Five Sisters Productions is back with a new six-episode comedic series, Old Guy, starring the Five Sisters’ father, Roger Burton (Fargo, Shameless, Baskets), their mother Gabrielle Burton, and Peri Gilpin (Frasier’s Roz). Launching with Episode 1 tonight, April 23, 2020 at 8pm EST, one episode will premiere each Thursday at 8pm EST through May 31 on Vimeo and YouTube as well as Facebook and Instagram TV.
Old Guy is a comedic series about ageism in 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 that 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.
In making Old Guy, Five Sisters Productions worked with advanced film students at Tufts University, where sister Jennifer Burton is a Professor of the Practice. Shooting the series on Tufts campus and in LA gave students the opportunity to be mentored by professionals, and created cross-generational engagement about ageism.
We mention with sensitivity to this moment of upheaval around COVID-19, Old Guy emphasizes how valued our elders are, paying tribute as people over 60 are at high risk. Ageist stereotypes can have lasting negative effects. Undervaluing older adults as a group can lead to decisions that put older people at risk. Research also shows that older people may unconsciously internalize ageist stereotypes, further influencing functioning and health. Raising awareness about ageism can counteract these negative impacts. Through comedy, Old Guy highlights the value and vibrancy of older people and addresses ridiculous stereotypes that influence perceptions and treatment of older Americans.
For the five real-life Burton siblings who make up Five Sisters Productions, this is a heartfelt project. It was the last thing they worked on with their parents, as they have lost both of them since filming ended. The warmth around the series extends beyond family ties. Roger Burton was a beloved character actor on television, and many would like to honor him for his Emmy nomination-worthy performance in this excellent series.