Sunday 20 October 2019

Bairbre Power: 'Why I'm hooked on Grace & Frankie'

Mid Life

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in Grace And Frankie
Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in Grace And Frankie
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

The cost of Netflix is going up in the US and it could be only a matter of time before the streaming giant raises the price of subscriptions this side of the Atlantic. I don't mind. I'll happily drop a takeaway tea or two during the week to pay for it because, hands in the air, I'm hooked.

Apart from the evening news and Dancing With The Stars on a Sunday to support pals from my couch, I rarely watch conventional TV stations night after night.

Instead, Netflix is now my go to source of entertainment at home and I have it on my phone for when I'm sitting in airports and on planes. I like that they're making programmes with viewers of all ages in mind.

This weekend, I'm quite excited at the prospect of finally catching up with the latest exploits of two oddball 70-something women as the fifth series of Grace And Frankie launches in the US tomorrow.

The big question is: what happened to their utterly divine beach house?

Now this is no ordinary property porn on TV and, God knows, I've fallen into that sugar trap before. The Grace And Frankie property is more than a house - it's a third main character in the series which explores the exploits of a pair of chalk-and-cheese women forced to live together under one roof when their legal eagle husbands reveal they are gay and want to get married to each other. It's 10 months since I binge watched Season Four during the big snow-in last March so I've had plenty of time to build up an appetite and wonder will they get their house back after they found out their home on the beach was being sold. What a cliffhanger to wrap Season Four of the show, which has covered all sorts of ageing issues, from the women (played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin) launching their own 'Menage a Moi' vibrator business to exploring assisted living facilities - from which they gleefully escaped in a golf cart.

It certainly looks at age-related issues - from dating young people to body joints that misbehave - and do it with clever humour. But could it be just an accident that two of Netlix's recent hits from California revolve around the lives of older people?

How deliberate a strategy was this by the streaming service to pull in a mature viewer?

The arrival last year of The Kominski Method with Michael Douglas playing a has-been actor/tutor with a girlfriend and Alan Arkin as a fiesty, mean minded agent who talks to his dead wife, has a chalk-and-cheese pals vibe too.

Both shows drill down into friendships, have sharp dialogue and, conveniently, both just happen to feature two sets of former Hollywood superstars. But that is not the honey - just like the Grace And Frankie beachside house porn isn't either.

The nectar is in the writing and exploration of friendships and now both shows are pulling in young audiences in spite of the content, covering everything from broken hips to hearing aids.

Tapping into the lives of older women provided TV gold when The Golden Girls launched in 1985. The epic show lasted almost 180 episodes, tracking the Miami lives of four ill-matched housemates - the gamey widow who took in a ditzy blonde, a strong-minded woman and her mouthy Sicilian matriarchal mother. Interestingly, repeats of the show are pulling in a millennial audience now 25 years after the show wrapped.

How many people watching Grace And Frankie, and lusting after the beach house (it's supposed to be in La Jolla near San Diego, but it's actually near Malibu) have thought, even for a moment, about the merits of actually doubling up on the property front and sharing with a friend of friends?

It's only a Tv show, but shared independent living is an interesting concept that perhaps some of us pension-battered, singleton empty nesters might dare consider. Should we all be paying out on utilities and house insurance and burglar alarms, plus property tax, when, if we shared a house, we could have a much better life? Maybe not on a beach though. By the way, my money is on Grace's younger boyfriend, Nick, turning into the knight in shining armour and buying the house. My problem will be stopping myself from watching all the episodes in one weekend.

Irish Independent

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