It’s no secret that Hollywood has faced accusations of ageism, seeking younger audiences at the expense of older players both in front of and behind the camera. Yet the priorities and business model of streaming, and the abundance of content that it has created, appears to be tinkering with that math.
Unlike ad-supported networks that have prioritized reaching more youthful demographics, streaming relies on subscriptions, and features high-profile talent in part as a means to generate the kind of attention that will inspire people to ante up. While advertisers pay a premium to reach adults under 50, their parents and grandparents’ money is just as green when handed over directly.
While perhaps most prevalent in streaming, this trend isn’t unique to it. Chuck Lorre, the producer of hit comedies like “The Big Bang Theory,” its prequel “Young Sheldon” and the aforementioned “Kominsky Method,” has stocked his shows with older regulars.
On “Young Sheldon,” that has meant supplementing the core cast beyond Annie Potts as the grandma with Craig T. Nelson, Ed Begley Jr., Reba McEntire and Wallace Shawn.
“B Positive,” another Lorre production, has taken an even more marked turn in its second season, with a major makeover that put the lead character played by Annaleigh Ashford in charge of an assisted-living facility, adding a number of veteran performers — Héctor Elizondo, Jane Seymour, Ben Vereen, and Jim Beaver — as the residents.
The appetite for streaming content hasn’t gone unnoticed by performers, especially with certain kinds of movies having witnessed their viability in theaters significantly erode — a dynamic that preceded Covid-19 and has only become more pronounced over the last two years.
“They’re good to artists. They’re good to filmmakers. If it wasn’t for Netflix, a lot of people wouldn’t be working,” Bullock, who is 57, said. “Their stories wouldn’t be told. Who would think that me, as a woman, would still be working at this point?”
A few caveats apply. Although there have been shows like “Kominsky Method” and “Grace and Frankie,” starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, juicier parts for actors in that age bracket — beyond the customary wacky grandparent roles — still generally come in multigenerational series.
Television has been and, in most respects, remains a youth-dominated medium. But thanks to these shows and others, the terms of that estrangement have begun to look at least a bit more hospitable.