TV Review: “Grace and Frankie”- Stuck in the Past

Written by Michelle Young May 19, 2015

grace and frankie

“Grace and Frankie” is Netflix’s newest original comedy. It’s charming, sad, emotional, and dramatic. It has some legendary actors at the helm of this show about the noble ambition of proving that life doesn’t end after you get older. But despite all this, it doesn’t live up to one important promise: a comedy needs to make you laugh. This struggle is emblematic of the show’s overall failure to bring its classic comedy into the new era of television.

The basic plot of “Grace and Frankie” is pretty straightforward: two women, the type A Grace (Jane Fonda) and the free spirit Frankie (Lily Tomlin), whose husbands just left them decide to move in together. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This is the exact plot of “Kate and Allie”, a sitcom from 1984. The show adds its own spin though, because Grace and Frankie’s husbands had been having an affair with each other for twenty years and thanks to new marriage laws, have decided to come out and tie the knot. Throughout the season we get to see Grace and Frankie’s journey, and them dealing with the tough task of starting over at seventy.

“I don’t want to face this crappy part of my life alone.”

The overall problem with the show is that it can’t seem to figure out what it is. It constantly walks the line between comedy and drama. This of course has been a trend in the last few years, with shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent” transcending any kind of definitive categorization. But what these shows have that “Grace and Frankie” lacks is a command of its tonal ambiguity; the style of comedy doesn’t fit in with the rest of the show. “Grace and Frankie” offers zany jokes that feel awkward next to the more serious plot lines. It’s like shag carpet in an old Victorian house; it just doesn’t go. As a whole, the show feels like it would be better suited as a multi-camera laugh track comedy of yesteryear.

“I’m never getting a hearing aide. I think I’m better off missing most of what you’re saying.”

The other big problem is that most of the jokes aren’t actually funny. Some of this can be attributed to the odd structuring, but a lot of the time they are just straight up stupid and uncreative. Comedy legend Lily Tomlin and June Diane Raphael, who plays Grace’s daughter, seem to carry most of the good comedy.

grace and frankie

While the comedy might not be on point, I commend the show for how much heart and soul the characters have. I genuinely feel the love between each of the them, even at the beginning when Grace and Frankie’s lives are coming apart at the seems. The relationship between their ex-husbands, Sol (Sam Waterston) and Robert (Martin Sheen), is also particularly sweet, as the two refuse to feel guilty for coming out and being who they are, but feel deep remorse for hurting these two women that they cared for so deeply for forty some-odd years and completely changing their families dynamics.

“My husband is marrying your husband.”

As it stands, “Grace and Frankie” needs to really find its voice if it wants to keep going. I personally enjoyed the journey these women took throughout the season, but it would have felt less awkward along the way if the tone matched the style of the show. Just as Grace and Frankie struggle to keep up with the changing times, so to does the show, which seems to be stuck in the sitcom heyday of cooky zingers and zany story lines.

My Rating: 5.5/10

Grace and Frankie on Netflix #streamteam

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