promos for the series talk a lot about how far the Seniors and Juniors come in understanding each other's worlds, but mostly the show feels like hostile kids on an extended stay with grandparents. Further, some of the competitions are skewed in a way that suggests unfortunate generational expectations: the under-30s are asked (and fail) at questions like "Which war came first: World War II, The Civil War or the Vietnam War?" and "Which U.S. president brought the country out of the Depression?" whereas the seniors are asked what "Brangelina" is and the meaning of "sexting." Yikes.
The senior citizens rightly bring up that these aren't really generational things, these are facts that should have been learned in school. "School is different today; they don't teach you stuff," Angelina, one of the under 30s, comments. The Seniors don't buy it, and neither do I. (The narrator tells us that the Juniors think they've been cast in a spring break show before they arrive, which kind of sets the bar.) Speaking of bars, though, once everyone gets pulled into a game of beer pong, the bonding finally begins.
Despite being called "stuck in their ways," the Seniors (a spry bunch with varied backgrounds) seem pretty open to getting to know the young folk (a few of whom are genuinely likable) and their world, while some of the more hostile Juniors comment on the Seniors' memory problems. Although to that point, one competition requires the Seniors to print out a digital photo with the help of the Juniors (without the Juniors being able to look at the computer screens), which is a frustratingly familiar exercise in patience for most who have given tech support to their own parents or grandparents ("Just click it!!").
The half-hour series, which TV Land shelved for many years, is a mere six episodes long, but even in that short time, it's likely that everyone will say they've been on a "journey." What exactly will be gained by the cast or will be taken away by the viewers regarding the experience is unclear, though. Forever Young has enough sentimentality to be light-hearted entertainment for some, but more important, perhaps, it suggests on a larger level that we're in a society where the young and old don't mix nearly enough to generally feel all that comfortable together.
Although the show doesn't live up to being a "bold" experiment, by any means, I will grant the network's claim that it may make you want to call up and chat with the elders in your life. Until they need help printing a digital photo, of course.