Netflix has become one of the major players in the expansion of the Golden Age of Television, but one of the more maligned series in its original programming came with their sitcom Grace and Frankie. Despite having a cast that is literally full of legends, the series has mostly received mediocre reviews from the major media outlets, saying that it just wasn’t good enough. For that reason, I put it to the back burner behind Emmy worthy fair, such as Bloodline, Daredevil, and Kimmy Schmidt. Then I decided to give it a little attention, because my mother— who is a very hard woman to please— wanted to see it.
Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) are two women who have spent the last forty years of their lives tolerating each other because their husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) have been law partners. Then on their fortieth anniversary, they drop a bombshell on their lifes—- their husbands have been having an affair for the last twenty years, they are leaving their wives, and they are getting married… to each other. Grace and Frankie couldn’t be more different from each other—- Grace owned a successful feminine beauty company, Frankie is far more of a hippie-chic—- but both now find themselves reeling from what can only be the hardest blow either will ever take. Both have two children—- Gracie and Ron have daughters, (one runs her mother’s company, one is a married with two kids, Frankie and Sol have two sons (one has just completed 90 days sober, one is black), and the kids are still trying to figure out where they fit in this new paradigm.
Much to my chagrin, I found myself entertained by the majority of the antics that I have seen, at least in the early episodes. Perhaps I shouldn’t be that surprised, considering that all four actors are high on my most admired list. All of them are at least charming in this series, and Fonda and Tomlin are particularly amusing. Fonda has been laboring for good material ever since she returned to acting after her divorce from Ted Turner, stuck in role that are either thankless (Monster-In-Law, Georgia Rule) or overly preachy (her turn on The Newsroom gave her little to do). Here she demonstrates that she has a comic touch you wouldn’t expect from this mostly serious actress. One of the more engaging sequences of the series came in the third episode, where she and Frankie spent several minutes trying to convince a convenience store own to acknowledge that she was there. The idea that old people are virtually invisible to the young is not a new one, but it was rarely executed as well.
For Tomlin, this is actually something of a step back on a third act on TV that has been one of the nicer benefits of the new Golden age. But every so often—- like in a scene where she confronts Sol over what she really expected him to do in his final years—- she demonstrates how much of a piercing comic wit she has.
Oh, Gracie and Frankie is not perfect. Three episodes, and aside from the four leads we have yet to see any other really interesting side characters, besides the kids. But considering that the last episode refocused on some of the anger that everybody is feeling at the entire situation shows there might actually be a real comedy here. It’ll certainly have a fanbase, hell, even old people watch Netflix.
My score: 3.75 stars.