It kinda miscategorizes seniors, and it’s likely to be overshadowed by its flashy website, but the online original series 50 to Death is worth a watch, even for someone born post-Watergate.
Creator Norm Golden and his fellow Upper West Side, New York City collaborators Joan Barber and Jon Freda have reached the age where they’re considered old by the youngins, but they don’t quite feel that way. They’re older, for sure, but not elderly. Yet for some reason society has chosen to peg age 50 with the stigma of being a ‘senior’ and with ‘old age’ (the creators actually blame the latter on the AARP, and then softly dismiss the suggestion).
How this still active, aging-but-not-nearly-immoble crowd “jousts with the 21st century” provides the premise for 50 to Death.
I think that central conceit is a little off. We live in a new era where 40 (and sometimes even 50) is the new 30, and people into their 70s are holding off retirement to keep bringing in income. Citing a tradition in which people at 50 “pack up and move south” is absurd and wildly out-of-touch. Not to mention the fact that senior citizens currently average and start getting social security at 65 per govt. specs.
So, are the characters in 50 to Death boomers? Sure. Seniors? Nuh-uh. But then again, I’m no quintagenarian. Maybe once people pass the half-century threshold they all look the same to the portion of society that’s standing on the younger side of the fence.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the show itself in many ways out-Seinfelds Seinfeld. Really, very little happens. Rather than observational comedy, Norm, his wife Joan, and their friend Jon take pokes at their age-induced ineptitude. Whether it’s a failure to open jars or pill bottles (which is eventually overcome with Jon’s magic wrist bands) in ‘Intelligent Design,’ or kvetching about laptop disc-eject issues in ‘The Will Smith,’ like Bob Newhart many of the challenges this trio confronts are modest in scope.
Alternatively 50 to Death also goes for the wacky. In ‘Diego’s Mustache’ Jon dons a fake ‘stache in an attempt to get chicks (watch for a nifty cameo from Jason Sokoloff as the pissed-off restaurant owner/husband of the waitress Jon’s been trying wrangle with his cheesy-spoken Italian). ‘Dinner at Jon’s’ has Jon attempting to host a French Club-esque dinner in his hallway-sized apartment. As Jon divvies up the child-sized portions to the guests (who include the regulars plus a Brit who seems to have made his way there through no one’s invitation), Norm draws surprised stares by innocently nibbling on his Subway sub.
These boomer soliloquies should be fun to keep checking out. If they could just tone down the senior angle, they would be golden. Throughout, Sokoloff’s direction is amply inconspicuous, keeping things intimate, and DP Mikey Reyes maintains a nice level of natural light.
Check out all the episodes at 50toDeath.com, which is without question the most creative and well-designed site for a web series that I’ve stumbled upon. A four-arrow scroll layout takes you over a two-page panorama with photo snapshots, handwritten text bios paired with great line-caricatures of the show’s main characters, all sprinkled with reading glasses, pills and a weekly pill container that collectively signify the trappings of the senior set.