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Tuesday
Jun022015

Grace & Frankie. Final Thoughts & Emmy Wishes

We recapped the first half of Grace and Frankie and then abruptly quit talking about it, but since it's been renewed, we should tie this up in a neat bow. As with other Netflix shows in the past like OITNB and Daredevil it didn't quite engage people in the blogging model as weekly series coverage does despite the fact that it was clear that most readers were watching. The problem, as documented in ongoing media hand-wringing and cultural conversations about binge-watching, is that nobody's ever on the same page. 

But on the other hand people do seem to have ended up on (mostly) the same page with Grace & Frankie in terms of its overall quality. More...

The potential is there but it seems to be two different shows warring with each other -- an old school broad sitcom versus a modern psychologically subtle dramedy. This really came to a head in "The Earthquake" (1.6) in which the show revisited one of its most interesting relationships (Frankie & Sol, still deeply in friendship-love post divorce) within the context of super broad jokes. The fusion was... uncomfortable. Another sign of "what is this show trying to be and is the writing room at war?" was "The Elevator" (1.10) which uses the principle cast stuck in an elevator as an awkward way to do a flashback episode. The writing in this episode is very sloppy as its never entirely clear why the elevator or why it prompts this flashback. 

Part of the problem is that the show is aiming to be an ensemble comedy when at its heart it's a star vehicle for Fonda & Tomlin, two of the most enduring entertainers in showbiz history. Scenes with Sol & Robert alone are nearly always duds (and reek of gay minstrel humor... they really should've cast gay actors in these roles because you can always feel these two "gaying it up") and the scenes with the four adult children are generally hit and miss. The 'defacto siblings by way of close parents' chemistry is unusual and cool and June Diane Raphael is exceptionally funny as Brianna but the scenes involving the four of them are some combo thereof are still all over the place in terms of quality -  and when those scenes miss you're like "why aren't we watching Jane and Lily again???" 

But the saving grace (no pun intended) of Grace and Frankie: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are marvelous in either register, broad sitcom or subtle dramedy. That fusion works best in the first couple of episodes and the final couple (which prompted this famous tweet from Miley Cyrus).

Co-sign! (or, rather, Retweet)

In fact, it wouldn't be an unhappy outcome if Jane & Lily both muscled their way into Emmy consideration and hogged 33% of Emmy's Best Actress in a Comedy Series shortlist this year. This is my dream lineup for the Emmys this year: 

 

  • Fonda, Grace & Frankie
  • Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • Kudrow, The Comeback
  • Louis-Dreyfus, Veep 
  • Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
  • Tomlin, Grace & Frankie 

    ...from my understanding the Togetherness cast are all campaigning as "supporting" (?) or I'd throw Melanie Lynskey in there. I cast this ballot with apologies to Poehler & Falco but it's time to shake things up with fresh shows. 

 

It takes a lot of TV shows a second season to truly find their groove so fingers are crossed that the team on Grace & Frankie really zeroes in on their strengths (Fonda & Tomlin, duh!), and backgrounds their weaknesses. 

How are you feeling about the prospect of a second season?

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Reader Comments (22)

Hold on, Gina Rodriguez doesn't make your ballot? And I'm rooting for Amy Poehler as well. She's the definition of "overdue."

I'd make room for them by eliminating Louis-Dreyfus (she's been rewarded more than sufficiently) and Fonda. Tomlin runs circles around her on Grace and Frankie, and the Grace storylines, which revolve almost exclusively around her dating life, have been unbelievable and lame (not Fonda's fault... or is it? She is an exec producer).

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I want this show to be canceled.

Jane Fonda, wake up, you're a MOVIE star. You're bigger than life. You deserve a big big screen. You deserved being directed by true auteurs.

You're the greatest American actress ever after Gena Rowlands, so you don't have to this stuff.

Get yourself a meaty role in a MOVIE.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

i'm going with

kudrow
poehler
schaal [last man on earth]
schumer
dunham
tomlin

with a kudrow and poehler tie [hey, it's a dream ballot]

i wish JLD would take the candice bergen high road and take herself out of consideration; how many of those giant winged statues does one person need?

as for grace & frankie i just kept waiting for june diane raphael to turn up

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Co-signed on the votee for Gina Rodriguez, and I've also got to throw in a stump for Constance Wu who single-handedly brings Fresh Off the Boat into a new tier of quality. Our cup runneth over when it comes to the comedy ladies!

