Home / WorldWide / Netflixs Grace and Frankie is great TV to nap to. Thats sort of a compliment.

Netflixs Grace and Frankie is great TV to nap to. Thats sort of a compliment.

Netflixs latest original comedy series Grace and Frankie is an oddly airless thing. Its the sort of show that you might nod off to during a warm weekend afternoon waking up a few episodes later to realize very little has changed but feeling sort of pleased by that fact. You can watch the first season here.

The two older women in the title played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin learn that their husbands Robert and Sol Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are gay and having a relationship with each other. The series struggles to feel like it has any dramatic weight at all constantly at threat of floating off into the ether. But that paradoxically is what makes it so good to take a nap to.

I dont know if I mean TV thats good to take a nap to as a compliment but theres something weirdly appealing about a show so ephemeral. It floats right by you best consumed in a couple of large gulps as most Netflix shows usually are.
And somewhere around episode eight or nine of the first season I realized that Grace and Frankie was a hangout sitcom about older people. In and of itself thats not a bad idea but the show is constantly defeated by some of the hangout sitcoms worst qualities.

The progenitor of the genre is probably Seinfeld though that shows tricky storytelling structure doesnt make it an easy fit with the many many shows it has inspired. A more likely inspiration is Friends a series where the drama rarely got too thick on the ground and the primary storytelling style could be best described as easygoing.
That series also introduced the idea of romantic relationships between the characters acting as the primary engine driving conflict in the show. Just when viewers were tired of Ross and Rachel it was time to switch over to Chandler and Monica and then later Joey and Rachel. The show ran for 10 years based almost entirely on these various romantic permutations.

And lo and behold Grace and Frankies cocreator with Howard J. Morris is Friends own Marta Kauffman. And similarly to her earlier show Grace and Frankie eventually turns into a series of relationship plot lines balanced with overwritten jokes that dont feel like the characters talking but rather the writers behind the series dropping those words in their mouths straining to be as clever as possible.
The show Grace and Frankie is most like is probably the late1990s sitcom Dharma and Greg in that its about a kooky free spirit paired with a more uptight conservative type but the show makes less of this than you might expect.

Because of its premise Grace and Frankie cant really be about the characters trying out the many different romantic dynamics of their little group. Outside of Grace Frankie and their exhusbands the only other characters are the womens four children two sons for Frankie two daughters for Grace. And even there things have been set up to minimize potential romantic connections as much as possible. Graces daughter Mallory Brooklyn Decker was once the obsession of Frankies son Coyote Ethan Embry but thats all in the past. Shes seemingly happily married now minimizing the chances of potentially dramatic ruptures.

So despite the highconcept premise at the shows center Grace and Frankie eventually settles into a lowlevel hum rather than a pitched roar. It doesnt want to be anything too exciting. And therein lies the problem. In the first episode Grace and Frankie learn that their husbands have been sleeping together for 20 years and now wish to get married to each other. To the shows credit it mines some of the inherent tension in the two women feeling wronged while still attempting to understand their husbands wishes to be happy. In the shows best scenes it finds a way to feel for all of its characters and treat them humanely.

The problem is that the series drops much of its conflict throughout. Its not that Grace and Frankie immediately forgive their husbands but in trying to be at least somewhat understanding the pairs anger is more of a low simmer than anything that boils over. Similarly the two women — presented as polar opposites in the pilot — set aside their differences so quickly that the show barely bothers to examine the inherent conflict in their attempts to live together in the beach house their families coown.

Meanwhile their exes Robert and Sol are trying to finally live in the open together but because of the shows weird bifurcated structure split between them and their exwives neither story of moving on with life as an older person gets as much time to really breathe as it needs. There are individual episodes where things land. The shows fourth episode written by the great comedy writer Alexa Junge takes place at a funeral and gives full weight to everybodys emotions as does the surprisingl

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