I mainlined 26 episodes of Grace and Frankie on the weekend. That’s the whole of seasons 1 and 2, in one big gulp. Don’t judge me, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds – the episodes are only 25-30 minutes each, so heck, it could have been way worse, right?
I’m pretty sure I heard about this show via Galactic Suburbia first, a while back, but I was immersed in all the wondrous array of superhero, SF and fantasy shows that we’ve been deluged with in recent years and it passed me by. When I caught up on everything though, and was poking around online to see if anything looked interesting, Netflix cleverly threw if up in the “new releases” section and I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’m so very glad I did!
The basic premise for Grace and Frankie is that after 40 years of marriage, Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) – two women who have been thrown together for decades but really can’t stand each other – are dumped by their husbands (Sol – Sam Waterston – and Robert – Martin Sheen). Their 70+ year old husbands, law partners who have been having an affair for the past twenty years, have finally bit the bullet and tell their wives, now that same sex marriage is legal, because they want to get married. Naturally, Grace and Frankie are devastated (although for quite different reasons), and then the show really begins.
Obviously there is a lot for Grace and Frankie to unpack, and we see their respective processes unfold as they work through the weeks and months that follow. We also meet Grace’s two daughters and Frankie’s two sons, and see the character journeys of all these people along the way.
I love that we get loads of older actors with fabulous roles, and although I could stand to see more diverse portrayals of people of colour, differently abled people, people who aren’t remarkably fit and attractive, and even other representations of gender and sexuality (in this world it seems everyone is cis and either straight or male homosexual – where are the rest of the QUILTBAG?), the fact that this show is without a doubt firmly focussed on women means it hits a lot of buttons for me. There might be two four male stars we see on screen regularly, but we live inside the world of Grace and Frankie, and to a lesser extent Grace’s daughters, especially Brianna (June Diane Raphael), who I particularly love.
If you had any doubt that this show is made for the female gaze, the frank and open discussion of women’s issues will set you straight (all puns unintended there!). The running storyline of the “yam lube”, plot pieces like being “invisible” as older women in a shop, discussions of the career vs motherhood and the conflict between the two showcased in Grace’s daughters, dozens of little things scattered through the show that continually hat tip the female viewer; it’s surprising how much that meant to me.
Perhaps the best thing about Grace and Frankie though is that it is a show about older women which reminds us that just because we grow older doesn’t mean we stop being ourselves. Frankie is an unrepentant pot-smoking hippie chick artist who speaks her mind and overflows with love. Grace is a determined, hard-drinking, headstrong woman who built a flourishing business from scratch and worked her whole life for it. They are very different representations of womanhood (and oh, isn’t that in itself marvellous to have) and just because they are now in their 70s and can’t unfold from a sitting position with the same poise and effortlessness they once did (yes, this is definitely a thing the show does!), it doesn’t stop either of them from being the same forceful and fascinating personalities they have always been. If I am half the woman they are at 70, I’ll die happy. And I totally want Frankie’s hair…
In tone, Grace and Frankie sits for me between Modern Family and Gilmore Girls. It’s a little over-the-top to be a serious drama, and nowhere near slapstick enough to be a full comedy, but is both hilarious and tear-jerking by turns, and this is pulled off thanks to the gorgeous performances of the actors involved, some great storylines, and mostly fabulous dialogue throughout. In short (after the long), I completely enjoyed watching this, and will be looking out for the next season. Thank you Netflix – you rock.