Disclaimer: I love this show and may become gushy … you have been warned. Grace and Frankie is a Netflix original (aren’t all the best programmes?) and the first series debuted in 2015. The show is set to return for a fourth season in the first half of next year, with new cast member, Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe from Friends for anyone who has lived under a rock for 20 years). The show stars Jane Fonda (who looks about 40 even though she’s 79), Lily Tomlin (who may be the best female comedic actress of all time), and Martin Sheen (father of a coked-up mess and star of the greatest war film of all time, Apocalypse Now). The rest of the cast is filled out with a bunch of general nobodies who are all brilliant and will go on to do great things later in their career.
Before I discuss what the show is actually about, I first need to categorise it. It is often marketed as a straight-forward sitcom, however, it is something much more advanced and original. The closest existing word we have is ‘dramedy’ and so is closer in style to Scrubs or Gavin and Stacey, however, that too, isn’t quite right. Although the show is frequently light-hearted and often hilarious, I don’t want you going into the show thinking it’s going to resemble anything like Friends, Frasier, or Will and Grace. The show is at times depressing as all f**k and can be extremely emotive and touching. I would be inclined to describe it as a drama that spends most of its time masquerading as a comedy.
I’ve rambled long enough without actually telling you what it’s about. The show starts with two couples meeting up for dinner. We have Grace (Jane Fonda) and her husband of 40 years, Robert (Martin Sheen) who are rich, posh, elegant, arrogant, and cultured. The other couple is made up of Robert’s business partner Sol (Sam Waterson) and his wife of 40 years, Frankie (Lily Tomlin) who are also rich, but are also hippies who love weed and seeing Pink Floyd tribute bands. Whilst the two men are best friends, the two women actively despise each other. It is at this dinner that the two men announce they are divorcing Grace and Frankie and marrying each other. After this cataclysm, the two women are forced to move in together, whilst the two men set off on their life together. The show encompasses their entire families of grown up children and family friends. It’s a simple sitcom set up, but one that never shies away from the true pain and heartache felt by all the characters. It’s genius.
What makes the show so excellent in this modern day, is that the four main actors (and their characters, obviously) are all nearly 80 years old. For such a ‘young person’ service as Netflix to make a show such as this, is very brave. Whether the show was marketed at the ‘overs’ market or not has become beside the point, as it has proven extremely popular among the ‘millennial’ generation. Although the main action takes place with the four stars, their grown-up children devour a good chunk of every episode’s run time, which keeps the whole show feeling fresh and not just a rehashing of Golden Girls. The show has a slew of Emmy nominations and it looks like they will continue for as long as the show is being made, and if comments from Fonda and Tomlin (the show’s producers as well as stars) are anything to go by, it could be a long time, yet.
Scrubs sadder moments came, usually, from the death of a patient or the problems within a friendship, whereas Grace and Frankie will shine a light on serious issues and have you weeping along with the characters … whether it’s the aforementioned divorces, the assisted suicide of a close friend, alcoholism, dementia, class divides, or the death of orangutans in the rain forest (and we’re only three seasons in), the show isn’t afraid to get really gritty and depict life in a very stark and affecting way. Only a comedic programme can get away with covering such a multitude of sadness and depressing subjects without it beginning to feel like you’re watching puppies be run over whilst listening to Morrissey on repeat.
To be able to balance the fine line between comedy and drama so deftly is what makes the show so memorable and instantly enjoyable. Too often shows try to do both and end up doming neither particularly well. Grace and Frankie should set the benchmark for all future ‘dramedies’ as it is incredible and will be fondly remembered as the classic it is for many years to come.
Do you love Grace and Frankie as much as me? Let me know on Twitter @MugwumpBlog