Those of you who followed the daily vlogs closely know that we first got into Grace and Frankie last summer. We were on the hunt for a new comedy show to get into, and Netflix originals are always great for that, since you can binge multiple episodes in a single go. The bad part of that is that it usually doesn’t take long for you to blow through an entire season. And sure enough, we blazed through the first season pretty quickly (we start talking about the show at around 5:49):
For those of you who aren’t familiar, Grace and Frankie follows the two titular characters (played by the legendary Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, respectively) as they’re suddenly hit with the shocking news that their husbands of over 40 years (played by the equally legendary Martin Sheen and Sam Watterson) are not only gay, but have been engaged in a secret affair for decades. Suddenly Grace and Frankie, two women who could not be more different and who otherwise can’t stand each other, find themselves leaning on each other for support as they try to pick up what’s left of their lives and move forward.
I like that we’re following the situation from the perspective of the wives, because I feel like many writers and producers would have felt it necessary to examine the situation from the perspective of Robert and Sol (the two husbands who end up falling in love). That is not to say that we don’t still follow them and some of the challenges that they face. But we’ve also already seen a handful of firsthand portrayals of LGBT people coming out later in life, and “how it affects their family”. I know that media is still in need of LGBT stories, but we can also be a tad narcissistic at times. It’s all about us and our struggles with coming out and dealing with stigma and acceptance. I don’t seem to recall another film or show that examines such a situation from the perspective of a soon-to-be-ex spouse (or spouses), so I find this change of perspective to be pretty refreshing. It also helps that the whole scenario is examined with equal parts humor and heart. Each character finds themselves blindsided by an incredibly difficult and unusual situation. As we watch them struggle to find their balance and reevaluate everything they thought they knew, each character ends up speaking with an honesty that can’t help but tug at your emotions. But then they also use their senses of humor to try and cope, which makes them lots of fun to watch.
What I like most about this series, though, is that it strikes a really awesome balance between the traditional, sitcom type of humor and more contemporary comedic tastes. On the surface, the show is very Odd Couple meets Golden Girls: two women in their 60’s are suddenly forced to bond; one is uptight and conservative while the other is a free-spirited hippie. But there’s no laugh track, no studio audience, and no over-the-top performances. For all of its ridiculousness, there’s an honesty to many of the performances that breathes some fresh air into the genre. Not to mention that sitcoms typically have simple problems that are usually resolved completely in 22 minutes (with a nice lesson for everyone at the end). Older sitcoms rarely had truly gut-wrenching moments more than once a season. Not so with this show. These conflicts are tricky, messy, and take time to play out. And even when some of them are resolved, it’s not always clear who’s right and who’s wrong. Just like life, it’s often just a matter of perspective. And it of course helps that you’ve got comedy legends at the center of it all, especially two stars who have already done great work together.
One more final word to anyone who has yet to watch both seasons: the second season feels a bit more “sitcom-ish” than the first. But that’s also mainly because the first season centers around Grace and Frankie trying to re-establish their since of home and family. Season two focuses more on the “now what”. But if you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend Grace and Frankie to anyone who’s finds themselves missing shows like Golden Girls, 9 to 5, Roseanne, or any other classic, female-powered sitcom.