Jul 23, 2015

[TV] Grace and Frankie: Season 1

As much as I try to remain rather thoughtful about which shows to watch, sometimes I can get pretty shallow and just jump on stuff. This was a good example of me being all campy gay guy and being totally willing to watch a series featuring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin together. Sure the premise of the show turned out to have some interesting LGBT angles to it, it was more important to me to see what these two actresses would do with this particular show.

Grace & Frankie is a unique Netflix comedy that had a premise that could have gone in any number of directions. Despite how silly things look on paper, the show actually got to explore some interesting angles about relationships for older individuals, especially given the little twist that I'll get into formally later on.

It's always quirky to look at comedies like this and notice that you're not exactly rolling on the floor laughing. There's a quirkiness to things, but don't expect a laugh track or your traditional setup and  punchline structure that you see in more traditional sitcoms.

Synopsis: Grace & Frankie is a new Netflix comedy series created by Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris. The show debuted in May of this year and has already been confirmed for a second season.

Our titular characters are Grace (Jane Fonda), a retired cosmetics mogul and Frankie (Lily Tomlin), a hippie art teacher who spends most of her time teaching ex-convicts. Their husbands Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston) are divorce lawyers who work together in the same firm. Grace and Frankie don't have much fondness for one another, but everything changes when their husbands announce that they're leaving them for, well, one another. Apparently they've been keeping their homosexuality a secret for some time now and thus also their relationship. But will all the recent changes in the US legal landscape, they've decided to finally get married and explore having a life together.

Naturally the news is shocking and downright devastating to Grace & Frankie and the two end up living together in the beach house that had been jointly owned by their families and thus try to pick up the pieces of their lives. As they start to go into formal divorce proceedings, the two women also need to find a way to get along with one another and ultimately figure out a path forward now that everything is changing. And beyond they, each family also have their children, all grown up by now of course. And how everyone deals with this drastic change in the status quo is what defines this series.

From the get-go, we have two women whose characters were designed to be drastically different and thus the traditional "Odd Couple" sort of pairing that a lot of comedy is based on. Grace is very much a Type A personality with a lot of need to control things and have a particular order for the world. Frankie is a lot more liberal and her "hippie" nature is very much right up there in any scene she's in. Thus she focuses a lot on meditation, seeking answers from beyond and a somewhat liberal use of hallucinogenic substances.

But more than just focusing on Grace and Frankie, we also spend a lot of time with Robert and Sol and see how they're getting into the spirit of things, Just because they love one another doesn't mean everything is going to be okay automatically. And the show's writers did a great job of crating particular situations that really test any relationship as you get into things. It's one thing to be casually with one another for dates and isolated social situations. But once you start living together and start to involve family in things, then more complications come up.

Kudos to all the actors involved in this production! Seriously, everyone was amazing. You can totally understand why Grace had been married to Robert and why Frankie had gotten together with Sol. But at the same time, you also appreciate how Robert and Sol work together and why their relationship has been strong enough to get them as far as they have. I wasn't expecting to appreciate Martin Sheen as a gay man, but his performance in this show is actually quite thoughtful and very well done. And thus the whole story already benefits from good writing but is really brought to life with some great acting talent.

And the complexities don't stop there - both families had children and those children now have some very adult problems. One is a stay at home mom. Another now leads Grace's company. And Frankie's two adopted sons are drastically different since one is also a lawyer with Robert and Sol and the other is a recovering drug addict with some history with the stay at home mom. And how they react to the changes in their parent's situations and figuring out whether or not they console one parent or the other or both makes for great stories.

Grace & Frankie is a highly intelligent series and uses the comedic medium to explore some very interesting aspects of relationships and of course life. And the talent in the show just makes things even better and we  all benefit. Thus the show gets 4 strange practices Frankie tries to get Grace into out of a possible 5.

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