May 4, 2016 at 3:09 pm #1201825125
Returning this Friday!
‘Grace and Frankie’: Fonda and Tomlin Continue to Shine
Marta Kauffman was one of the creators of “Friends,” which was among the last great money-minting multicamera sitcoms. When you create and shepherd a “Friends” for 10 seasons, you’ve already had a successful career in television. After that show went off the air in 2004, Ms. Kauffman focused on television movies and documentaries for a decade. But last year, she got back in the sitcom game with “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix, which she created with Howard J. Morris.
There are some obvious things about “Grace and Frankie” that might seem more worthy of comment than Ms. Kauffman’s résumé. Its four main characters are in their 70s, and their sex lives are central to the plot. It began with two male friends and business partners announcing that they had been lovers for 20 years, and leaving their wives to marry each other. It explores issues of loneliness, love and friendship among the aging that are rarely given serious consideration on American television, let alone television comedy. It stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as the wives, who form a deep but delicate bond.
But Ms. Kauffman’s history is an issue, because the most noticeable thing about “Grace and Frankie” — the thing that will determine how you respond to it — is how it tries to split the difference between the traditional broadcast sitcom and the new wave of more serious, cinematic comedies on cable and online. It’s as if the heart of “Friends” had been transplanted into the body of “Transparent.”
That duality is still apparent in the show’s second 13-episode season, available starting Friday. It begins in the immediate aftermath of Season 1, with the former couple Frankie (Ms. Tomlin) and Sol (Sam Waterston) having had old-times’-sake sex, which threatens to sabotage Sol’s marriage to Robert (Martin Sheen), the former husband of Grace (Ms. Fonda).
The season opener, written by Ms. Kauffman and Mr. Morris, uses a time-honored sitcom device, the sudden medical emergency, to complicate the action and delay a resolution. (Episodes in Season 1 used the stalled elevator, the funeral of an obscure mutual acquaintance and the medium-Richter California earthquake.) The formulaic situations and the dialogue, caught somewhere between snappy and naturalistic — you’re always bracing for a laugh track that doesn’t come — undermine the drama.
That “Grace and Frankie” generates real feeling has everything to do with its stars. Mr. Sheen and, especially, Mr. Waterston overact merrily as Robert and Sol, whom you can imagine as Chandler and Ross from “Friends” finally openly embracing their sexuality 40-some years after viewers had met them. But Ms. Fonda, as the glamorous and imperious Grace, and Ms. Tomlin, as the aging-hippie sentimentalist Frankie, are the sole and sufficient reason to watch.
Their characters may be distilled a little too directly from their past roles, and they can’t always bring the more ponderous dialogue to life — Ms. Tomlin sometimes seems to be reciting it in a trance. But when they’re together onscreen, they appear to be having a lot of fun, which is infectious. And Ms. Tomlin regularly grabs a small piece of business — a few seconds of interpretive dance, a sudden mock lowering of her voice — and reminds us that, since long before “Friends,” she’s been one of the great comedians of our time.
OSCAR FLASHBACK: Best Original Song (1951) – Ah, To Be Young, Rich and PrettyMay 4, 2016 at 4:13 pm #1201825143
I hope we’ll get a reunion with Dolly Parton this year.May 4, 2016 at 6:21 pm #1201825168
Can’t wait! Last year, I thought “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” was stellar, and then “Grace and Frankie” premiered..I loved “Grace and Frankie” from start to finish. Hope both Fonda and Tomlin can get nominated (as Fonda was just as good, especially in “The Fall”).May 5, 2016 at 4:37 pm #1201825460
I was so mixed on this show. It’ll probably perform the same with Tomlin getting the only nomination.May 5, 2016 at 5:16 pm #1201825464
Frankly, without the additional buzz from Grandma and given Ellie Kemper is very likely to get in this time around, I could even see Tomlin being dropped.
OSCAR FLASHBACK: Best Original Song (1952) – The Snubbin’ of Singin’ in the RainMay 6, 2016 at 6:31 am #1201825554
This is is gooing really well so far. I love it and it is funnier than the first season.May 6, 2016 at 11:09 am #1201825609
Debating tuning into the 2nd season. Will check back on this thread to see the consensus!May 6, 2016 at 11:46 am #1201825620
I agree mikeboy898. I liked & respected the first season but didn’t love it or fall for it. Near the end, it was a bit of a chore to get through it. The leads really are the main reason to tune in. The writing at times was at a much lower level and you could sometimes see the flop sweat needed to get it off the ground. But the leads were perfection and made it palatable.
