Grace and Frankie: Season 1 (TV)
R1 - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (16th May 2016).
The Show

Acquaintances only through the long partnership of their attorney husbands Robert (The West Wing's Martin Sheen) and Sol (Law & Order's Sam Waterston), materialistic Grace (klute's Jane Fonda) and hippie Frankie (Nashville's Lily Tomlin) meet up for dinner hoping that their husbands will finally be announcing their retirements. Robert and Sol instead announce that they are leaving their wives for each other not that gay marriage has been legalized. Having secretly been together for twenty out of the forty years of their respective marriages, both husbands regret hurting their wives but are otherwise tired of being ashamed of who they really are. After making a scene at the restaurant, Grace crawls into a bottle and Frankie into a jar of peyote tea ("peyo-tea"), the two soon find themselves mismatched roommates in the beach house their husbands went in together on buying (supposedly as an investment) and negotiating social media, dating, and sex after seventy. Meanwhile, Robert and Sol negotiate coming out after seventy and realizing that they are going to be "coming out" every time they appear in public personality clashes as they live together for the first time, and their guilt over hurting their wives while trying to establish boundaries. Robert's and Grace's children workaholic Bianca (Zodiac's June Diane Raphael) and too-perfect housewife/mother Mallory (Battleship's Brooklyn Decker) and Sol's and Frankie's adopted children rehabilitating addict Coyote (Can't Hardly Wait's Ethan Embry) and uber-responsible attorney Nwabudike (Cloverfield's Baron Vaughn) find their lives further entwined for the worst. Once worried about Coyote's drug use, Mallory is now trying to avoid him after an incident that he cannot remember in which he tried to convince her not to marry OB/GYN husband Mitch (The Finder's Geoff Stults) despite the fact that they had already been married for seven years. Bianca appointed CEO of Grace's cosmetics company when she retired has worked in her mother's shadow and found her attempts to take the company in new directions rejected by the rest of the board. When Grace decides she wants to return to work, Bianca has to work out how to tell her no and to explain why. Ever the fixer, Nwabudike also known as "Bud" has been carrying around the guilt of knowing of Robert's and Sol's infidelity for some time and trying to prevent other stressful issues from reaching his mother (including Coyote's attempt to trace his birth mother for a possible source of his dependency issues).

While a profane Tomlin is always fun and it is amusing to see aerobic fitness queen Fonda dealing with age and body issues, there is not a lot that is terribly hilarious (amusing, yes) about the Netflix Original Series from Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris (Home Improvement). The situations are predictable, from straight-laced Grace accidentally getting high, Frankie tangling with technology and developing her first meaningful post-divorce relationship with a phone tech support operator, Grace and Frankie feeling their age at a rave (before downing several shots and getting up on the bar), a near-death experience "it was all a dream" episode, a trapped-in-an-elevator flashback bottle episode, making scenes at a funeral, backsliding and sleeping with the ex, standing up to the bigot, and getting their grooves back with mostly age-appropriate hunks. Sheen seems to be playing a variation on the sendup of himself he brought to Anger Management while Waterston whiny "I love very deeply" caricature will probably not be considered a "brave" or "groundbreaking" interpretation. In thirty-minute episodes, there is also not enough time to give adequate space to the subplots involving their children (or to make them interesting), with Raphael the only one of the four regular supporting performers able to stand out in scenes with any combination of the lead quartet. This is not groundbreaking television in terms of the performers' range or the subject matter, just a modestly-budgeted sitcom convenient in shooting locations and production schedule for a cast of good sports.
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Season One Episode Breakdown:

1.01: "The End" (35:16) Grace's and Frankie's husbands make two shocking announcements over dinner.

1.02: "The Credit Cards" (28:06) When their credit cards are canceled pending the division of assets, the realities of divorce set in for the two four as Grace and Frankie stake claim on their property while Robert and Sol must decide whether to handle their divorces in their usual cut-throat manner. Mary Kay Place (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) and Joe Morton (Scandal) guest star.

1.03: "The Dinner" (29:51) Robert and Sol realize far too late that it is way too early to attempt a pleasant dinner party with their children.

