Netflix has been one of the most consistent performers on any service in such a short time that the world has developed a certain snobbery about it. It’s easy to get excited about series like Stranger Things or Master of None, because they have a level of genius that you can’t imagine any other service providing. Whereas there are some series on the server that make you wonder why here? I still can’t imagine why anyone would want to binge watch Fuller House, for example.
Falling under the latter is Grace and Frankie, a show that has managed to make it into its third season without the same kind of critical mass that powers so many other Netflix series. The argument could be made that this is the kind of show that could appear, if not on network TV, then certainly one of the lesser basic cable series. But the sad fact, with every network on the planet trying to aim towards younger demographic, no one wants to go after the plus-50 crowd. As tremendous talents as Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen are, one would could only see them in supporting roles on TV, much less casting all four as leads. And certainly no one would be willing to give a series of recurring roles to senior performers such as Marsha Mason, Ernie Hudson, etc.
Of course, you could cut through all the ageism nonsense, and just like the series for the fact that is very funny. It makes me laugh louder and more consistently then some of the ‘hipper’ comedies currently on the air, and I’m nowhere near the age of the demographic the showrunners are probably aiming for. And there’s a genuine humanity to all of these characters that is severely lacking in so many other series on the air today. One cares about the relationship between Grace and Frankie, as they try to find themselves making a new business venture, or as Sol and Robert try to find a new life together, whether it is heading towards retirement or trying out for community theater. The series also moves at a more measured pace which gives the funnier lines more time to resonate than they do, say, in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
And maybe I’m seeing things that aren’t there, but there’s also a certain level of subversiveness that I don’t think the other series are picking up on. When Grace and Frankie try to get a loan for their business, the fact that no one is willing to grant it because they think there’s a very good chance they’ll die before they can pay it back, or the way Sol gets angry at Robert about now lying to a bunch newly gay friends that he spent most of his life straight, has a certain depth to realism that I really don’t think that a lot of other critics are picking up. And in a recent episode, in order to reassure Frankie about their safety after a burglary, they go to a senior crime prevention class, and are told the safest thing they can do is soil themselves, there’s a ferocity that is expressed very subtly and then moved on from. It’s also likely that the series, after three seasons may finally be picking up confidence in itself that it didn’t have in its at first two years.
It’s not too fine a point, though. This is a series that basically has the common sense to let legends like Fonda and Tomlin get out of their own way, and deliver these lines with some of the flair that they deserve. It’s an enjoyable comedy, and if certain ideas like that of senior citizens masturbating make you uncomfortable, well, that’s nothing new for a Netflix comedy either.
My score: 4 stars.