I’m not a big binge watcher so I will dose it out a few episodes at a time, like I do with the other Netflix shows. Yes, I’m old fashioned and prefer one a week to have something to look forward to haha. I also had to buy a Roku so I could watch on my TV instead of my tablet. 🙂May 6, 2016 at 12:48 pm #1201825640
Starting the binge this weekend! Hope it’s better than the overly manic “UKS” premiere.May 6, 2016 at 8:26 pm #1201825733
Currently low sixties on Metacritic and low six for Rotten Tomatoes average rating.May 7, 2016 at 5:57 am #1201825769
I’m four episodes in and wow, the show is remarkably better than its shaky first season. Even the supporting cast, which was largely unbearable last year, is quite terrific here. I think the writers rightfully realized the dramatic material last season didn’t quite work, so they’ve basically veered this (successfully) into sitcom territory.
OSCAR FLASHBACK: Best Original Song (1952) – The Snubbin’ of Singin’ in the RainMay 7, 2016 at 12:39 pm #1201825807
Just finished binging the season.
I loved this show in season 1, but it had some weaknesses. Season 2 is not flawless, but there is a lot that this show does right. The first two episodes have some really big laugh out loud moments, and the final three episodes are absolutely sensational.
The show is clearly a big draw because there are some really amazing actors who guest star in the season, from Swoosie Kurtz, Marsha Mason, Sam Elliot, Amy Madigan, and the welcome return of Ernie Hudson as Frankie’s yam-growing boyfriend.
There is a lull in the middle, and the storyline with Frankie fighting with Brianna about her lube doesn’t really work. But overall, the show is certainly improving a great deal.
As far as Emmys go, I could certainly see Tomlin getting in again, and if she does, she has a fantastic tape to submit. But Fonda really comes alive in the last three episodes, and the season finale could be a very competitive tape for her.
Special MVP: Estelle Parsons has a great arc in two episodes, and the penultimate episode is a real showcase for her.
Overall Season Grade: B+
“The Wish” &”The Vitamix”
“The Anchor” & “The Loophole”
“The Party” & “The Coup”
Jane Fonda: “The Coup”
Lily Tomlin: “The Goodbyes”
Guest Actor: Ernie Hudson “The Boar”
Guest Actress: Estelle Parsons “The Party”May 7, 2016 at 11:28 pm #1201825858
Wow, the first season was really a huge mess. Season 2 is quite good so far (after 6 episodes). I could very well see a Comedy Series nomination if voters are watching as well as two lead actress in a comedy nods.May 8, 2016 at 7:21 pm #1201825974
Finished the season…overall, a significant improvement from the uneven freshman year. As was the case last year, Fonda’s actually my favorite on this show and she has several dynamite episodes she could submit (if she’s nominated, which is probably not terribly likely, unfortunately), but Tomlin’s a joy to watch too. And yes, I would definitely keep an eye on Estelle Parsons in Guest Actress – she was unforgettable here. Sam Elliot was really terrific too.
I too would probably give the season a B+.
OSCAR FLASHBACK: Best Original Song (1953) – Jerry Lewis Ruins EverythingMay 9, 2016 at 12:46 am #1201826013
The first season was guilty pleasure, but this season – what an improvement on almost every front.
My MVP this season was easily Jane Fonda (along with Estelle Parsons) whose character had a really beautiful arc. If the show catches some buzz and is pushed hard for Emmy consideration (I have my doubts, though), I can definitely see Jane dethrone JLD with the right tape. There are many to choose from, but for me, two episodes definitely stand out for her. First, the season premiere, The Wish, where she has a lot of screentime and considerable range. It is a powerful episode. The other one is The Bender with her crazy drunk scenes and multiple meltdowns and she really is powerful. She doesn’t have much screentime but we all know how much voters love their drunk nominees. But basically, she could choose any of the last three episodes (although she should choose from the two former).
That being said, the reason why I think Jane should be a good bet to win (if nominated) isthat she’d definitely be helped by Lily’s possible submission, The Goodbyes where she has a very long monologue.
I’d personally give a Series Nomination to the show as well, besides the two leads and, of course, the breathtaking Estelle Parsons’s heartbreaking and hilarious work. It really was a wonderful season and I hope if voters check back to see Lily, they’ll discover more of the greatness.