In 2015, icons Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin reteamed for the first time since 9 to 5 (1980) for Marta Kauffman and Howard J. Morris’ television series Grace and Frankie. The series follows retired beauty mogul, Grace Hanson, and hippie art teacher, Frankie Bergstein, as they try to navigate their lives after their lawyer husbands, Robert and Sol (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston), announce they have been having a decades-long affair and now plan to get married. The two women couldn’t be more different and Grace and Frankie are forced to adjust to their new lives, which include moving in together. Before getting into the sixth season of Grace and Frankie, here’s a brief summary of the show’s previous seasons.
Past seasons reminders
Season one saw Grace and Frankie struggle to adjust to their new situation—their dynamic together was forced to change, as they were now roommates in Frankie’s beach house. Now that same-sex marriage was legal, Robert and Sol want to celebrate their love and finally marry one another; however, Grace and Frankie have been left in their wake. Through trial and tribulation, the jilted wives become bonded by their shared experience. For two women who have never particularly liked one another, their friendship begins to slowly piece their lives back together again.
Throughout the rest of the seasons, Grace and Frankie continue to support one another as they navigate an uncertain future. Grace and Robert’s daughters, Brianna (June Diane Raphael) and Mallory (Brooklyn Decker), and Frankie and Sol’s sons’, Nwabudlike “Bud” (Baron Vaughn) and Coyote (Ethan Embry), deal with their own problems, all while coming to terms with their altering family unit.
Commitment-phobe (and queen of the trouser suit) Brianna now runs her mother’s cosmetics company and lives in fear of her mother ever returning to work. Mallory is unhappily married with four children. Coyote, a recovering drug addict, focuses on rebuilding his life and mending bridges after a particularly bad relapse. Good boy Bud marries his eccentric love, Allison (Lindsey Kraft), and searches for his biological mother.
After Frankie begins creating her own organic lube made from yams, she and Grace notice a gap in the market. They team up and decide to go into business making arthritis-friendly vibrators specifically designed for older women. The entrepreneurs initially struggle to get funding and loans for their product but they eventually launch a website for their successful company, Vybrant. Robert and Sol, however, set up house and decide to retire and enjoy their remaining days. Robert rediscovers his love of theatre and joins a local gay company, and Sol becomes a gay-rights activist.
“I don’t want to face my remaining years alone.”
It is a slow and steady process for their company, but Vybrant provides Grace and Frankie with a new lease of life. Dating-wise, they initially struggle with single life but they eventually start dating again. Sam Elliott, Craig T. Nelson, and Ernie Hudson are just a few of the guest stars portraying the men in their lives. It isn’t until season six, however, that one of them remarries and things begin to drastically change.
Season six picks up right where season five ended, with Grace newly married to rich CEO Nick Skolka (Peter Gallagher), who is younger than she. Frankie is shocked at the unexpected news and worried what this dramatic change will do to their friendship. It has taken its time but Grace and Frankie have reached a peaceful harmony within their friendship, and Frankie fears being alone once again. The two women have supported and lived together for years now so what would life be like once Grace moves out?
After a major fight at the end of season five, their old friend Babe (Bonnie and Clyde Oscar winner Estelle Parsons) forced them to reunite and the two repaired their relationship after helping Babe with her assisted suicide. The heartbreaking ordeal brought the women closer together than ever before so the season six opener is quite shocking.
The show once again deals with important issues regarding ageing. After Grace moves into Nick’s apartment, she struggles to lift herself off his fancy toilet seat every morning but is embarrassed to tell him. His sofa also proves to be an issue. Grace feels too old for Nick but her difficult morning bathroom routine sparks another idea for both her and Frankie. The two create “the Helen Mirren of plumbing fixtures”, a.k.a. the ‘Rise Up’, a hydraulic toilet that elevates senior users with ease.
Kauffman and Morris have always done a brilliant job of understanding that getting older is just as complex and messy as our younger years. Every strange new hurdle brings Grace and Frankie closer together in some delightfully funny new way. The two women are both relatively open about the struggles of ageing and their friendship sometimes has to endure new changes because of it. However, they both acknowledge that it is sometimes scary and embarrassing with the things they have to cope with on a daily basis.
“I’m a sucker for a gal who’s a sucker for a dry martini.”
There is no better combination than Fonda and Tomlin. A few rehashed storylines from previous seasons work better this season as the pair’s friendship is more engaging than ever and the quick-fire jokes land perfectly every time. Their wit certainly hasn’t diminished with age and, in the hands of true seasoned professionals, the humour and heart of the show never falters.
The rest of the cast have wonderful moments as well. Raphael continues to be the standout as eldest sibling Brianna, especially when she faces the prospect of her partner, Barry (Peter Cambor), donating sperm to a lesbian couple. Mallory embraces a new job and a new relationship. Both sisters become more rounded and endearing personalities this season, and the sperm donation storyline is a particular comedic highlight. Embry and Vaughn continue their wonderful chemistry as brothers Coyote and Bud, the latter hilariously struggles to adapt fully to married life. Robert and Sol remain as the ultimate relationship goals even when tackling health issues and communication problems, and Sheen and Waterston have never been funnier.
One of the standout episodes of the series is when Grace and Frankie pitch the ‘Rise Up’ to Shark Tank, and it is the crossover event we never knew we needed. Before their toilet invention, Grace tells Frankie that it’s “been a long time since I had to dazzle on the arm of a husband.” It’s an interesting change of pace for the show, seeing Grace adapt to her new life as a billionaire’s older wife. Grace and Frankie is warm and delightful, like a hug from an old friend, and who wouldn’t enjoy a show when a single season includes these acting veterans guest starring: Michael McKean, Mary Steenburgen, and Elliott Gould. It’s an absolute joy to watch and the season’s ending is the perfect set-up for what should be a hilarious seventh and final season.
“Ever since you and I became you and me, we’ve done a lot of crazy shit. But we’ve always done it together.”
Grace and Frankie has never shied away from the realities of growing old, but it never fails to laugh at the absurdities of everyday life. The show has dealt with assisted suicide; discussed gun control, homophobia, and various aspects of adoption; the effects of ageing on their sex lives, as well as the pain of watching their friends die. Kauffman, in particular, felt compelled to create a show tackling ageism but she also wanted to “go deeper and do more mature work.” However, Grace and Frankie always balances out the drama with expertly timed comedy to really make you belly laugh. Season six finally reaches its full potential with its irresistible charm, wonderfully written characters and the incredible cast portraying them.
If you’ve ever been worried about your creaky joints, or whether your sex life will cease to exist after the menopause, Grace and Frankie will help to ease your mind. We have been conditioned by society and the media to think life ends at 50, but seeing Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin on-screen partying, getting laid, and still figuring it out in their eighties, gives me hope for the future.
What do you think of Grace and Frankie‘s penultimate season? Let us know in the comments!
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