Grace and Frankie hit Netflix last weekend and I watched every episode. It was a bit uneven, but I loved it anyway.
The premise was that Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) were two women who didn’t particularly like each other. They were married to Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston). Robert and Sol announced that they were in love and wanted to get married. Here’s the kicker. They’d been in love for 20 years and were just now telling their wives.
Robert and Grace had two grown daughters: Mallory (Brooklyn Decker) and Briana (June Diane Raphael). Sol and Frankie had two grown sons: Coyote (Ethan Embry) and Nwabudike (Baron Vaughn).
Take a moment to study those names: Mallory & Briana vs. Coyote and Nwabudike. Those names summarize Grace and Frankie as women and mothers quite well. Briana is the one who got the brilliant line, “If they had been cheating for 20 years with other women, would you be so forgiving?”
Lily Tomlin was supremely funny, of course. But so was Jane Fonda.The news from the two dads sent both families into a tailspin. Grace and Frankie ended up living in a beach house together that the two men had purchased jointly 20 years ago. Much of the comedy came out of the very different personalities of the two women, but everyone in the cast had a share of the good jokes. Lily Tomlin was supremely funny, of course. But so was Jane Fonda. She got some great lines and delivered them deadpan: “Are we going to talk about my vagina all morning?”
There were outstanding guest stars, who popped in for a few minutes: Michael Gross, Joe Morton, Mary Kay Place, Corbin Bernsen, Christine Lahti, Ernie Hudson and others. Craig T. Nelson was in several episodes as Grace’s new boyfriend. The series creators are Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris.
All that star power and good acting make the uneven parts of the series work. The early episodes were broad, trying too hard to be something like live comedy. After a few episodes, the jokes became quieter and the plot became more dramatic. That’s when the series started to shine and impress.
As the series progressed, the relationships between the two women and their ex husbands grew more nuanced. The relationship between Robert and Sol was explored. Grace and Frankie grew into a sort of grudging friendship. The four adult children did their best to help their parents cope while dealing with their own problems.
Sam Waterston was fabulous. His Sol was funny and beautiful and tender and heartwarming. The chemistry between Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen was warm and believable, especially in moments where they were learning how to live together. However, their kissing was a bit limp and felt like gay for pay.
I ended up glad I’d stuck with it through the first two or three episodes. There’s no way I was going to give up believing in the power of Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. My faith was rewarded because the later episodes were outstanding.
Here’s looking forward a second season with these funny and likeable people.My son, who happened to be at my house while I watched the last 4 episodes, got right into the series. He laughed a lot, went squee over Michael Gross, and said he loved Lily Tomlin. Happy to provide a second opinion.
The series concluded with a powerful and potentially disruptive cliffhanger, so here’s looking forward a second season with these funny and likeable people.
Grace and Frankie images ©Netflix