Old Guy Charms on Web Series
For 20 years, Roger V. Burton played an old guy. From sitcoms to commercials to skits on late night talk shows, Burton found consistent work in Hollywood—although he came to wonder whether that was entirely a good thing.
Burton’s daughter, local filmmaker Gabrielle C. Burton (Kings, Queens and In-Betweens), along with her siblings that make up the company Five Sisters Productions, has taken her father’s experiences and created the utterly charming series Old Guy, streaming now from the sisters’ YouTube channel.
“It takes some of his experiences and amplifies them,” says Gabrielle. “It also talks about issues that are more global— about ageism, media and representation and what stereotypes we see when groups are represented. That’s how we can start questioning some of those.”
Episodes are brief—around four minutes apiece. They co-star Roger’s wife (and Gabrielle’s mother) Gabrielle B. Burton, as well as Peri Gilpin (Frasier).
“The character he plays in the series, Harry, is the everyperson,” says the filmmaker. “His wife, who’s played by my mother, is the counterpoint to that. She starts raising these questions—are you sure these roles are not perpetuating ageism? And then he starts recognizing that.”
The series was actually shot in 2015, but health issues led to shelving the project for a while.
“Both my parents actually died after we shot the series,” says Gabrielle. “It’s kind of a nice tribute to be able to return to it. When she saw the ageist narrative coming out during this COVID time, we thought we should get back to that project and finish it and get it out.”
Unlike Harry, Roger recognized the problematic nature of his roles early on.
“He was at a party with my sister and one of her friends, a director, and he liked my dad’s face and wanted him in a movie called Chairman of the Board with Carrot Top,” she recalls. “He had been a professional jazz musician and a professor, so he was comfortable in a third career to be in a creative space as a performer. He had no desperate ambition goals regarding it, he was just having a lot of fun. That led to very quickly an agent, and that led to him getting work all the time: commercials, parts on TV, and he was getting calls from Jay Leno.”
But Roger recognized the limited type of roles offered.
“A lot of the parts went into these very narrow stereotypes,” Gabrielle says. “He and my mom talked about it and they came up with this show.”
They contacted Gilpin, a longtime friend of Burton sisters Ursula and Maria, and she came on board in the role of Harry’s agent, Winnie.
“She’s hilarious and she has some of the best lines,” says Gabrielle. “Her character is meant to represent how this is perpetuated. Peri represents somebody who can start moving a little bit toward, well, what can we demand as different representation and how can we help that along?”
Indeed, The Five Sisters are considering launching an Emmy campaign for both Roger Burton and Gilpin. But that kind of recognition is not the primary reason for Old Guy.
“For us, the sense of hope is one of the big things,” says Gabrielle. “What can you do? We can have these issues that are really overwhelming and challenging and difficult, and something an individual might feel powerfulness. But you can do something about it. For us, as filmmakers, we can be conscious of the work we’re putting out there.”
What does Gabrielle hope to achieve with the series?
“I would encourage people to share it, to start conversations,” she says. “These difficult and often hidden conversations are important to have on all ranges of issues. We all have to look for ways to be the helper in this cause. That’s the hope of this series, to push us to go out and do something about it.”
Watch the series in its entirety on Five Sisters Productions YouTube channel.