Grace and Frankie

We don’t watch a lot of television. We might go days without turning the big dumb screen on at all, but when we do our serial narrative tends to be delivered by one of the streaming services.

There are a lot of good shows on there, not all of which involve superheroes*, so it is difficult to fit another one in.

If you do have a half hour slot open in your viewing schedule, can I recommend Grace and Frankie on Netflix?

Grace and Frankie is a sitcom, but it’s a sitcom with some bite. The story follows two women of (as the saying has it) a certain age, wives of two lawyers who founded their firm together. Almost immediately we learn that the two men are gay, and want to divorce their wives so they can be together. The wives end up living in the same shared house on the beach.

While the premise is strong, it’s easy to imagine it being ruined in any number of ways, but Grace and Frankie succeeds because of several important elements:

  • the cast – the main senior characters are all played by amazing actors: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Michael Sheen and Sam Waterson. While those are the most well-known actors the whole cast is good, and there are frequently guest stars who are very recognisable.
  • the tenderness with which relationships are presented – this is a sitcom (or, perhaps, a dramedy) but the relationships aren’t played for laughs. They are the most important things in the characters’ lives and they are presented seriously.

    And it’s worth mentioning that even though the premise has the two primary characters separating from their husbands in the first episode, we still see how their ex-husbands’ relationship develops as they start their life together. It’s one of the most positive portrayals of a gay relationship I’ve seen.

  • the writing – it’s delightfully witty and keenly observed. The characters have realistic reactions to events and the awkwardness of people not talking about things they need to talk about is pretty intense.
  • the continuity – everyone has changed over the course of a season.

Obviously, the show is not flawless: the half hour form limits how deep they can go into some subjects (although the aforementioned continuity means that they do have large topics); the resolution of some problems can be a bit pat sometimes; and the situations can sometimes be grotesquely absurd.

But it is a really good show. Those awards it has won are well-deserved.

I hope you enjoy it too.

[*] I prefer the more general term “superhuman” but in television they are always heroes.

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