Why Grace & Frankie Works — and still makes me laugh 4 years in
In a world where even the most endearing and delightful series on any service seem to have a short life span, there is something to be said for the old-fashioned comedy series that doesn’t seem determined to end any time soon. This is to be expected on network and some cable services which keep their hit shows on the air well past their expiration dates, but is harder to fathom among some of the more involved services, and considering the makeup of most of the cast of Grace & Frankie, it’s actually encouraging that the series had already been renewed for Season 5.
As Season 4 begins to unfold, Grace and Frankie have momentarily separated, and when Frankie (Lily Tomlin) returns from Santa Fe to attend her sons baby shower, she is appalled to find that Grace (Jane Fonda) has filled the gap with a slightly younger roommate, her pedicurist Sherrie (Lisa Kudrow, as always, delightful) Sherrie actually has some appealing secrets, and my one regret about the way they resolved her storyline is that, well, they resolved her storyline, but who knows, maybe we’ll see her again by the end of the season. It doesn’t take long for the two roommates to find their old patterns and new problems. For example, when Frankie trotted off to Santa Fe with her lover Jacob (Ernie Hudson, who I hope will see more of soon) to resolve paperwork in handling her mail, she arranged things so that she declared herself dead. Now that she’s returned herself back to LA, more or less permanently, she now has to deal with the ramifications. As she puts it ‘by the time I make myself alive, I’ll actually be dead.”
Grace is undergoing her own problems. The relationship she began with her business rival Nick (Peter Gallagher) has actually become more serious than she is willing to admit, and she finds herself rather amazed to find that Nick actually wants more of her, not less. Given how restrictive she is, one can sense it will end in tears, but there are probably going to be a fair amount of laughs along the way.
Robert and Sol seem to be moving in a solid direction these days. Robert was nominated for a local theater award for his production of 1776, a storyline that took up much of Season 3. Sol tries to get him to use his winners speech as a call to barricades, and is actually a little bemused when he wins, does call to the barricades.. and forgets to mentions his husband. (Considering that Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen are the leads here, there are definitely layers among layers in this joke.) Then there was the fact that Sol thinks he’s found a gay couple as numbers only to find that they’re a straight couple — but the husband is clearly closeted. This adds a layer of seriousness to the story that the writers have managed to deal with extremely well in this series.
Grace & Frankie isn’t even close to the most popular comedy on Netflix. It’s not the hippest show. It’s certainly nowhere close to being the best show. But considering the fact that all of the major leads are either at or fast approaching 80, particularly in an age where, even now, we rarely have anyone above 50 in a lead role, it is by far one of the most daring shows on any platform. And considering that it simply wants to make its points in pure unadulterated jokes, there’s something very admirable about that, and to be commended. And really, I don’t know how long the series can naturally last. What I do know, is this series handles the realties of aging more realistically — and comically — then almost any series I’ve seen on TV. In one episode, Lisa Kudrow’s character says she’s had many good friends, but she’s never “had a Grace.. or a Frankie, for that matter.” Frankly, TV needs more of both. I look forward to the rest of the season, and for Season 5 as well.
My score: 4 stars.