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5 Ways ‘Grace and Frankie’ Breaks the Mold

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin have teamed up again for Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie. The 9 to 5 duo portray two women whose longtime husbands -- Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston -- decide they would rather be married to each other. The entire 13-episode first season premieres on May 8 in Netflix’s traditional binge-friendly style. 

Here are five ways Grace and Frankie has already separated itself from the pack.  

  • Older women are underrepresented in television series. “[Women who are] 40 and older are actually 47 percent of [the female] population here in the U.S., yet only 26 percent of women on TV,” according to a 2013 interview with documentary director Jennifer Newsom. Grace and Frankie’s stars are 77 (Fonda) and 75 (Tomlin).
  • Older women are usually depicted as grandmas (think ABC’s Fresh off the Boat). The characters of Grace and Frankie are presented as they see themselves: multifaceted, independent and still vital— as Tomlin’s Frankie demonstrates in the trailer by doing a squat and yelling: “I am young. My joints are supple!”    
  • Older gay characters are essentially nonexistent on television. GLAAD’s most recent Where We Are on TV report detailing annual statistics and trends in LGBTQ inclusion on TV mentioned only one “elderly” character, Oscar (Elliot Gould) on Fox’s failed sitcom Mulaney. Grace and Frankie’s Robert (Sheen) and Sol (Waterston) join Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) on Amazon Prime’s Transparent, broadening the field of 70-plus LGBTQ characters. 
  • The series is not an adaptation, sequel or continuation. This month Netflix premiered Daredevil, adapting the popular comic book character’s story for television. This summer the streaming service will return book adaptation Orange Is the New Black and premiere a series based on cult film favorite Wet Hot American Summer. While the OTT programmer could’ve worked out a deal to extend the story of 9 to 5, it opted to develop an original story instead. 
  • It’s the only TV show in which Jane Fonda has agreed to star. Although the Oscar-winning actress (Coming Home), who has been in the business since 1960, was a guest on HBO’s Newsroom, Grace and Frankie is the only television series she has taken a lead role in.