Sunday 22 April 2018

Netflix's new comedy take on an old gay story

Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda

Netflix has enlisted four big hitters as stars of their new California-based sitcom, Grace and Frankie, but whether they'll make this show a classic remains to be seen.

Retired cosmetics executive Grace is played by Jane Fonda (pictured) and laid-back conceptual artist Frankie by Lily Tomlin and their respective spouses are played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston.

The set-up in the opening restaurant scene is that the men, long-time partners in a law firm, announce to their wives that they've also been longtime sexual partners and that they want to get married.

"It's because we can do that now," Sheen helpfully informs Tomlin, who retorts "I know - I hosted the fundraiser".

The joke, or the poignancy, here is that they're all in their 70s, long past the age at which other sitcoms would think of countenancing such a situation. That makes this Netflix production daring in its way, if somewhat cosily treated by the writers.

And in the opening episode, some of the characters don't stray far from stereotype: Fonda the uptight career socialite, Tomlin the hippy-dippy artist and Sheen the blandly amiable legal executive. Only Waterston, who gets more interesting as he ages (he was excellent as assistant district attorney Jack McCoy in the long-running Law and Order), suggests a more complex person.

But the show is full of good one-liners and the odd-couple pairing of Fonda and Tomlin (last seen together in the 1980 office-based comedy 9 to 5) might develop into something more than the enforced coming together of two people who never much liked each other.

You smile more than laugh at most of the repartee, though I chuckled at Grace's remark when her hubby brought home a chair bearing the likeness of a young movie star he fancied: "If anyone's going to sit on Ryan Gosling's face, it's going to be me".

And she conveyed a genuine pathos when she said to him "It would have been easier if you'd died".

Certainly worth a look.

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