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

LOVE both Fonda and Tomlin in Grace and Frankie, and love the show, despite it being largely stuck in an identity crisis, which I think was helped by the fact that the whole season was made available at the same time. Imagine it airing on a network weekly schedule and it suddenly feels much worse. Also June Diane Raphael is HILARIOUS.

HOWEVER, as for your Best Actress in a Comedy lineup, no Gina Rodriguez NO SALE. It's one of the best performances on TV right now, drama or comedy. I also don't quite get the love for Amy Schumer. The proper place to nominate her is in the writing category, NOT the acting category. For me it's Rodriguez (WINNER), Louis-Dreyfus (I don't care if she's overrewarded, she continues to be BRILLIANT), Tomlin (she makes even the worst lines LOL-worthy), Kemper (best purely comic performance), Janney (she's a lead. PERIOD.), Kudrow, and Rossum (the category is "Best Actress in a Comedy", NOT "Best Comic Performance", and since Shameless is - WRONGLY - considered a Comedy, this is where she ends up, as she continues to give an incredible performance). If it goes up to seven, add in Fonda.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I made no attempt to watch this show despite my love for its female leads.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I've always disapproved of the concept of "hate-watching," but that pretty well describes how I view this show. Love the leads but if this show isn't trying to be extremely anti-gay, then its creators have their heads up their asses. The two guys are absolute villains. This isn't exactly the first show Kaufman has created with villainous gay ex-spouses, either. She seems to have an agenda I don't really appreciate. (And where did the two guys get those gay friends if they were always hiding? The show makes no sense.) That said, Fonda and Tomlin are pretty wonderful. If this is the only way I can see them, I'll keep watching it, but I'm hoping the second season begins at the joint funeral of their ex-husbands. Don't care about the reason for it.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

Aw, Cal Roth. That's Hollywood's problem, not Jane's. It's not like the powers that be were storming down her door? Plus--she's been pretty busy with a whole of other stuff. Listen to her Ted talk, for example.

I, for one, am glad for TV and the possibilities for actresses (young and old). I was a huge fan of Damages, and thought Glenn was fantastic. We were treated to 50 hours of her amazing acting rather than just 2 in a movie, where she might have only been given 15 minutes of screen time.

Agree with y'all. Gina Rodriguez is the best in comedic television right now. (Another example of why TV is better than film for non-white women.)

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Gina Rodriguez is indeed killing it on her show, and it's too bad that the CW is mostly known for mostly mediocre genre shows, because Rodriguez deserves a wider audience.

Count me among the numbers who think that there is no problem with Louis-Dreyfus being a perennial nominee as long as she doesn't phone it in (she doesn't), she remains blisteringly funny (she does), she finds new angles to approach the comedy (she does, consistently so), and somehow making her over the top and chaotic character the anchor of a show filled with oddballs (she does, and how). Go JLD!

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterF

Haven't even started Gracie & Frank. Binge watching and easy availability completely saps any urgency I have to watch these shows, for whatever reason. I guarantee if this show were on HBO, I would be watching it weekly, but with Netflix, it's like, "eh, whatever, later." Hence why it has taken me two months to watch Daredevil, why I'm still only halfway through House of Carads S3, and why I'm about to try to catch up on Orange is the New Black in 10 days so I can... probably not watch S3 of that for another six months.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Not sure two people who have supported LGBT rights for decades (one of whom is L) would actually sign on to a show that is actively anti-gay. And maybe I'm confused or watching a different show, but the spouses aren't villainous, just cheaters, and actually quite cognizant and concerned about the family drama they've created. That said, I agree that the spouse characters are written poorly in other ways, and Sheen and Waterston are not suited for those roles. But Tomlin and Fonda are perfection.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I might openly weep if Kudrow gets the Emmy for The Comeback. She was pitch-perfect this last season.

With Grace and Frankie, the show is ALRIGHT but nothing really exceptional. More like a fun way to kill time rather than must see TV.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

I appreciate the effort that went into this show, and casting two female seniors as leads, but it is (as you well state) all over the map. The sibling dynamics do not work for me. Black, white, alcoholic, bitchy ... who are these people, why are there so many, and who cares? I definitely like the actress who plays Brianna, but she seems to be acting in her own show whenever she is on screen. And Fonda is great but is comedy really her strength? I am going to say no, and give the Emmy nod to Lily Tomlin for doing really unexpected and creative work here. But the writing is awful, and I agree that Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are uncomfortably bad here. Stereotypically fey and not funny.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterHenry Fonda

Everything the two men do on the show is a slap in the face to the two lead characters. The way they told them, the way they cheated for twenty years (this isn't the 1950s), cancelling the women's credit cards, etc. (This storyline was a flop anyway. Wasn't Fonda a successful business owner? In fact, the credit cards never came up again. How are the two women living now? Do they steal their food? Are they on an allowance?)

