Sam Waterston, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen in the Netflix Original Series "Grace and Frankie". Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.Ê

Sam Waterston, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen in the Netflix Original Series “Grace and Frankie”. Photo by Melissa Moseley for Netflix.

There are spoilers for the show in this review. Duh.

I didn’t know much about this show outside of the fact it was on Netflix and starred a few actors I generally enjoyed. A friend of mine told me the general premise, and I was under the assumption that this show was supposed to be a sitcom, especially considering how short the episodes were and the general setting. But the weird thing is it isn’t particularly funny. There are funny moments, but it definitely is more of a drama, and I wonder if that’s part of why it has mixed reviews. Maybe people were expecting Modern Family or Golden Girls, and were surprised to get something more serious and complicated. The show did get renewed for a second season, so Grace and Frankie will be back, but I’m not ultimately certain at this point if I will be. And I’ll talk about why in a bit.

Grace and Frankie stars Jane Fond and Lily Tomlin as the title characters, two very different women who are forced to interact for twenty years and raise their children together because their husbands are law partners. Except they find out their husbands are more than law partners; they’re a couple and have been secretly for twenty years, cheating on their wives and hiding the truth. They’ve only come out now because they want to be married. This leaves their wives in complete shock and heartbreak, and their children also somewhat baffled and thrown off. It’s messy and complicated and I would be fine with that, if the tone didn’t seem to want to make light of things and then be serious at odd intervals. The main story is that Grace and Frankie themselves never got along, but now they are the only other person who understand what they’re going through. Grace is Jane Fonda, very repressed and proper and WASPish. She and her husband Robert, played by the marvelous Martin Sheen, were not necessarily in love so her pain in this season is more about starting over at her age and the embarrassment that comes from being left. Frankie on the other hand is a hippie and was very much in love with her husband Sol, played by Law & Order‘s Sam Waterson, so she’s devastated. Robert and Grace have two daughters, Mallory (Brooklyn Decker) and Brianna (June Diane Raphael), and Sol and Frankie have two adopted sons Coyote (Ethan Embry) and Bud (Baron Vaughn).

Grace and Frankie choose to live together while they recover from their marriages, and they both approach their new life as single women in their 70s differently. Frankie obviously still loves her husband so she finds making boundaries with him near impossible, especially since he misses her and keeps holding on even when it’s selfish. Grace dates an old friend of Robert’s Guy (Craig T. Nelson), the kids all have trouble adjusting to the new situation and deciding how they feel about it, and Robert and Sol prepare for their wedding. I appreciate that this show doesn’t just laugh off what the men did to the women who loved them. They lied for twenty years. It would have been hard to tell them the truth all those years ago, but it would have given Frankie and Grace the ability to move on sooner and start new lives. One of my favorite parts is when the kids go to dinner with them, but their anger at the deception and hurt their mothers feel leads them to stomp out of the house. It’s good to see that there are consequences, but they’re all human so they want to make it work at the same time. Robert and Sol were afraid of coming out, and there were certainly good reasons considering the age they grew up in and having trouble even admitting to what was happening between them. This is a timely show, considering gay rights being so wonderfully public right now. All in all, it’s messy, and I like messy. I just wish it was actually funny too. It’s like they try to be funny, but only a few lines really end up landing.


The story that works the best for me is the budding friendship with Grace and Frankie. Here are two women who have known each other for several decades and always disliked each other. But they grow a very genuine bond over the course of the season, so when Grace sticks up for Frankie in the finale and stands by her, you believe it. Grace is definitely the more difficult of the two to like, which is probably why she gets a little more development and storyline. Frankie mostly paints and mopes and she has good reason to; how do you get over someone who doesn’t really want you to? That’s the truth about Sol, and I love how Grace rips him to shreds in the finale. I kept wondering if my reading of him as an annoying “nice guy” was just me, but it seems like the show was doing that on purpose. He keeps coming off as the nice one, but he’s manipulative in a lot of ways too. I do like him, but likable characters can be dicks sometimes. I like all of the characters. I like how human all four of them seem to be. The kids are a little more basic and usually the cause of any comedy in the episodes. Bud being the good son who works for his fathers and tries to keep everyone focused is good. His guilt about possibly knowing about his father all this time was really well done. Coyote seems the most ridiculous of the group, and it’s like they can’t decide if they want it to be funny that he’s a recovering addict or sad. Mallory’s mostly there to be the flustered and serious maternal sister, as opposed to Brianna’s tough and snarky wit. I love that they grew up together so they’re like family, and they act as brothers and sisters might.

So the relationships feel authentic. Grace and Frankie becoming friends and helping each other move on is a story I can support and get behind. Robert and Sol dealing with coming out and what that means for their careers and family is also a good story. All the pieces are here. I think the tone shift is a real problem. The cast is fantastic, they have some really great actors here, so I think they have to tighten up the story a little. The writing should be a little sharper, the jokes should land better, they only have thirteen episodes so it shouldn’t feel so all over the place. I was annoyed at the finale where Sol and Frankie slept together, because it felt like it was certainly done for dramatic reasons and not because it was natural to the plot. This season was all about the basic plot and moving the characters on, so next season will hopefully bring them to better directions. Writing this out made me decide to give season two a chance. There are some really quality parts of the show. The actors are great, and the characters are flawed but overall interesting. It has potential. I’m just not sure if it knows what type of show it wants to be: a sitcom? A dramady? A drama? It’s wishy washy that way, not unlike Sol’s general personality, so if it can find a new direction, it could be a lot better. I hope everyone gets more fuel to become better characters, and the actors certainly can hold their own weight when given the chance.

  1. Sahar says:

    Great review, gives a good sense of the season and the show without giving too much away. I’m intrigued by this show now because of your view that it is well developed–I feel that often that’s what’s missing in so many shows. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dee says:

      I think there’s a lot of potential for the future. This season just had the basic plot, but the actors and characters are good. I just hope next season they really delve deeper. But it’s interesting, that’s for sure, and not quite like something I’ve seen on TV lately. I like they’re addressing being older and starting over, ESPECIALLY for women. There’s an entire scene about how the two of them are flat out ignored by people in favor of younger women as if they don’t exist. Which is legit and it’s just great to see it called out somewhere.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sahar says:

        Ok, I am adding this show on my to-watch list then. Ageism is such an important issue to address, it really makes me happy that someone is doing it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s