Do you remember the wacky old sitcom Laverne & Shirley? Amanda Joy and Samantha Wan do not. As millennials, they barely know of the 1970s (when the show aired), let alone the 1950s (the era in which the comedy was set).
The show opened with the titular apartment-sharing pals literally skipping down a street, reciting a Jewish-American hopscotch chant as they went. Things were tickety-boo for Laverne and Shirley and their generation. The young women held down union-protected jobs down at the brewery, America was great again for the first time and the series' theme song was unabashedly one of go-get-'em optimism: Making Our Dreams Come True.
Twentysomethings Joy and Wan are the creators, writers and stars of Second Jen, an original City sitcom about two sparky second-generation Asian-Canadian millennial women coming of age in an era so economically challenging that Laverne and Shirley would be crying in their beers instead of merrily goofing off at the bottling plant.
"The world has changed," Joy, a Filipino-Canadian, tells The Globe. "There's not a lot of job security any more, and degrees no longer guarantee anything."
The third episode of Second Jen – a play on the name of Wan's character, Jen – involves a game store where Joy's character toils. It's not much of a job, but it's representative of the tough conditions for youngsters looking to bust out of their parents' basements. "Retail work is the new factory work," the Chinese-Canadian Wan said. "It's not the same world our parents grew up in."
Wan's parents came to Canada from Hong Kong and Shanghai; Joy's, from the Philippines. And while Second Jen has been compared with the new CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience because of its Toronto-based, Asian-Canadian cast and its mining of a familial generational divide, Joy said the comparison is more marketing than anything.
"The family dynamic is not exclusively Asian," she said. "We're writing from what we know, but, at the end of the day, family is family."
Which is true enough. At times, Jen's domineering mother comes off as more a Jewish stereotype than anything else.
At one point she says she'll teach her daughter to talk in the "traditional way," about guilt and food.
But if ethnic stereotypes are not played up (in favour of universality), what about the typical millennial pigeonholing? When the two young women decide to make a bid for independence from their parents by moving into their own apartment together, a stern landlord mutters warily at them: "I know you second-generation millennials don't know how to accept responsibility."
Wan explains that the show has some fun with the stereotypical casual approach to life associated with today's youth, but that the truth is more nuanced.
"People of my generation are thinking 'I've got to live my life now.' We're past the time of stability and waiting for our life to begin. But that doesn't mean we don't hustle."
The two young women of Second Jen hustle in their quirky way – more flighty like the girls of HBO's Girls than the street hustle of the two young men of that network's grittier, short-lived How to Make It in America.
As for Toronto-based Wan and Joy, their hustle is self-evident. Networks don't give out television series willy-nilly.
At the end of our interview, Joy asks when the article will be published, explaining that her mother will buy numerous copies.
There's your generational divide at work – parents still buy newspapers; the millennial offspring, not so much.
"I buy them when I'm in them," Joy explains, with a laugh. "I guess I'm a narcissistic millennial."
Kids today, making their dreams come true.
Second Jen airs Thursdays, 8:30 p.m., on City