Old Guy is a six-episode comedy series on ageism in the media. Harry, played by Roger Burton, 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 wife, played by his real-life spouse Gabrielle Burton, who is a writer and tries to advise him on the value of the jobs he takes,and with his agent, Peri Gilpin, 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 make you laugh, and make you think.
Old Guy is based on the real-life experiences of the Burton 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, Roger noticed that most of his parts fell into a limited number of narrow stereotypes – incontinent, impotent, lecherous – 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 Five Sisters Productions. Looking deeper, Five Sisters found that studies show that television often depicts and thus reinforces a narrow stereotype of old age, and so were inspired to shine a comic light on the issue with the creation of Old Guy.
Ageist stereotypes can have lasting negative effects. They become unconsciously internalized over the life course and are then embodied in old age. Research shows that when the surrounding culture accepts the ageist beliefs, older people assimilate to the stereotype, which in turn influences functioning and health. Through comedy, Old Guy highlights the value and vibrancy of older people, and exposes ridiculous ageist stereotypes that influence perceptions and treatment of older Americans.