BINGE-R #31: Grace & Frankie + March's Best Shows
GRACE & FRANKIE S3
Streaming Service: Netflix
Availability: All 13 episodes now streaming, plus S1 and S2
Two great Hollywood greats do exactly as you’d expect of them in Grace & Frankie: Jane Fonda’s Grace is an immaculate bulldozer with controlling instincts and a serious martini count, while Lily Tomlin’s Frankie is an unpredictable counterculture veteran with a straight talking streak; both of them swear immaculately. Playing opposites thrown together when their husbands – Grace’s Robert (Martin Sheen) and Frankie’s Sol (Sam Waterston) – announce that they’re gay and divorcing their wives so they can marry each other after a surreptitious two decades long affair, the women headline a comic drama that references both vast social change and The Odd Couple.
That contrasting mix, and the idea that the show is made for a niche audience that like the lead quartet are septuagenarians, has seen Grace & Frankie chug along with little of the attention that fellow Netflix originals such as House of Cards and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt have drawn. But as the newly released third series demonstrates, the program has a satisfying ease built on solid writing and an avoidance of trauma. Irreverent anger and a desire to make good motivated the two women early on, and in the new episodes their focus is now launching a business venture.
Funding Vybrant, which will manufacture vibrators for the 60+ woman, allows the pair to take on nervous bankers and the entire start-up culture; told they’re visiting an incubator Frankie happily exclaims, “we’re getting chickens!” Co-creator Marta Kauffman ran Friends, and there’s still a traditional sitcom vibe lurking in Grace & Frankie, although the episodes have a sardonic ease now and a better spread of emotional bonds. One of the most intriguing relationships is between Frankie and Grace’s hard-nosed daughter, Brianna (June Diane Raphael), while Robert and Sol now have their own, interwoven identities distinct from their exes.
Kauffman has said that Grace & Frankie isn’t political, and she’s correct in a way. Situated in affluent San Diego – the women reside in their former shared beach house – and an unquestioned liberal bubble, the issues uncovered are never wrenching, or starkly revelatory, as they are on the likes of Stan’s Transparent. The half hour episodes usually tie the plots up neatly and allow Fonda and, particularly, Tomlin to sign off scenes with a tart kicker to the punchline. It’s more than comfort viewing, but nonetheless it’s very comforting and worth reconsidering. Just please get the Dolly Parton guest slot sorted so the 9 to 5 reunion is complete.
MARCH’S BEST SHOWS
This month’s there’s been a solid mix from the streaming services, but it’s not exactly a banner selection. To be honest, the best series I’m watching in March is Foxtel’s Big Little Lies. But there’s still plenty you should catch up on, and if you need to you can always go back to February, which was stacked with exemplary titles. [list here]
1 – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend S1 (Netflix): “An inventive whirlwind that pits the blackly comic debris of a fractured life up against the madcap reinvention of Hollywood musical numbers”. [review here]
2 – The Path S1 (Amazon): Set inside a religious movement with a cast led by Aaron Paul, cult machinations in this drama are, “secondary to the theme of what faith can do for, or to, its adherents.” [review here]
3 – The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story S1 (Netflix): This scabrous comic tragedy, that digs into the doublemurder trial of O.J. Simpson, “finds fascinating fault lines to measure. Virtually all of them remain relevant today”. [review here]
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