As gainful employment for some very talented actors in the autumn of their years, I’m glad for the existence of Grace and Frankie, which begins its second season on Netflix today. As a sitcom, it’s pretty much all situation; its comedy is minimally effective. It’s one of the few current shows of its kind that might actually be helped by a laugh track, which would add jollity to punchlines that too often land as rueful observations about aging.
The new season begins with a marriage ceremony being planned by and for Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston). By the end of the first half-hour, Robert is in the hospital, with Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) hovering over him, worried. Also hovering over them all is the moral sin committed by Sol and Frankie, who had sex at the end of last season, for which Sol feels terrible guilt and an urge to confess to Robert. Of course, everyone thinks an honest confession would be a mistake.
Show creators Marta Kaufman and Howard J. Morris have done a good thing in lessening a lot of the conflict between Grace and Frankie — their constant, season-one squabbling over their different approaches to life was never going to make sense if stretched over the long haul. And so in its place is an increase in a generosity of spirit — toward each other, toward Robert and Sol (somewhat — the gals are still bonded in matrimonial betrayals, and as Grace says to Robert, “I have 40 years of anger built up!”), and to their children and grandchildren.
Grace and Frankie has become, therefore, a show about letting go of grudges, being more accepting, and enjoying life — all very good sentiments that surface rarely in most other current sitcoms. Still, there’s the matter of actually being funny, which the show is, most of the time, not. At its worst, G&F goes for that most obvious of current sitcom clichés — white people using slang originating in black culture, which is supposed to be inherently funny (two words: “mic drop”). Also, the trailer shows that there will be a vibrator joke. Not if I’m not around to hear it… Happy already-renewed-for-a-third-season, Grace and Frankie!
Grace and Frankie Season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.