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REVIEW: GRACE AND FRANKIE

NETFLIX’S NEW original series Grace and Frankie reunites Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in what’s billed as a comedy but feels more like a smart dramedy.

Fonda and Tomlin, who co-starred together in the 1980s comedy fi lm 9 to 5, play reluctant friends Grace and Frankie, each married to a partner in a law firm.

The premise is revealed early on when the two husbands — played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston — reveal to their wives that they are gay lovers and intend to get married.

Of course, both Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin) are shocked and devastated by the news of their husbands’ 20-year relationship, and over subsequent episodes look for ways to pick up the pieces of their lives individually and, eventually to their surprise, together as friends.

Initially sparks do fly between the uptight, conservative Grace and the meditating, flower child Frankie as they take feelings of hurt and betrayal out on one another. Yet during a humorous, peyote-infused beach scene, the two ladies begin to reveal their true feelings to each other and eventually find some common ground to work from.

While Fonda and Tomlin comically play off each other well as a female septuagenarian version of The Odd Couple, viewers looking for a lot of laugh out-loud moments from Grace and Frankie will be disappointed. The jokes are subtle and sprinkled around often poignant and at times emotional dialogue.

Of particular note are Waterston and Martin’s three-dimensional portrayals of gay lovers balancing the joy of their newfound relationship freedom against genuine, deep-seated remorse for what they’ve put their wives through. While the two often take a back seat to the exploits of Fonda and Tomlin, their performances help to shine a light on an otherwise mature and entertaining look at relationships in the 21st century.

Add to the mix the couples’ adult kids, who bring their own emotional baggage into an already incendiary situation, and Grace and Frankie figures to have a chance to connect with viewers young and old throughout its 13-episode Netflix run.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.