Netflix’s best kept secret.
One of the best things happening on TV right now, with the domination of streaming sites allowing for riskier ideas to be approved, is the older generation getting their chance to shine. The comedy world has not always been particularly kind to the elderly, usually playing them for laughs where, more often than not, they are the butt of the joke.
Shows like Amazon’s Transparent have gained a lot of attention for the realistic depiction of someone finally embracing their true identity after a lifetime of hiding, but Netflix have got in on the trend too with Grace and Frankie, a true hidden gem that is just as deserving of the adoration.
The show is fairly simple in premise – Sol (Sam Waterstone) and Robert (Martin Sheen), following a 20 year affair, decide to finally come out to their respective wives of four decades. Frankie (Lily Tomlin) and Grace (Jane Fonda) have never liked each other much, but the pair soon find themselves living together in their joint beach house as they try to navigate divorce north of 70.
I began watching the pilot episode well over a year ago, not long after the first season appeared. I found it funny, but I must admit I wasn’t immediately drawn in. Despite what I now appreciate to be a very fresh concept, the first ten minutes felt very generic.
The odd couple trope has been done to death and at first glance it appeared that Grace and Frankie were never going to be any more than their stereotypes, with Fonda playing it straight as the prim and uptight Grace whilst Tomlin channeled Frankie’s hippy-dippy nature.
Fast forward a year and, following recommendations from various friends, the time had come to give the series another chance, and boy am I glad. Co-created by Marta “Friends” Kauffman, the show is one of Netflix’s hidden gems.
It’s easy to, as I first did, write the show off, but to do so would be a mistake. As laugh out loud funny as all your favourite sitcoms, the show also has more heart than you could ever imagine. Life is far from black and white, and Grace and Frankie revels in the murky area in between, dealing with issues in a much deeper way than it might at first seen.
The titular two characters are, as should be the case in a show named after them, the beating heart. Tomlin is on top form as eccentric Frankie, laughing in the face of elderly stereotypes as she smokes weed in her rasta hat, whilst still being fully believable (basically everything Robert DeNiro was not in Dirty Grandpa. I’m still not over that film). Meanwhile Fonda is sensational in what is overtly more of a dramatic role, with the comedic touches proving a fantastic flair.
Fleshing out the cast are Waterstone and Sheen as Sol and Robert, the former husbands of the titular pair who set the ball rolling with their coming out. Reflecting the dynamic of the titular characters, the pair are another odd couple with Sol proving to be one of the series highlights with his overly approach to his emotions, whilst Robert is the dark horse, growing into one of the most well rounded characters as the show progresses.
The writing is fantastic, tackling a range of massive themes from mortality to faith with the perfect blend of comedy and drama. There is a lot more below the surface here than you would ever find in your typical sitcom, and the show isn’t afraid to explore the deeper impact events have on the characters.
Grace and Frankie is a revelation. Hilarious and sweet in equal measure, it is a show that could easily be overshadowed by Netflix’s top dogs such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, but is just as worthy of a binge watch (I watched two seasons over two weeks in an unprecedented display of restraint).
Here are some of my favourite one liners from the literally hundreds on offer across the first two seasons…
“Does he make appointments at the genius bar? Because if you don’t it’s a really long wait.”
“Couldn’t we discuss the fight to masturbate after lunch?”
“I gained another pound today. But I think it’s a pound of knowledge.”
“If anyone is gonna sit on Ryan Gosling’s face, it’s gonna be me!”
Season 3 of Grace and Frankie will stream on Netflix this year.