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Couchsurfing: Grace and Frankie dips gracefully and frankly into uncharted territory



Ever since the marijuana-laced imaginary scenarios that captivated middle-class working women in 9 to 5, the world has been – OK, this writer has been – anxiously anticipating a repeat of the interplay between Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda (collating is hard!). With Grace and Frankie, an intended binge-watch of the Netflix variety, we get all that and more. It's as if neither of the power duo has faded, none of the chemistry has been lost. Skinny and sweet!

The plot, which can seem sometimes clumsy, mostly because there's a Martin Sheen in it, centers around the titular women as they traverse the legal, marital and emotional awkwardness of what turns out to be something more than a "legal partnership" between their husbands (Sam Waterston is especially charming in his humility here). The two men, Waterston and Sheen, who have run a law agency together for years, confess that they are indeed in love, which, naturally, dissolves the long-running notions of aging stability for Fonda and Tomlin (or Grace and Frankie, if you will).

In 13 episodes, the show draws out the best of each of the characters in ways that might seem culturally nostalgic – because everyone loves a Lily Tomlin breakdown in '70s hippie garb or a Jane Fonda rant about deserving nice things – but are actually rooted in the present. Ethan Embry, who stole the show in Can't Hardly Wait, is especially effervescent in his role as Tomlin's drug-addicted son, Coyote.

But the real victory in Grace and Frankie, beyond the obvious naming references to the character traits of Fonda and Tomlin, is that, given this modern context, women of a certain age – and we mean that in the kindest of ways – do still have stories to tell, and, when those women are as legendary as these two, those stories are vulnerable, exciting, anxious and enlightening in equal parts. Worth the time, worth the couch.

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