We just finished watching season two of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. What did you think of the season, in general?
I like that it was more about [Grace and Frankie]’s stories, as they’re settling into their new life. Season one, even though it was about them, focused a lot on their exes. This one was really about empowering the two of them.
What got you interested in the show in the first place?
The buzz. And the premise, of how people rebuild their lives at different times.
Netflix has become a platform for all sorts of stories, for different types of media and television. How do you take in Netflix, as a mom?
Well, as you know, I didn’t give in to Netflix for a while. I came late to the party, but I’ve caught on with a few shows. It’s become a huge social phenomenon. Even among my colleagues, we’ll talk about, “What are you watching on Netflix?” and “Oh, if you like that, have you seen this?” It opens up a whole new set of conversations, with people that I otherwise might not ever have talked with about anything outside of work.
When Netflix release an original show, they put out the whole season all at once. How do you feel about the format? How has it affected the way you watch TV?
I’m slowly getting into this binge stuff, but it’s a little hard, because there are still things that I need to get done. I’ve yet to devote a whole day to just watching TV, but I seem to be in the minority. Definitely, the idea of being able to watch two or three hours in a row, and not pause for commercials, and not have to wait another week between episodes—I don’t know if it makes us appreciate it more, or be more impatient with broadcast TV.
Do you think it stems from the millennial need for instant gratification?
Maybe a little bit.
Do you think that your generation is adopting it?
Absolutely [laughs]. We’re just as guilty.
I mean, believe me, I know that I need instant gratification. I definitely agree that that’s something linked to my generation. But I don’t think it’s exclusive to us.
You’re right, it’s not just you. Our parents said it about us, and the ones before that, and so on.
There’s something to be said for the consumption of media also broadening your horizons. We now have this venue to better understand the experiences of others.
It even relates to the idea of PVRs and VCRs, anything that lets you record a couple shows at the same time to watch later on. We don’t have to choose what we’re watching anymore. You used to have to pick one show and commit to it, whereas now, you can tape them all, or watch one and then abandon it, or not abandon it.
We’re able to branch out. If I had to pick one series, maybe I wouldn’t have picked Grace and Frankie—but there is no either/or anymore. I can’t imagine I’m the target demographic for the show. It’s more suited for you, middle-age women. But it does resonate with millennials as well, which is really interesting.
Absolutely. People are talking about it, and talking about it enough that people who weren’t originally watching it are now starting to. And, at first, I think it was the premise [that drew people in], but it was also, you know, older, respected actresses and actors. You hear a lot about Young Hollywood; so it’s nice that this is a different opportunity.
While we watched the show, you often commented about how relatable the story lines and characters were. How did you find it relatable, when you’re at different time in your life than they are?
It was the idea that you can re-invent yourself. Which, I think, is a recurring theme [throughout the show]. You can be successful, no matter what life gives you. Be it a divorce or a death or just deciding that you’re going to do something on your own, you can make it. That was the relatable part. We talked about the one episode where Frankie is learning how to pay her own bills; well, lots of people have to learn how to pay bills at different points in their life. Or the fact that Grace has always been in control, and doesn’t know how to let loose. Well, we’re always keeping it together. I don’t have time to have a nervous breakdown, because I’m too busy. And that was her. It wasn’t until the last couple episodes that she says, “Okay, I’m going to lose control now.”
The last episode is so on the nose. There’s 10 minutes left in the season, and they’re shouting and fighting, and there isn’t a resolution. It’s Grace and Frankie saying to everyone, “You don’t see us. You dismiss or ignore us. But we have a voice, and we’re going to use it.” I feel like that’s what the whole show is about: giving a voice and media representation to older women, a demographic that otherwise doesn’t exist in the media.
Last season, it ended up all about Robert [Martin Sheen] and Sol [Sam Waterston]. But this one really finished being about the ladies. It’s authentic, well-developed and well-cast. Is it women writers?
The writers vary from episode. It’s a mix of men and women. And a man and a woman, Marta Kauffman and Howard Morris, created it. It’s good variety, within the production team. And there’s so much variety between the characters. There’s breadth in the show. For example, I’m much more similar to Grace than I am to Frankie.
Yeah, sorry about that [laughs]. It’s funny, because both of them loved Babe [Estelle Parsons]. And Babe was such a free spirit.
You think she would be a polarizing person: love her or hate her. And they were both so close with her.
So that was interesting. She came in, and added a whole different dimension. The new boyfriends don’t bring as much to the story as she did. Maybe the yam farmer.
See, I felt like Phil brought more to the table, because we find out that Grace had cheated during her marriage. In the first season, she’s portrayed as a victim of infidelity, but it turns out she’d done the same thing. I feel like that wasn’t really addressed.
Cheating comes up a lot, in different ways. You said at one point, “Robert should just forgive Sol [for sleeping with Frankie in the season one finale]”. And I said, well, let’s think about that.
You reworded it.
I said, “Imagine your fiancé slept with their ex the night before you got married.” That wasn’t how you saw it originally, though. So [the show] gave you things to think about.
It didn’t feel like there was an agenda. It brought issues up, showed both sides, and then left them to play out.
That’s one of the appeals. To me, it’s good if they leave you thinking. Sometimes I like the happy ending, don’t get me wrong. But if something gives you pause, it’s a good thing.
When we first started watching the season, you asked me how I liked it, saying you never really expected me to be interested in the show. Do you see it more, now?
Definitely. I didn’t think about the wider appeal before we started watching together and talking about it, talking about more than just their outfits. Although it’s worth it to watch just for the beach house. And I do love Grace’s pink purse. But there’s nothing that’s off limits in the show. And there’s an appeal to that.
Obviously it’s very sexual, and that is probably partially for shock value. We watch a 70-year-old learn to use a vibrator, or make paintings of her vagina as packaging for her homemade yam lube. It’s attention-grabbing, but it’s also a natural part of women’s day-to-day lives. It’s only refreshing because we usually ignore large parts of reality when it comes to older women being represented in the media. So that’s just one more layer that they added that made the show interesting and different and worth watching.
And now they’re going to use it to start a new business. So it makes Season three.