Created by executive producer Marta Kaufman, Grace and Frankie is a Netflix series about two older babes whose husbands have left them, for each other. The women are very different and not “easy” friends. They’ve put up with each other socially for years. This was only because their lawyer ex-husbands had worked for years in the same firm while falling in love and then starting an affair.
Grace, played by Jane Fonda, is a sleek, charmingly neurotic high-society type, and a big fan of the vodka martini. Frankie is a pot smoking, free-spirited hippie chick. For years, their relationship was combative, but after their husbands leave them, they move in together and begin to rebuild a life together. They even go into business together making vibrators and lube for the more “mature” customer. All this happens in four seasons after May 2015, when the first episode aired. The show just started its fifth season.
The Entire Cast is Fantastic
The entire cast is fantastic. While the quick-witted Lily Tomlin is one of the funniest women to ever walk the planet, Jane Fonda is an iconic actress who can also hold her own in a dry, “straight man” style. And then a good portion of the series focuses on the relationship of the ex-husbands, Robert and Saul, played by Sam Waterston and the legendary Martin Sheen. Waterson is a Hollywood star, film and stage actor who debuted in 1965. Sheen, of course, has extensive success in movies and in television, most notably on West Wing. All the adult “kids” on the show are great too! Grace and Frankie have four adult children between them. The homemaker Mallory and sarcastic businesswoman Brianna are Graces’ daughters, played by Brooklyn Decker and June Diane Raphael respectively. Frankie’s adopted sons are Coyote, a rehabbing professor turned substitute teacher and the vaguely “Urkel”, nerdy but responsible Bud. The sons are played respectively by Ethan Embry and Baron Vaughn. It’s a buddy comedy mainly about older women. However, gay marriage and all kinds of other complicated family relationships are explored, always in an entertaining fashion.
Jane & Lily Have Been Besties Since 1971
They have been real-life buddies for four decades since the pair starred in the cult movie classic 9 to 5 along with Dolly Parton. In fact, they are such long-term and successful besties that they did a TED Talk about it called “A hilarious celebration of lifelong female friendship“. Tomlin saw Jane in the movie Klute, 1971, and told the Washington Post, “I had a Klute hairdo for about two years after [I saw the movie] and just fell madly for her. I cut my hair to go like she wore it.” A few years later, Jane went to see Tomlin’s one-woman show, Appearing Nitely, at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. She was so “gobsmacked” that she went to meet her backstage to talk about her “9 to 5” project. Then on her ride home, Fonda heard a Dolly Parton song on the radio and history was sealed. The three main stars of the movie were cast!
In another strange twist, both Jane and Lily have played Tina Fey’s mother. Fonda’s turn was in This is Where I Leave You, released 2014. Lily’s was in the 2013 romantic comedy Admission.
Also, Sam Elliott makes a guest appearance on the show as Jane’s Boyfriend Phil in season two. He’s Tomlin’s ex in 2015’s Grandma. That’s some long term synchronicity going on!
Season Five is on Netflix Now. Get On Over There!
And things have taken a turn for to feisty and metaphysical! When last we saw Grace and Frankie at the end of season four episode thirteen, their kids had just sold the family beach home rendering the sensational septuagenarians homeless. By the looks of the sneak peek, it seems like these two unlikely besties have decided they will do whatever it takes to get back their home and vow to never give an “f” again. Season five isn’t just different in the level of swearing [light spoiler alert]. A “Sliding Doors” kind of an alternate reality is explored, one in which the two ladies do not become friends, but this shocker is saved for the season finale. (We know you’ll watch the whole thing!)
As Ben Travers says on IndieWire, “If Rust Cohle (True Detective) walked into Grace and Frankie’s beach house, snapped open a Lone Star, and started talking about time as a flat circle, Jane Fonda’s unflappable hostess would slip a coaster under his tall boy and make herself a martini. Lily Tomlin’s relentlessly positive hippie would probably crack a joke about some old peyote trip that had her seeing in 2-D for weeks.
But Alison Foreman reassures us on the season as a whole on Mashable, saying “For the first twelve episodes, this new chapter is a relaxed visit to one of Netflix’s most gleefully charming universes. More familiar comfort food than a stale retread, the season’s antics explore many of the series’ known beats. Robert struggles to find his place among his younger gay friends. Grace embraces her blossoming inner romantic. Frankie beats the learning curve on some business 101. Sol gets a dog.”
It’s the IDGAF Season
And there’s a strong emphasis on the swearing in all the season promotion! The trailer is hilarious! “Never too old to not give a f*ck,” reads the Netflix caption. “We have been parent trapped,” says Frankie somberly, at the trailer’s beginning. “I’ve earned the right to take my sweet f*cking time,” Grace says defiantly to a crossing guard who scolds her after she strolls across an intersection very slowly while waving to waiting drivers like they’re her subjects. The show’s Twitter page has a pinned tweet that bluntly reads, “Ready to fuck it up”.
As Phil, @andeavorable says in response to this tweet, “There goes my fucking weekend.”
Time Magazine Tried to Get Lily to “Come Out” in 1975
She said no. Both lead G&F actresses appeared on the Ellen show in order to promote the new season. Ellen asked Lily about it.
I heard that Time Magazine approached you in 1975 to come out and put you on the cover. How did they know you were gay? Why did you say no?
Lily: Pat Kingsley called, who was my publicist. She told me that Time would give me the cover if I would come out. It was a hard decision to make. So I fell down on the side of probably, after what you went through, probably good sense. So I decided that I just wasn’t going to play their game.
You weren’t ready. You didn’t want to do it yet.
Lily: I wanted to be acknowledged for my performance. I can see in retrospect that was hardly worth it. Jane, I have to ask you about your dating life now Jane: I’m going to come out. If they put me on the cover of Time I’ll come out Lily: It’s kind of past the time of the value of a Time cover if you’re asking my advice.
Early Testing Favored a Show Without Fonda
According to The Wall Street Journal, which cited anonymous sources close to the discussions, Netflix’s screening found that users were more likely to click on promotions that didn’t include Jane. On the one hand, they trusted the company’s algorithm. On the other, they were worried about ticking off Jane Fonda, who carries a lot of clout. And given how close she is with Lily Tomlin, minimizing or excluding one star from the promotions wouldn’t have gone over very well. As it was, the two women were justifiably ticked off over the actors playing their husbands receiving equal pay, when in a reverse case scenario, if the title stars were men, the supporting female actors would be making much, much less. “No. The show is not ‘Sol and Robert’ — it’s ‘Grace and Frankie,’” Tomlin has said.
This is why images of Jane were included in the promotions of season one, which had mixed reviews. Despite mixed reviews for its debut season, the series was met with a more positive critical reception for all other following seasons. The show has received no less than five, Primetime Emmy Award nominations. There will be thirteen episodes in season five, like all the preceding, and season six was confirmed before season five started airing this January. Jane has certainly been working hard. “Grace” is her first leading role in a TV series. Initially, the actress noticed that she was having some trouble playing a character over such a long period of time, so she took some acting lessons to make sure she got the job done correctly.
One thing is certain – the shows fans are all pleased with the way the cast and drama have played out. Bring on seasons five and six! We’d like to think that Netflix will cave to fan activism and pressure and pay the title actors at more than the male “support staff”.