This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- Justice for J. Lo!
- Jane and Lily demand your respect.
- Kathy Bates made me laugh.
- Shania Twain made me laugh.
- Charlize Theron made me gag.
My favorite show on television is Grace and Frankie.
I don’t think the Netflix comedy, which launched its sixth season starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin this week, is the best show on television. It probably is not even one of the best comedies. But there is something warm and delightful in the perfect execution of its, I don’t know, Grace and Frankie-ness.
Lily Tomlin is eating Chinese takeout with salad tongs. Jane Fonda is making off with a bottle of vodka at an awkward luncheon. At the end of the episode, there’s a heart-to-heart that makes you cry. It’s apparently everything I want in a series, delivered by Jane and Lily.
At risk of striking up a deafening orchestra of tiny violins, when your job is to write about TV news and buzz at a time when 532 scripted series air in a year—this is a real, not-exaggerated number—it’s rare to have the luxury of watching more than a season of anything. Or, frankly, more than the six or seven episodes of a show you watch to write a review or interview an actor, no matter how much you like the series.
Yet here I am, 80-something episodes in on Grace and Frankie. The entire ride has been bliss.
When Grace and Frankie launched in 2015, before Netflix started making 400 versions of every kind of show there is, it was one of the finest examples of what value the freedom of the streaming service could bring to a tried-and-true genre.
The conceit behind Grace and Frankie is the sitcomiest of sitcomy concepts. Wild circumstances forcing cohabitation between polarized personalities is perhaps the most common elevator pitch in comedy. In this case, the wives of two law partners have no choice but to move in together after their husbands reveal they’ve been lovers for years. The women, who despise each other, grow to become unlikely best friends.
But the Netflix of it all meant that there could be raunchier content and more expletives, the latter finally allowing for the kind of cathartic dialogue these powder-keg sitcom setups realistically need.
No running time restrictions meant a deeper exploration of tone and emotion, skirting the “get to the punchlines” hamminess that plagues so many comedies while allowing storylines that actually feel meaningful.
And then there’s the fact that the titular Grace and Frankie aren’t the latest young blondes to emerge from pilot season, but two of the industry’s most talented actresses, who both happen to be over 80 years old.
They’re not the wise-cracking grandmas stealing a handful of scenes. We’re investigating their lives, passions, and concerns. Sometimes that’s insecurities about sex and judgment about age. Sometimes that’s rallying your friend to come rescue you off a toilet that’s too low for you to get up from with your bum knee.
(Has there ever been a more life-imitating-art indictment of our culture’s instinct to dismiss older generations that Fonda organizing weekly protests, getting herself arrested repeatedly in the protest, to sound the alarm of climate change?)
The best thing I can say about Grace and Frankie is that I still love it despite how irritating every scene and subplot involving Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston’s Robert and Sol is. I’m more surprised than anyone that a progressive storyline about men of a certain age navigating their first public same-sex relationship somehow gets on every last one of my damn nerves. But here we are.
That said, there’s still something revolutionary to champion here.
Here’s the thing about being a gay man that’s under-discussed, even in this age when representation is on the tip of the tongue, there are watershed moments like Love, Simon and Call Me By Your Name, and finally an understanding that we need to be telling coming of age stories from a LGBTQ perspective. Some of us have already come of age. Seeing a loving gay couple in old age on a show like Grace and Frankie and envisioning yourself and your partner there one day is a new, revolutionary, poignant thing.
I still hate Robert and Sol. I don’t love that two of the most annoying characters on TV that are responsible for these strides. But in all my years of doing this job/watching TV/wanting to kiss boys, I’ve learned to make three-tier cakes out of crumbs. And I’ll happily eat that cake while bingeing Grace and Frankie.
I love Kathy Bates. She’s great in Richard Jewell. In fact, she’s the best part of Richard Jewell, a film that, while thematically angering, is way more watchable than I ever expected it to be.
I would not have nominated Bates over Lopez, obviously, but I can at least appreciate this hilarious Twitter exchange she had with her The Waterboy co-star, Adam Sandler, who joins Lopez on the list of A-list snubs for his work in Uncut Gems.
My favorite thing about Shania Twain is that she apparently wrote the “So you’re Brad Pitt? That don’t impress me much” line of her song after seeing paparazzi photos of the heartthrob naked and not thinking there was much ado to be made about the size of his penis.
I love this because it’s so shady. I also love it because, as a connoisseur of the photos in question, who could probably draw them for you right now from memory, I can say that Shania Twain is also absolutely incorrect in her judgment.
In any case, someone on Twitter made an observation about Pitt’s role in Ad Astra and its connection to Twain’s “Don’t Impress Me Much” song and it made me laugh.
Charlize Theron went on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon this week—watch the clip here— to talk about her Oscar nomination for playing Megyn Kelly in Bombshell (ugh) and told a story about a time when she was kissing a date in his car and he asked her to make out with his nose. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Now neither will you.
What to watch this week:
Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens: Basically the next Broad City, and earns that distinction.
Little America: Heartbreaking, human, and easily Apple TV+’s best show yet.
Sex Education: Gillian Anderson as a sex therapist! A delight!
Avenue 5: The first great new comedy series of 2020.
What to skip this week:
Dolittle: It is very, very bad.