Last month, I clicked play on Grace and Frankie on a bit of a whim, just needing something to play in the background as I ticked off the days during a rather dull Scottish January. The Netflix Original sitcom-dramedy had come up in my ‘suggested for you’ reel several times, but never quite piqued my interest. With septuagenarian leads, the show seemed to me like something that would perhaps be better suited to a more mature demographic, but just minutes in, I was absolutely hooked.
In the beginning of the first episode, we meet our protagonists, Grace Hanson (Jane Fonda) and Frankie Bergstein (Lily Tomlins). These two women seem to represent two ends of a spectrum; Grace is the impossibly fit, glamorous, and savvy retired CEO of a successful cosmetics company while Frankie is the free spirited, flowy gauze clad, paint brush and sage wielding covergirl for matriarchy. At the start, their relationship is definitively classifiable under the ‘absolutely not friends and hardly even friendly’ umbrella, but everything changes when their husbands, Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterson), expose their decades-long affair and reveal that they intend to live out the rest of their days together. By the end of the pilot, Grace and Frankie find themselves living together in the Southern California beach house that the couples once shared. Bitter, heartbroken, lost, and sharing a peyote trip, the duo begins to forge an unlikely alliance, destined to take on the new and the unexpected as a powerfully entertaining and heartwarming tag-team. The series follows Grace and Frankie as they navigate uncharted waters, reinventing themselves and their relationships with their ex’s and adult children. From romances to business ventures, and even some close encounters with law enforcement, Grace and Frankie live their newest chapter with utterly entertaining flair and tenacity, taking risks and living big when everyone seems to expect them to just roll over.
In just one week’s time, I’d devoured all six seasons and absolutely fallen in love with the show and its namesake, not-your-average-grandma leads. Beyond the pure comedy of Frankie’s one liners and Grace’s witty comebacks is a depth in character that is undeniably and unexpectedly familiar. It’s possible that I feel this way because they resemble my grandmother, whom I watched become an independent and self-fulfilled woman well into her seventies after her husband of 40 years passed. It could also be because their antics remind me of my mother, a woman who puts friendship at the center of her rarely dull day to day. Perhaps, it’s because I see myself and my friends in Grace and Frankie. While there might not be much outward commonality between two 70 year olds in a million-dollar beach house, and seven 21 year olds living in a St Andrews flat, there’s an unmistakably similar sense of camaraderie alive in our homes. All of us, Grace and Frankie, and me and my friends, are sometimes lost, sometimes confused, or lonely, or messy. We ride collective highs and lift each other out of lows. We get up to no good and we sometimes let each other down, but there’s the bond of female friendship, something I’ve known my whole life to be sacred and unwavering, holding us all together at the seams. Watching this type of friendship play out between older women seemed to say that while there is no growing out of the mess, we never age out of that friendship, and I find that incredibly comforting.
It’s not often that I finish a series and immediately miss it. These ladies and their modern family made me laugh – like really laugh – just about every episode, and they might have even made me cry once or twice. I’m eagerly anticipating the show’s seventh and finale season that is due in the coming year, but in the meantime Grace and Frankie is down in my books on the same esteemed list as New Girl and The Office, as a show I’ll definitely be revisiting, probably soon and surely often.