TV Land’s Forever Young should have been more like The Real World

I’ve always thought a reality TV version of The Golden Girls would make for a great. Alas, the closest we’ll probably get is TV Land’s Forever Young, a series that manages to have great moments despite itself. Here are a few thoughts about the show, which has its finale tonight.

The show pitches itself as a social experiment, which mixes people over 70 with people under 30. Insert every available cliche possible. The show is so over-produced I barely made it through the first episode, frantically edited with no room to breathe, the cast being forced into scenarios in order to not just create drama but force it (pick someone to give $10,000 to!).

Worst of all, it’s all over-explained by a narrator so grating I want to travel back in time, unplug his mic, and set fire to his terribly written script to make sure no one ever has to hear that drivel.

But then something unexpected happened: the cast played beer pong. And whether or not this was prompted, it revealed something really great–mostly their willingness to throw themselves into the absurdity and learn from each other, even when that involved embarrassment .

The single best challenge the producers crafted involved pairing up the cast and having them navigate around L.A. with the older people forced to use technology without help, while the younger people had to use maps and things. They were both frustrated with their equipment and with each other, but they also bonded.

It’s clear the cast members, old and young, formed relationships with each other, growing to respect one another’s life experience regardless of age. Alas, the series rarely shows those developing aside from forced group conversations at the end of every episode.

I want more authentic moments, like one of the older women searching for her underwear while another revealing that she wears only thongs, causing their younger roommate to laugh hysterically.

I basically want it to be like season one of The Real World, the cast just living together and interacting. But instead we mostly get what 2013-era reality TV gives us, insecurity and inauthenticity and cheapness, and that’s the worst part of reality television’s aging process. If only networks and producers would learn from TV’s senior citizens.

Forever Young: C+

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.