Who’d have thought that in a town called ‘Pretty Lake’, everyone over the age of 21 would end up dying of a mysterious disease, leaving only pretty people behind?
To be fair, this is actually a co-production between Netflix and Canadian TV channel CityTV, so it's not all Netflix's fault, although perhaps they should have seen it coming, given that CityTV is responsible for Seed and Young Drunk Punk*.
* To be fair, it's entirely possible that Netflix watched The Booth At The End and thought that was representative of City's output. It's not.
Netflix Originals have been a bit hit and miss: for every House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Daredevil, there’s been a Marco Polo, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Bloodline. To be fair, even the worst of that latter group are well made, well cast and not actually bad. But they’ve never excited in the same way or hit the heights of the former group.
Unfortunately, with Grace and Frankie, we have an addition to the miss group, rather than the hit. It reunites 9-5 stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda as the eponymous stars of the piece and the wives of Sam Waterston (The Newsroom) and Martin Sheen (The West Wing) respectively*. Married for 40 years and both with kids, they all seem set for a happy retirement until Waterston and Sheen reveal that they’re both gay and have been having an affair together for the past 20 years. Now gay men can legally marry in US, they both want divorces so they can finally be with the man they love. That leaves Tomlin and Fonda stuck in a beach house together, trying to overcome their animosity to help each other through a divorce.
So, with Marta Kauffman (Dream On, Veronica’s Closet, Friends) and Howard J Morris (Home Improvement, According to Jim) as show runners, and the likes of Alexa Junge (Friends, The West Wing, United States of Tara) contributing scripts, you’d be forgiven for expecting this to be both a comedy and funny.
But as my brief summary above intimates, it’s really not. Certainly, the first two episodes are deeply depressing dramas about two heartbroken wives going through traumatic divorces. There are attempts at jokes in there, certainly, most of them revolving around Tomlin’s hippy-dippy qualities (she has a shrine, takes peyote and goes on spirit quests), but surrounded by the misery of the plot, they just fall as flat can be.
It has a central cast, each of whom has won an Oscar, and it has a supporting/guest cast that includes the likes of Craig T Nelson, Michael Gross, Ernie Hudson, Geoff Stults, Joe Morton, Corbin Bernsen, Barry Bostwick, Christine Lahti and more. And, as with everything Netflix, it’s very well made.
But Grace and Frankie certainly isn’t funny and unless you happen to be a 70-year-old woman who’s gone through a divorce because her husband is gay, I really wouldn’t recommend it to you – and even then, you should probably wait a while since it’ll just make you sad.
I think I’ll go and buy my wife some flowers now, while you watch the trailer: it's basically got all the bits that might manage to make you smile even slightly.
About the blog
A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
Add in film, theatre, art, books, events, competitions and even weekly reviews of Wonder Woman comics, and you've (hopefully) got officially the fourth best blog on the web for media lovers. Oh yes, and there's The Barrometer, the ultimate guide to quality TV.
Praise for the blog Cision: fourth most important UK TV blog Blogging Edge: Blogger running Britain 2013
"For most of us watching the telly of an evening is a way to wind down and relax, but for Rob Buckley it’s his blogging bread and butter. With reviews of cult classics and up and coming US and Brit television shows, The Medium is Not Enough is fast becoming essential reading for TV buffs, with over 50,000 hits a month."
"The Medium Is Not Enough is a light-hearted look at TV, often from the US, but also from the UK. With varied, well-written content, the blog features healthy engagement and features well in search engines."
"Billing itself as 'officially the fourth most popular UK TV blog', there are several whimsical regulars here that could help it climb as high as number three…"
I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.