Ben’s Breakdown | “Grace and Frankie” Series Thoughts

Married couples Grace & Robert Hanson, and Frankie and Sol Bergstein have known each other for years. Robert and Sol work together in a successful law firm in San Diego, and they spend a lot of time together. They spend so much time together that they have fallen in love, forcing them to come out as gay men to their wives, followed by divorce so that Robert and Sol can get married and live their lives happily ever after. But what about Grace and Frankie? They end up living together in a lovely beach house, but you’ve never met an odder odd couple. Grace is extremely uptight and professional (having started a successful cosmetics company), while Frankie is a free-spirited artist. They have a series of bizarre misadventures, mostly focused around the fact that they are in their 70s. They break apart, they each fall in love with different men, but eventually they reunite as they discover that they are best friends. Along the way, their families get involved, and they each have adult children that are even more dysfunctional than the parents. However, in the end, the glue of this unusual extended family is Grace and Frankie.

We discovered this series by accident just as its second season was about to premiere on Netflix. I saw an interview with Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie) as they were talking about the new season and I realized that this was a show that we here at TG2  Studios must see! Lily and Jane had already proven what amazing chemistry they had (along with Dolly Parton in the ’80s comedy smash 9 to 5), and this series did not disappoint! It is built with a long story-arc, beginning with the coming out of Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston) to the end of the series where both couples are reunited at the beach house through a bizarre toilet accident in Robert and Sol’s home. Throughout the series, some serious moments are treated humorously, other moments are very serious and touching, with the rest simply being outrageously hilarious.

The cast of this series could not be any better. Let me start with Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. Both of these consummate actors have shown how strong they are in serious drama. I suspect Sheen might have had a taste for comedy when I saw him guest-starring on Murphy Brown as a liberal turned ultra-conservative talking head that was hilarious to watch. As for Waterston, I have only known him as a dramatic actor, so for him to switch to comedy was probably an appealing idea, and here it works. His chemistry with not only Sheen but with the rest of the cast (especially Tomlin) is a delight to watch. Their characters had their own issues as well, first with Sheen’s character Robert dealing with the aftermath from a heart attack, and Sol had to contend with prostate cancer. Both times, these actors brought a truthfulness to their roles.

 

Then there are Fonda and Tomlin. These two ladies are exceptional, and they each play their characters with a sense of (pun intended) grace. They take many of the issues that older women have to deal with and find a way to address them seriously, and yet still make it funny, which is not an easy thing to do. Tomlin’s gypsy-like approach, coupled with Fonda’s no-nonsense attitude (and throw in some mild substance abuse from both of them) combines for the perfect “ying-yang” result, which results in a very nice package wrapped with a disastrous looking bow. However, I think the most important element is the idea of respect, that just because these people are older does not mean they do not have value. It’s easy in today’s society to dismiss senior citizens because they don’t think like us, or we don’t share the same issues with an aging body. That does not diminish who they are and the needs they have, and through some delightful humor, Grace and Frankie manages to address these points.

I am sorry that Grace and Frankie has come to an end, but it was a delightful ending that saw the series sort of come full circle. While this series is considered to be a comedy, I can only hope that Keith and I age as well (as only two gay men can) as Grace and Frankie.


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