1.04: "The Funeral" (26:10) When a mutual friend of the couples dies, Grace and Frankie prepare for their first appearance in public since the breakups while Robert and Sol try to prevent the affair from becoming an unofficial "coming out" party. Christine Lahti (Chicago Hope) guest stars as Robert's sister.

1.05: "The Fall" (25:16) Jane's life flashes before her eyes when goes out for frozen yogurt with a stoned Frankie and Briana. Corbin Bernsen (Psych) guest stars.

1.06: "The Earthquake" (27:39) When Frankie freaks out during a minor earthquake, Sol rushes to her side and forgets the romantic evening he planned with Robert. Grace goes on her first online date. Brian Benben (Private Practice) and Timothy V. Murphy (Shallow Ground) guest star.

1.07: "The Spelling Bee" (32:38) Grace goes on a blind date but reconnects with Robert's college friend turned nomadic adventurer Guy Craig T. Nelson (Parenthood). Frankie and Sol realize that some of their long-enjoyed routines and rituals must end with their divorce.

1.08: "The Sex" (27:50) Grace and Frankie ponder sex after seventy as Grace spends her first night with Guy and Frankie flirts with her yam man (Oz's Ernie Hudson).

1.09: "The Invitation" (32:11) Frankie takes it personally when Grace gets an invitation to their exes' wedding and she does not, sparking an argument between Sol and Robert over the misplaced or never mailed invitation. Robert finds out that Grace is seeing Guy.

1.10: "The Elevator" (28:08) Frankie, Grace, Sol, Robert and Bud share their accounts of a pivotal day five years ago while trapped in an elevator.

1.11: "The Secrets" (27:48) Frankie tells Sol a secret about Grace, setting off arguments in both houses about things best left unsaid. Coyote and Bud horn in on Briana's date with a co-worker (NCIS: Los Angeles's Peter Cambor).

1.12: "The Bachelor Party" (28:02) Bud, Coyote, Mallory, and Briana attempt to throw Sol and Robert a "classy and elegant" bachelor party ("it should be a wild bachelorette thing with penises and balls") while Grace tries to cheer up Frankie after she finally takes off her wedding ring. (The Office's Creed Bratton) and (Family Ties's Michael Gross) guest star.

1.13: "The Vows" (30:36) With the wedding six days away, Grace and Robert work on their trouble with self-expression while Sol and Frankie work on their boundary issues while clearing out the family home for sale.
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Video

All thirteen episodes are split between three dual-layer discs. The progressive, anamorphic widescreen image is curiously matted at 1.90:1 with no real compositional benefit over the standardized 1.78:1 or 1.85:1. The main menus are accompanied by a loop of the show's theme song: Grace Potter's cover of "Stuck in the Middle".
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Audio

The sole audio option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in which the surrounds are infrequently used apart from sparse atmosphere and music. Subtitles are only available in English SDH.
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Extras

The first disc features only start-up trailers which are also selectable from the main menu. The second disc features a gag reel (7:01) where the funniest moments are accidental and the clowning around tiresome, and the featurette "The Beginning of the End (29:48), a round table discussion in which Fonda, Tomlin, Kauffman, and Morris cover the origins of the project, the input of the actresses who were also executive producers, the writing process and the division of labor (including days when the staff was working on parts of all thirteen episodes), and the chemistry of the two actresses dating back to 9 to 5. The third disc features audio commentary on "The Elevator" by Kauffman and Morris in which they discuss the creation of the main title sequence, their season-long desire to do a flashback episode to get a sense of the characters before the divorce, and the use of handheld photography to make it visually distinct from the other episodes and on "The Vows" by Fonda, Tomlin, Kauffman, and Morris in which the actresses discuss their eagerness to work together, the producer discuss their desire to pair on a project, concerns about gay stereotypes in the characterizations of the husbands, the difference between shooting for Netflix versus television (with the show determining the length of the episode without concern for commercials and timeslots and the notes provided by Netflix versus network executives), among other topics and shooting anecdotes. Also included is a season 2 sneak peek (1:41). Season two is currently available on Netflix.
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Overall

Grace and Frankie is not groundbreaking television in terms of the performers' range or the subject matter, just a modestly-budgeted sitcom convenient in shooting locations and production schedule for a cast of good sports.
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