And, incidentally, Ross's wife was always making Ross look and feel bad, and letting her wife treat him abominably. If Kaufman had one show with villainous gays, I would say ok, some gay people are horrible. But two--and with the identical storyline? That sounds like someone with a problem.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

Martin Sheen does really lovely work in the finale. I'd say it's also Sam Waterston's best work, but by the season's end, I was worried that "Sol" was developmentally challenged and that might become our cliffhanger.

The casting of the children is inexplicable, though, like others, I enjoy June Diane Raphael. You can even tell they were banging themselves on the head with the Brooklyn Decker situation after she basically disappears for most episodes after the pilot.

Fonda and Tomlin both felt a bit, well, rusty in the early episodes, but they really find a sense of comfort and ease within the tonally frenetic nature and relationship depicted in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed the work as it progressed. I just wish we could do what so many other shows do these days after a questionable second season order, and just reboot the whole thing!

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I LOVE Sam Waterston. I think he deserves a supporting nomination 100%. I would love to see both leading ladies get a nomination but I think Lily Tomlin is the clear MVP. She makes even a nothing throwaway line funny.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

Yeah, the MVP is Lily Tomlin, followed -- in my opinion -- by Sam Waterston. The guys' chemistry isn't great, but I think that has something to do with the inherent ridiculousness of their storyline. Maybe instead of killing the husbands off the show could give them something better to do than make life hard for Jane and Lily. I love a good sit-com and wish the series weren't afraid to be one.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterDusty

I understand wanting to shake up the category, but Amy Poehler has never actually won and has deserved it numerous times. Let's finally "Give her the pudding" to quote her book.

June 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

Gina. Fucking. Rodriguez. A nomination for her NEEDS to happen. I wouldn't even be too upset if she wins over Lisa Kudrow (who SHOULD win if we're ALL being honest here).

Also should be in consideration is the super talented and hilarious Constance Wu. Let's diversify this line-up!

June 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Martin Sheen is the weakest of the four. I wish they had cast some eye candy in that role. Someone like Lord Merton (Downton Abbey), Tom Selleck, Jeremy Irons etc...It is easy to imagine two extremely attractive, shallow, career driven people coming together and keeping the facade for years just to preserve that perfection and gloss. With Sheen in the role, I feel Grace would have divorced Robert years ago.

Frankie and Sol is a show within a show, and it is so out of place. Their conclusion was so predictable and, yet, totally indicative of creative wheels spinning.

I was happy to see Christine Lahti. But her appearance left me totally confused. I got a sense that she was attracted to Grace.

June 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdela

Would love to see both nominate for the Emmy. But I'm so in love with Gina Rodriguez (Jane The Virgin) right now and really want her to win it, so there has to be room for her in the nominations.

I agree with all your considerations. Especially about the husbands. Sheen is so misscast in this, he makes me cringe almost everytime he comes up. I think the second season will fix some of it's problems, one of the things with producing all the season at once and not airing it weekly is that they don't really stop to evaluate what's really working in the middle of the process.

June 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterV.

I have always been flabbergasted by "Friends" being called pro-gay when it always trotted out the tired "isn't it hilarious Chandler acts gay but he's straight" and "oh poor Ross he married a lesbian" shtick over and over again. But the worst was the continuously transphobic "humor" that surrounded Chandler's father. And they what, had maybe one actual gay male character during the whole series? All this and it was still nominated for several GLAAD Media Awards and even won one.

I totally agree that the husbands on "Grace and Frankie" are "gayed up" all too often and the other gay characters so far are shallow stereotypes (not one but two queeny caterers, really?). And the events of the last episode are highly questionable as to where they are going to take this with season two. Still, Fonda and Tomlin are a joy to watch (even if Tomlin as a flaky hippie has become its own trope) and one can hope that the writers will get there act together in time for the new episodes. Like you said, sometimes it takes a second season for a show to come in to its own. The potential is still there.

June 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKirby

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