The first season of GRACE AND FRANKIE was one of the many joys of Netflix’s 2015 season, thanks largely to the off-beat mix of traditional sitcom setups with less than traditional characters. Yet it principally worked because of the staggeringly good cast that veteran producers Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris attracted. The set-up is a simple one: the businesslike Grace (Jane Fonda) and the hippie Frankie (Lily Tomlin) are forced to live together after their respective spouses Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston) announce that they have been in love for decades, and are leaving their wives to marry each other. The second season deals with the more medium-term consequences of that decision, divided familial lines, death and yam lube.
GRACE AND FRANKIE uses its second year to concentrate on the titular characters and their relationships, and winds up all the stronger for it. For the duo, it’s about moving on from their past relationships, and the budding romance between Frankie and farmer Jacob (Ernie Hudson) is touching and genuine. Grace, on the other hand, struggles with her feelings for old flame Phil (Sam Elliot) who is still married, albeit to a wife that suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s and barely remembers him. Both have their own storylines, including Frankie’s merry war with Grace’s daughter Brianna (June Diane Raphael), who now runs Grace’s cosmetics empire. As Frankie tries to bring her lubricant for women to the market, there are some fundamental disagreements between their philosophies. When Grace and Frankie have intersecting stories, such as dealing with mutual friend Babe’s (the always wonderful Estelle Parsons) decision to die, the show shifts from laugh-out-loud to tear-jerking on a dime.
The season does away with extraneous sub-plots and narratives, including the awkward relationship between Coyote (Ethan Embry) and Mallory (Brooklyn Decker), in the case of the latter by almost completely removing Decker from the season. In its place is a much lighter buddy comedy with his adopted brother “Bud” (Baron Vaughn), who bears the weight of the family’s flip-flopping. After Robert has a heart attack and requires surgery, Sol is unable to tell him about the sexual relapse he had with Frankie at the end of Season 1. Robert and Sol get married, but spend much of the season at war with one another when the truth comes to light, providing the effective “B” story for the series.
It’s common for sitcoms to be about “nothing,” but it’s rare for a sitcom to be about the little things that happen when people genuinely care for each other. In this season, while they are still bickering like cats and dogs at times, Grace and Frankie establish each other as best friends. In a season that can be a little risqué on occasion – dealing with arthritis and vibrators through to vaginal paintings – it’s a absolute pleasure to know that it’s human kindness that sits at the heart of this unique production.
2016 | US | Executive Producers: Marta Kauffman, Howard J. Morris, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Paula Weinstein, Dana Goldberg, David Ellison, Marcy Ross | Cast: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen, Brooklyn Decker, Ethan Embry, June Diane Raphael, Baron Vaughn, Sam Elliot, Ernie Hudson | Distributor: Netflix | Episodes: 13 | Rating:★★★★ (8/10)