By Leah S. Dunaief
Blame it all on the pandemic, but in an effort to practice social distancing from my refrigerator, I have seriously begun to binge. On what am I binging? I plead guilty to the following definition of binging from my cell phone browser: “watching multiple episodes of a television program over a short period of time.”
Now I am not exactly an innocent when it comes to watching a serialized story all at once. Given the opportunity, I did just that with the last year of “Downton Abbey.” I got all the coming installments at once in return for a donation to PBS, and I stayed up past three o’clock in the morning, too hypnotized to turn off the TV until the series had ended. I guess that was the tip off to my plot-addicted personality. The reveal is that I love stories, and like the monarch lover of Scheherazade, Persian King Shahryar, in “One Thousand and One Nights,” I cannot leave a tale in the middle when I have the opportunity to see how it ends, regardless of my fatigue.
So on a recommendation, I started watching “The Crown,” and you guessed it. This marvelous series, a historical drama about Elizabeth II, the Windsors, and some of the events that have marked her reign, captivated me.
The first season starts with the marriage of Elizabeth and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in 1947, to the end of her sister Margaret’s involvement with Group Captain Peter Townsend in 1955. After dinner each night, I turned on the television and watched all the stories filmed to this point until I fell asleep in my chair.
I eagerly await the start of the fourth season, which I believe will happen Nov. 15 and include Margaret Thatcher’s premiership and more on Lady Diana Spencer. The fifth and sixth seasons are to cover the years in the 21st century. Sadly, though, I will be limited only to one episode at a time because I am caught up.
The problem with a series is that sooner or later, they end. I guess they just run out of juice or the talented people involved want to move on to something else. Having gone as far as permitted with “The Crown,” I started casting around for another compelling show and stumbled upon “Grace and Frankie,” with an incredible cast: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sam Waterston, Martin Sheen and a seemingly endless list of talented actors.
Far from being an historical drama, this series could only run in today’s world. Begun in 2015 and scheduled to finish in 2021, after filming resumes, the story begins when the lawyer husbands of Grace and Frankie announce that they are not only business partners for the past 40 years but also have been lovers for the last 20. They are “coming out” and wish to be married. The two couples, their relationships redrawn, now have to deal with their revised circumstances, and as they move forward in this comedy-drama, their lives touch on so many current themes with sympathy and occasional belly-laughter results.
Both couples, forced to recognize their advanced years, deal with physical limitations, retirement issues, health insurance frustrations, bigoted elderly parents, interracial relationships, sexual needs and computer challenges. Both couples have adult children, who bring into the plots some of the pain and satisfactions of the twenty-somethings: raising young children, not wanting children, addiction, being able to afford buying a home, and worrying how to take care of older parents who don’t want to acknowledge aging.
It is primarily the story, though, of two women, Grace and Frankie, who could not be more different. They cannot stand to be in the same room with each other at the start, yet we see how they slowly come together in trying to deal with their mutually altered circumstances. The characters are well drawn by the authors and actors, and they ultimately reveal much about the value of supportive friendships between women. Can Grace and Frankie, two women in their 70s, survive being outcasts? The answer is a resounding YES!
Be assured, there are already 78 episodes with more on the way, enough for a great binge.