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.