If there’s one thing we can all agree you don’t see often on TV, it’s smart, ambitious older women.
As a rule, once you hit forty in Hollywood, you’re reserved for the parts of ‘mum’, ‘gran’, ‘crone’ and ‘wise old lady’.
If you’re lucky (or Betty White), you might be offered a character role here and there. But genuinely dramatic, funny, versatile parts for the post-menopausal have been thin-on-the-ground to say the least.
There are many reasons for this – execs reluctant to believe that we actually want to see wrinkles on telly, a society that tells us that a woman in her fifties is less interesting than the average cup of weak tea…
Thankfully (finally) the old-lady-worm is turning and Netflix, the great bastion of experimental TV bought us our favourite drama-comedy of 2016, Grace and Frankie.
A modern-day Golden Girls, with fewer clichés and a far less ‘nudge-nudge wink-wink’ attitude to the sexuality of older people, Grace and Frankie is a masterpiece of a show in that it’s the only one that offers great drama, regardless of the age of the viewer, that just so happens to be about old people.
Created by Marta Kauffman, waspy Grace (Jane Fonda) and pot smoking artist Frankie (Lily Tomlin) are both in their seventies and ‘kind’ of friends, when their business partner husbands retire and leave them. For each other.
It could be a maelstrom of clichés but there’s real sensitivity shown here. Statistically the highest growing divorce rate is in the 60-plus and one of the key reasons given is the growing acceptability of homosexuality.
To a generation forced to live life in the closet, those final few years represent a real chance at living an honest life, for the first time.
That need for integrity, regardless of the pain it causes the lead characters is explored beautifully throughout the show and is what initially bonds the two lead characters (although vodka, men and a weekend spent on Peyote help).
What makes Grace and Frankie so much more than a great weekends binge watch (although it definitely remains that) is that it represents to an ageing audience what 60, 70 and beyond can honestly look like.
Businesses are still formed, people are still finding themselves, and sex happens. Real sex, not comedy sex, treated in the same way as if the leads were in their thirties. It’s considered a natural part of the journey of finding yourself single after 50 years and again, given the sort of transformational focus that can see attitudes shift across mainstream media.
Mostly, it’s just really, really funny. We’ve stayed away from detailing storylines but for those of you who’ve already enjoyed this show, we’ll say one thing.
Find Grace and Frankie on Netflix