Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Pilot Review: Grace and Frankie

Grace and Frankie (Netflix)
Premiered May 8

Netflix is churning out hit after hit these days, and its latest show is one with a different generational appeal. Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston are esteemed actors who have been appearing in film and television for decades now. I relate them most recently to two Aaron Sorkin TV shows in which they costarred, albeit with different pairings. Fonda and Waterston interacted frequently on “The Newsroom” and Sheen and Tomlin played off each other on “The West Wing.” Now, they’ve come together for what should prove to be an endearing and entertaining comedy about getting older and dealing with unexpected challenges, namely when two women’s husbands come out and say that they’re leaving their wives so that they can be together. I like that the relationship dynamics are very different, with Frankie acting like a hurt best friend after Sol cast her out and Grace going ballistic with rage that Robert wasted so much of her life. Smoking and getting high in the first episode isn’t a promising sign, but I suppose that it was an important step in getting Grace and Frankie to realize that they need each other and can coexist. It should be a fun, hate-filled relationship if nothing else, and I like the fact that Sheen and Waterston are regular cast members and should appear frequently since their lives will be forever linked in some way to their ex-wives and their impending marriage also means that they’ll be in the same place. This pilot wasn’t raucously funny, but I think this show has potential as it grows to become something endearing and enduring.

How will it work as a series? A show about two divorced women who hate each other living together in the same house could get gimmicky very quickly, and I’d like to think that four veteran actors such as these can help ensure that it doesn’t devolve into that but instead becomes a mature and enjoyable comedy.
How long will it last? Though some reports of how many people actually watch Netflix shows are now surfacing, the streaming service’s shows depend more on positive buzz and reception than anything else. This show isn’t really like anything else the network is doing, and so I think they’ll be eager to invest in it.

Pilot grade: B

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