Film & Television

‘Grace and Frankie’ Returns This Week

Netflix released the promotional trailer for season six last week, and it looks as if we’re all in for much of the same mature mayhem. Frankie, never one to keep a secret very long, springs the news about Grace’s nuptials to the blended family with a dramatic toast. She’s clearly concerned that “everything is going to change,” but seems to find some solace in red wine and the company of a new man, played by Michael McKean (who’s come a long way since the 1970s, when he was one of Laverne & Shirley‘s sidekicks). Sol is facing a health crisis, which Robert encourages him to share with the rest of the family. Grace grapples with being “the new wife” at an old age. And, perhaps best of all, necessity being the grandmother of invention, Grace and Frankie develop a self-elevating toilet seat that allows older people to “rise up.” The last shot of the trailer shows the two women pitching their idea to the notoriously cutthroat investors of TV’s Shark Tank.

There’s one other scene in the trailer that might have been pulled from current events. Grace and Frankie appear to have run afoul of the law, and Frankie (experienced protester and no stranger to being taken downtown in handcuffs) compliantly puts her hands behind her back and her face down on the cruiser’s hood. “Don’t resist, Grace,” she dramatically advises. “Don’t give these brutes a reason.”

This quick — and admittedly funny — scene brings up a thought. Where do Grace and Frankie end and Jane and Lily begin?

At the end of December, Tomlin (now 80) was arrested on the steps of Capitol Hill. Meanwhile, Fonda has been arrested five times in the past several weeks. Other actors detained include Grace and Frankie costars Sheen and Waterston, and actors Ted Danson, Sally Field, and Joaquin Phoenix. It was all part of Fonda’s movement Fire Drill Fridays. “Our house is on fire,” her website declares. “Join us in the streets.” It continues, “We must act now to save the planet from irreversible catastrophe.”

In a letter to The New York Times last month, Fonda (now 82) explained her position:

“It should come as no surprise that I believe in the power of protest. That’s why I moved to Washington to start what I call Fire Drill Fridays, joining the millions of young people around the world who turned out in the fall for protests to demand that our leaders act to save their futures.

We must all face the harsh reality that our planet is rapidly approaching an irreversible tipping point, beyond which the unraveling of our ecosystems will be beyond our control. Scientists have made clear that we now have less than 11 years to reduce fossil fuel and other greenhouse gas emissions roughly by half, and 20 years after that to cut them to net zero, to stabilize the rise in temperatures by the end of the century and meet the goal of the Paris agreement on climate change.

“Last summer — as the wildfires wreaked havoc on my home state, California, and young people like Greta Thunberg so powerfully reminded us that we are the last generation that can prevent an unthinkable global catastrophe — I decided it was time for me to do more.”

She ended her long, detailed letter with a call-to-action. “We must start to live our lives as if this is an emergency, because it is. Each of us one day will have to answer this question: What did I do to protect the planet for our children, grandchildren and so many precious species while we still had time?

“I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me. I will not look back on Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election, and wonder what more I could have done.”

Tomlin spoke up as well, “We have got to stop hugging and start saving the trees,” she asserted, then criticized corporations that were making money on deforestation and migrant detention camps, pointing out that many refugees are here because they’ve been displaced by the effects of climate change. “These corporations are making oodles of money on the front end, oodles of money on the back end. It is beyond reprehensible.”

Fonda and Tomlin are both Executive Producers of Grace and Frankie. For the past five seasons, they’ve shone a bright and quite entertaining light on the challenges facing women as we age. In this next to last season (and next year’s season to come), they may also highlight other issues that they clearly feel passionate about. They are both marvelous actors who have chosen to use the spotlight that comes with their success to try to make the world a better place.

Season six begins (and, for those of us prone to binge, ends) tomorrow on Netflix. (You can catch up on seasons one through five there as well.)


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