When it was originally on: 2015-present (with next season to be final season)
Original network: Netflix
Where you can stream it now: Netflix
Had I seen it before: I’m like 99% sure I had seen the pilot before, and maybe a few episodes beyond that, but I had never really gotten into it.
What IMDb says: Finding out that their husbands are not just work partners, but have also been romantically involved for the last twenty years, two women with an already strained relationship try to cope with the circumstances together.
Why I picked it: Grace and Frankie was one of the first half hour Netflix originals that I remember hearing about. What’s more is that its final seventh season to is to be 16 episodes, which will bring the grand total to 94. That actually means Grace and Frankie is on track to become the longest running Netflix original series.
Yet in spite of all this, I don’t feel like it’s the first show that comes to mind for most people if I were to simply say “name a Netflix original.” While we don’t know exact numbers for how many people watch each show, it seems like Grace and Frankie’s place in the cultural landscape is minuscule when compared to Orange is the New Black or Stranger Things. It makes me wonder. . . was the show actually GOOD or did it simply benefit from the novelty of its distribution platform when it had virtually no competition on such platforms?
What I liked: I feel like I have a really strong sense of who all four of our main characters are, and I can envision endless conflicts between them. Grace is overly concerned with appearances and her reputation. Frankie is a free spirit who keeps peyote tea in her fridge. Sol is empathetic, and still loves Frankie as much as ever, while Robert is blunt and to the point, always doing what he believes will make him happy.
I love how this show could’ve easily chosen to paint Sol and Robert as villains, but shies away from that. After all, the show is not really about them, it’s about Grace and Frankie. But instead of focusing solely on all the pain they’ve caused their ex-wives, we also get a chance to see them as a couple, and see why they’ve made the choice they did. It’s amazing to me how Grace and Frankie’s pain is portrayed as valid while Sol and Robert’s choice is also portrayed as valid. It’s that level of emotional complexity that sets Grace and Frankie apart from network sitcoms.
It’s also fascinating to me how both Grace and Frankie are so upset, but upset for entirely different reasons. In the case of Frankie and Sol, we see how they had a genuinely loving marriage. When Frankie says she can’t sleep without Sol, Sol welcomes her to bed and cuddles with her. He may be leaving Frankie, but he still cares about her and wants to soften that blow as much as he can. On the other hand, Grace and Robert were never truly happy. But the divorce will threaten one of the main things Grace does value: her reputation as an author. This contrast not only gives us more interesting stories to explore, it also means that Grace and Frankie will be able to help each other cope in new ways. Both of these characters have so much potential to incite meaningful growth in each other, and that’s a great recipe for television.
We also get a really great sense for how Grace and Frankie, two people who never liked each other before, have no real choice but to rely on each other now. Their heart to heart on the beach helps reveal how they can relate to each other in ways no one else can. This love-hate dynamic gives them so much room for comedic premises as well as emotional depth and dimension.
What I didn’t like: I’m not sure I ever really found this funny, which is a bit of a bummer since it seems to be a comedy. The fact that so much of the pilot is spent dwelling on the emotional weight of Sol and Robert’s decision is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it helps establish that the show has ambition beyond sitcomesque hijinks. But unfortunately it means that the whole thing just feels kind of heavy in a way I’m not sure it’s really meant to, and I’m left a little confused as to whether or not this tone will persist through more episodes.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Kind of? There was enough potential here that I wouldn’t be opposed to watching more, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to. The fact that I had seen the pilot before (probably in 2015ish) and still not gotten into more episodes in the several years since is telling.