It is a growing audience but the main characters still resist them
As testosterone goes down, morality goes up.” Impossible not to smile at the phrase that Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas) utters in the series ‘The Kominsky Method’ (Neftlix). He refers to that ‘anything goes for a date between the sheets’ that rogues like his character apply until the sexual potency decreases. Jokes about taboos such as the proximity of death or prostate problems dot the plot. “I pee in Morse code: dots and dashes,” Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin) recites. They are told by a 70-year-old acting teacher who shares the limelight with his octogenarian agent. And we emphasize the key word: protagonism.
We have normalized that young actors take on the main roles in fiction. But what about the older people? «In many series there are older characters, but with secondary roles. Of course, there are those who eat up the rest, like María Galiana in ‘Cuéntame’ or Maggie Smith in ‘Downton Abbey’”, comments Juan Francisco Gutiérrez, professor of Journalism at the University of Malaga.
The scriptwriter Marta Sánchez maintains that, beyond the years, success is in history. «If it is told well, the gender or age does not matter, as long as the characters are well constructed, have conflicts and generate interest… Thanks to the platforms, it is no longer necessary to write for the majority audience as in general television channels. There is more freedom to play with shows geared towards teens, 30-somethings, or mature viewers.”
It seems that in these payment platforms lies the key to change. According to Teleformat, an international observatory of the audiovisual sector, in 2021 Spain increased the production of series conceived for them, two thirds of the total. Netflix, Prime Video, Movistar+ and Atresplayer Premium accounted for 74% of premieres. “Thematic chains opt for age segmentation, tastes and themes,” explains Gutiérrez. Until not long ago there was a reluctance to place older characters on the front line, as if their lives were not of interest. “It seemed that the series were only seen by young people, a false prejudice. Women over 40 are usually the most loyal audience. We believe that those over 60 are the same lady for whom we wrote in the 90s, and they have nothing to do with it. My mother sees four platforms and gets desperate because she doesn’t find anything interesting. She is a broad target in Spain, still undervalued », assures Sánchez.
Change of trend
The series that marked the new route in 2015 was ‘Grace and Frankie’ (Netflix). Many predicted short-lived success for this comedy that narrates the adventures of two older women whose husbands abandon them to marry each other. They were wrong. Seven seasons would sign Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin until 2021, thanks to unapologetic dialogues like this pronounced by Frankie: “If you go to the kitchen, could you bring me two whiskey sours? One for each hand.” The journalist and television critic Rosa Belmonte has no doubts. «Now there are series for that age group: the British ‘Last tango in Halifax’, one of the best in recent years; the Spanish ‘We are sorry for the inconvenience’… Its plots, being the most normal, are interesting and fun».
Spain is getting old. In 2021, those over 65 reached 19.7% of the population, according to the INE (National Institute of Statistics). More than 9.3 million people who, it seems, will exceed 14 million in 2068. A huge audience.
Wouldn’t it be smart then to conceive more content for them? “In reality, it is to make a virtue of necessity. It is already happening with those mentioned or with ‘Transparent’, which deals with transsexuality in the elderly, and ‘Hacks’, with Deborah Vance in the role of a comedian related to a young screenwriter, “reviews Gutiérrez.
If we add that the data from the 2019 ‘II Series Observatory’ confirm that 86.2% of Spaniards choose this genre and that, according to the Statista platform, 92.9% of those over 74 and 90 .4% of people between 65 and 74 stood in front of the TV in 2021, it is inevitable to think that yes, there is a market. I’m sure you’ll double over with laughter when you hear Sandy respond to Norman’s, “Dating advice? The last time you went to a Richard Nixon he was in office… and he was doing well.”
Is society only interested in youth?
«I don’t know if to society, but to the market it seems that, in general, yes. The television commercial target is defined by the age of young people and adults with purchasing power to whom the advertising is directed. But many networks know that they must always have that other, older audience, growing in terms of percentage and number. That is why there are winks of characters or issues that may interest them. Now, the fiction television market is beginning to worry about this sector”, defends the professor of Journalism Juan Francisco Gutiérrez.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.