The Jane and Lily Show
Yesterday was a good day for TV trailers – first there was Orange is the New Black, then True Detective season 2 with Taylor Kitsch and Rachel McAdams looking hot (will they just hook up already).
There was also a trailer for Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin’s new show, Grace and Frankie. It’s not getting the buzz of the other two I mentioned but I got a chuckle out of it, and that’s enough to pique my interest.
Here’s what I liked: Lily Tomlin is always stellar. “I know, I hosted that fundraiser!” made me laugh out loud. Jane Fonda knows her strengths, and she’s been playing to them since she divorced Ted Turner. From this short glimpse, it looks like Grace and Frankie centres around the women and their ex-husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) are secondary. The leads are not young. They live in beach houses. Oh and the ex-husbands are gay, but that’s not the joke. The joke isn’t about two men being in love or having sex, it’s about people’s reaction to it. So the punchline doesn’t fall on Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston; instead, it falls on the people who are having the reaction. They are the ones we are laughing at.
This is a comedy for adults, and it’s has been positioned as Netflix’s run at network TV. Marta Kauffman, a co-creator of Friends, also co-created Grace and Frankie. I never liked Friends. Didn’t find it funny when it was in its prime, and I don’t think it’s aged particularly well, particularly the “Chandler is gay” jokes.
I get that comedy evolves and what was hilarious 10 or 20 years ago may not be PC now, but considering that Seinfeld aired around the same time, the “not that there’s anything wrong with that” line still holds up. (The Outing aired in 1993, Friends premiered in 1994.) “Gay” wasn’t the punchline for “not that there’s anything wrong with that”; the comedic payoff was Jerry and George trying to convince everyone that they weren’t in a relationship while consciously trying not to be offensive. Chandler was freaked out by gay people or being associated with gay people; Jerry and George were worried about seeming homophobic. We are laughing at their neurosis, not at the idea of being gay.
I found the gay jokes super lame in the 90s, and they are super lame now. Oh no, Chandler has “feminine” traits and wears sweater vests and everything thinks he’s gay, and he gets all stressed out about it, isn’t that funny? It would have been a much more interesting show if Chandler was actually gay. But the, “I thought he was gay” payoff just never did it for me.
But maybe Marta Kauffman has a different comedic sensibility with Grace and Frankie. From this short trailer, the meat of the story is the women’s burgeoning friendship, with jokes about calories and plastic surgery and aging and New Age healing; it’s Golden Girls meets First Wives Club. Doesn’t that sound great?