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Grace and Frankie: A Second Look

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SPOILER ALERT!!! Important plot points are revealed herein. If you have not yet watched Grace and Frankie, you may want to explore this article after you have viewed the thirteen episodes of Season One.

Last month, I reviewed this smart and sexy Netflix sitcom after watching only the premiere episode. I have now seen the entire series twice.

Like most television series, Grace and Frankie only gets better after its premiere offering. With the series setup and back-story handled smoothly in Episode One, the show really blossoms in Episodes Two thru Thirteen.

That’s not to say that I lament reviewing the series after only seeing its pilot – nor does it mean I still wouldn’t quibble with what I perceived as shortcomings. . Au contraire. I totally stand by my initial review: Grace and Frankie is “bouncy and brash, marked by Grade A performances and extraordinary chemistry between its stars.”

Ethan Embry
You’ve heard of Coyote Ugly. Frankie’s older son is Coyote Pretty (Ethan Embry) : a good-looking, drug-addled near-do-well, trying to heal his life.

But let me add: The extraordinary performances extend beyond Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the title roles to include those of Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston – they play Grace and Frankie’s “gayer than thou” husbands, Robert Hanson and Sol Bergstein – and to the four young performers who play Grace and Frankie children: Ethan Embry, Baron Vaughn, Brooklyn Decker, and most especially, June Diane Raphael, as Grace’s land shark daughter, Brianna.

When the Primetime Emmy nominations are announced, on July 16, I fully expect most, if not all, of the above actors, to be smiled upon by the Television Academy with nominations for their performances. They are that good.

baron vaughn
As Nwabudike “Bud”, Baron Vaughn knew that his Dad and Robert were lovers five years before they came out to their families.

In the first episode, I took it for granted that Frankie and Sol’s son, Nwabudike, “Bud,” was adopted. My first clue was that Bud is clearly African American, while Frankie and Sol are whiter than Wonder Bread, and more Jewish than Fiddler on the Roof’s Tevye.

But as Season One progresses, we learn that Coyote, played to perfection by Ethan Embry, who shares his parents’ skin color, is also adopted. And now, as a recovering drug addict, he goes in search of his birth parents, just as Frankie is beginning her life altering adjustment to being suddenly single – the discarded wife of a husband who has kept secret his transitioning sexual orientation for more than twenty years.

Grace, on the other hand, moves forward with her life, and her dating, much quicker than Frankie. She has a five-episode story arc with Guy, played stylishly by Parenthood alumni, Craig T. Nelson. Guy is an aging adventurer and author – one who once wrote a book about how he literally ate his friend and fellow human adventurer, in order to survive.

But Guy becomes way too serious, much too quickly, for Grace, and she eventually breaks off the relationship – somewhat against her better judgment.

Meanwhile former husbands, the now betrothed to each other Robert, (Martin Sheen), and Sol, (Sam Waterston), are planning their Marriage Equality Wedding: auditioning catering, reluctantly recalling old flames, and planning a sanitized, sexless Bachelor Party.

Along the way, we learn many of the characters’ quirky ways. Frankie and Sol are addicted to televised Spelling Bees, and Grace flirts with online dating while denying herself ice cream, and other high calorie treats, in order to have the figure of a shapely fifty-year-old, even though she is seventy-five.

Grace and Frankie had been available for less than two weeks when Netflix announced that it had been renewed for a Second Season – one that will presumably be available in May 2016.

Brooklyn Decker
Brooklyn Decker, Grace’s daughter, Mallory, may be better known for her topless modeling than for her acting chops.

As I mentioned in my review: “Overall, I’d like to see Grace and Frankie’s tone be more Nurse Jackie, and less Caroline in the City. I’d still prefer an edgy feel to the the primetime broadcast network patina that it sports. But given the huge and immediate success of Season One, Grace and Frankie is unlikely to change much for its sophomore semester. Television success is coveted and rare. Once won, few tamper with a winning formula.

I was dead wrong about one thing. In last month’s review, and because it sounded similar to Dolly Parton’s voice, I mistakenly assumed it was Parton, the third star of Fonda and Tomlin’s 1980 movie mega-hit, Nine to Five, who sang “Stuck in the Middle with You,” over Grace and Frankie’s clever opening credit sequence.

Grace Potter sings the song. Potter is the former lead singer of the Nocturnals, formed while she was at St. Lawrence University. She more recently found success singing a duet with Kenny Chesney on the hit single “You and Tequila.”

For God’s sake, folks! Stop reading. Run to your DVR and add Grace and Frankie to your Season Pass list.

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