Alibi V.24 No.22 • May 28-June 3, 2015 

Idiot Box

Love and Marriage … Oh, and Divorce

“Grace and Frankie” on Netflix

Oh, the illusion of the happy marriage ... how it sinks its teeth in the fabric of your Chanel cardigan as you sip a dry martini and placate yourself thinking everything is just peaches and cream. That doesn't sound like you? Oh, right; that’s Jane Fonda's character in “Grace and Frankie,” currently streaming on Netflix. The comedy show features the aforementioned Fonda and Lily Tomlin (reunited after their filmic foray in 9 to 5; sadly, Dolly Parton isn't in on the festivities) in the titular roles as two women who’ve just found out their husbands are having affairs ... with each other.

Yeah, you read that right. The husbands (played with considerable comedic chops by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston), whom they’ve been married to for decades, have been having a secret affair. Suddenly, the men have realized they're in love and want to put a legal stamp on the proceedings. So basically, the situation is “We love you, but we’re gay. And we wanna leave you to go live happily ever after. Sorry, ladies.” Obviously, this sends Grace and Frankie in a tailspin, and their only resolve is to seek shelter at the beachside timeshare their husbands bought years ago.

Though the show has some seriously hilarious moments (like a pot-fuelled trip for some frozen yogurt), it's definitely got an added layer of cheesiness (partially because it was created by Marta Kauffman, co-creator of “Friends”). Personally, I like cheese—both the food and the feel. Case in point: how the two women are polar opposites who play off one another’s differences. Fonda, for example, is the uptight, straight-laced one with good taste in shoes and handbags, while Tomlin is the hippie-dippie pot-smoker who meditates and throat-sings. (Yeah, I thought that was weird too.) It leaves room for many clichés, but Fonda and Tomlin have been in this biz for years, so they know how to do jokes with a little gusto to avoid the weightlessness of tired tropes.

Although Fonda and Tomlin steal the show, it’s got a good assortment of supporting characters to add some depth and truthfulness to the situation. See, both women have got kids—grown children who are trying to come to grips with the fact that their families are falling apart, yet coming together at the same time. On Grace’s side, she and husband Robert (Sheen) have daughters Mallory (Brooklyn Decker) and Brianna (June Diane Raphael). And in Frankie's corner, she and her husband adopted two boys, Bud (Baron Vaughn) and Coyote (Ethan Embry, Can't Hardly Wait (!)). With everyone in tow, the show provides some good laughs, a few touching moments (maybe more than a few) and considerable star power that doesn’t bog the series down with “look at me!” moments, ’cause that just gets tired. So if you’re looking for something lighthearted yet heartfelt, this is as good a place as any to start.

The first season of “Grace and Frankie” is currently streaming on Netflix.