Old Guy – a comedy about ageism

OLD GUY is a comedy about ageism in media.  Check out the short-form series OLD GUY website: www.oldguycomedy.com – and watch/subscribe/share the show for free on youtube!  (Also on IGTV, Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo!)

SYNOPSIS:   Harry — played by Roger Burton (Baskets, Fargo, Shameless, The Tonight Show) — is going back to acting later in life, after raising his family and retiring from his traditional job.  The show looks at his relationships with his writer wife (played by his real-life spouse, novelist Gabrielle Burton) who tries to advise him on the value of the jobs he takes, and with his agent, Peri Gilpin (Frasier), who is more interested in her commission than in what types of roles he plays.  In each episode, Harry is challenged by playing an undeveloped character type, which humorously highlights different stereotypes about old age.  OLD GUY will provoke thought & conversation — and it’s a good laugh.

Here’s why it matters Ageism is damaging both to society at large, as well as to people individually.  Ageist preconceptions not only limit opportunities for older people, but limit older people internally regarding what they anticipate and expect of aging.

Currently, this matters a lot.  The Coronavirus crisis has shown the deep ramifications of our attitudes towards elders in our society.  Many current policy conversations are dismissing this age segment as disposable and worth sacrificing, which is horrifying, not to mention completely off base for the powerful and important contribution that older Americans make to our country’s functioning and cultural value.

And it’s not just a problem that’s revealed itself recently.  Ageism is systemically self-propagating because of media representation and the narrative about what being “old” is:

  • When it comes to media imagery, Stacy Smith’s team at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication has shown that fewer than 10% of all speaking characters on top television shows are over 60 years old, so it’s critical to avoid underdeveloped and stereotyped older depictions. (This is even more important now, when we may be seeing even fewer parts for older actors as producers figure out how to manage liability in the time of COVID-19.)
  • All people will hopefully grow old someday, so even if it’s driven by self-interest, we need to demand and support more diverse representation of older people on television.  Rather than narrow stereotypes, or using older parts for cheap laughs, wouldn’t it be more interesting (and truthful) to reflect the reality of the varied experiences of older people?
  • We see the need to engage people of all ages in a conversation about positive alternatives to ageism in media. The series (six episodes, each 4 to 6 minutes) is a way into this conversation with humor.

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BEHIND THE SERIES  (A funny thing happened on the way to Los Angeles… ):

The concept for the series #OLDGUY was sparked by the real life experiences of the Five Sisters’ father, a psychology professor and musician who moved to Los Angeles after retirement. Soon after, he was “discovered” at a party and cast in a major motion picture; thus starting an acting career in his 70s. In contrast to his vital and active life as a man embarking on a 3rd career, he noticed that most of his acting parts fell into a limited number of narrow stereotypes (incontinent, impotent, lecherous, etc.) — and were often not even given a character name other than… “Old Guy.” The Burtons’ mother (novelist and screenwriter Gabrielle B. Burton) who was in the middle of writing “Don’t Sit Down Yet,” a book about aging and living fully until you die, thought Roger’s experience was good fodder for a series and brought the idea to FSP. Looking deeper, FSP found that studies show that indeed television often depicts and thus reinforces a narrow stereotype of old age, and so were inspired to shine a comic light on this issue with this project. And the jokes were funny too. The Burtons worked with students at Tufts University to create a film set of cooperation between old and young, in three locations (Los Angeles, Medford, and Boston).

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Created by Five Sisters Productions (Maria Burton, Ursula Burton, Jennifer Burton, Gabrielle C. Burton, Charity Burton).
Additional KEY CREW include:

Arlene Nelson – DP (A Mighty Wind, Valentine Road, A Sort of Homecoming)
Alice Brooks – DP (The Hillz)
Austin de Besche – DP (Return of the Secaucus Seven)
Tom Curley – Sound (Academy Award winner: Whiplash, Spectacular Now, Walk of Fame)
Lai-San Ho – Editor (This is Us, A Sort of Homecoming, Half The History)

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