‘GRACE AND FRANKIE’ TRY TO BE GERIATRIC ‘FRIENDS’

By August 18, 2015 Film & TV

The characters in “Grace and Frankie” are not supposed to be the geriatric odd couple, but rather and simply, “very real people.” This is the goal, according to Marta Kauffman, co-creator of “Friends” and the new Netflix show starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, along with Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston.

In developing the show, “We had hundreds and hundreds of conversations about tone,” Kauffman explained in an interview on The Nerdist Writers Panel episode (7-21-15) podcast. “I believe to have a truly great show, it has to have humanity.”

To podcast host Ben Blacker’s follow-up question, “What is the role of the TV show?” Kauffman demurred: “It’s just entertainment. … My goal is for you to have an experience, to open up your heart to something. Looking at people in their seventies, I’m not making fun of them. I’m connecting to them.”

So, how did all these good intentions and such potential go awry? It’s hard to imagine a show could be so cliché and boring with such contemporary, provocative subject matter. Take for instance, two 70-year-old friends/law partners (Sheen and Waterston) leaving their wives (Fonda and Tomlin, respectively) to get married to each other; or how about a mail-order chair with Ryan Gosling’s face on the seat; or dialogue about dry vaginas and “sand in my vagina”; or a selfie recording of a peyote trip “to tranquility and acceptance.” Okay, the latter example is plain stupid.

The problem, probably, is the expectation that four outstanding, veteran actors and a novel idea to make growing old real and entertaining would be enough. It’s not, unfortunately. Nothing works well; not the acting, the directing and definitely not the writing.

BUT, to reiterate, the goal to depict aging and older adults as authentic and complex is commendable. It’s just that this doesn’t guarantee or entitle success. To be fair, this review is based only on viewing the pilot. You can be the judge of the entire series, if you have the patience.

4 Comments

  • Gary says:

    What a waste.

  • Tracy Huddleson says:

    So glad to hear someone say this! This series has made me question my previous high estimation of these actors, wondering if their salad days of acting were simply in an era of less realism? No – it’s just crappy, embarrassing writing! I feel sorry for them, that they have to utter those lines. Hard to for older actors to get a decent gig, even revered ones.

  • Jennifer Doro says:

    I was so excited when I read about the show and couldn’t wait for it to start, I made it through three episodes and could not take it anymore. I was so disappointed. I was sure with these legendary actors and supposedly purposeful story content, we (the viewers ) were going to have an entertaining yet validating and intelligent series for the intended audience…. boy was I mistaken!

  • Lisa Youngs says:

    So relieved to see I’m not alone – it’s the worst scripting I’ve “heard” in years. I actually sat through the entire first season to see if they’d get their “sea legs” beneath them, but it never gelled – and it’s because the show is written by people who are too wealthy to be “in touch” with most Americans. Hard to empathize with anyone who has two million dollar homes or take their absurd problems seriously. I was hoping for something special and got “drek!” It’s an LA show for LA people with narrow perceptions about life. Gross.

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