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You Should be Watching: ‘Grace and Frankie’

Title: “Grace and Frankie”

Year it began: 2015

Where it can be seen: Netflix, Amazon Video

Who’s in it: Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston

Typical episode length: 30 minutes

Number of episodes: 39

Brief plot description: Grace and Frankie are the polar-opposite wives of longtime law firm business partners Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. When Sheen and Waterston announce that they have been secret lovers for 20 years and that they are leaving their wives to begin a life with each other, Grace and Frankie become an unlikely support system for each other.

Why it’s worth watching: Fonda and Tomlin, period. Fonda is uptight country-clubber Grace Hanson, who spars with Tomlin’s hippie-dippie nutty granola Frankie Bergstein as they navigate the devastation of their husbands leaving them behind. Watching their respective acting chops on display is like standing over Leonardo da Vinci’s shoulder while he dabbles on the Mona Lisa. The writing is occasionally uneven throughout each of the first two seasons, and a bona fide movie star like Fonda is sometimes bursting at the seams within the confines of a sit-com, but every scene featuring these two veteran actresses together is gold.

Even as iconic as they are, each dissolves into her character and disappears. Fonda’s brittle characterization of Grace lets her shatter in sometimes funny, sometimes sad ways, with Frankie usually left to reassemble the pieces. Tomlin gives Frankie depth as a hippie fighting the bitterness that comes with being dumped by your husband of 40 years, and learning that chakras and sage don’t really heal those wounds all that well. Her comedic timing is unmatched, with some of the series’ best lines coming from Frankie just hitting the wall and having had enough. Sheen and Waterston are no slouches, but this series belongs to the two women.

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