Sunday, January 21, 2018

Grace and Frankie and Ruth and Maria

Season 4 of the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie" starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, is now available for binge watching, preferably while stoned.

The pot jokes begin in Episode 1, when Grace's daughter Brianna (June Diane Raphael) gets "buzzed" with Frankie (Tomlin), while Grace (Fonda) drinks martinis with her other daughter Mallory. Afterwards, Grace asks Brianna, "Why don't you take after your mother and drink, instead of smoking doobies with your burned-out Aunt Frankie?"

At least Grace notices that Mallory is drinking earlier than usual (while swigging a mid-day martini herself). Her advice about her daughter's hurt feelings over her ex-husband is to hurl her anger at him, as she acts the angry drunk herself. In a later episode, Brianna is told by her boyfriend that she's using marijuana as a coping mechanism, like her mother uses booze. Since she'd been smoking since breakfast, that may have been true. Nobody in the series gets high like people really do: having insights or meaningful conversations after expanding their minds.

While their ex-husbands ponder having more sex with other people, Grace does all she can to rebuff a younger suitor (Peter Gallagher) and Frankie leaves her lover man in Santa Fe so she can return to her family. The women fear that one of their vibrators-for-the-elderly product has sent a little old lady to more than her "little death."

"You're famous for not being able to multitask," Grace tells Frankie. "You can't even task." Pot-loving Frankie is portrayed as so unreliable that she can't be left alone with her granddaughter. Meanwhile, Grace's ex-husband reveals she has only "not drank" a few times, and delineated the three terrible stages of her alcohol withdrawal. Grace pops pain pills to deal with a knee problem (which could lead to overdose, given her alcohol intake) and we get to see her horrible scar after her knee surgery. Oh, and Frankie's daughter-in-law must have her baby without an epidural. But the men have no health issues at all except for feeling fatigued after being arrested while protesting for gay rights. (Judge Hempstead gets them out of jail.) It's the women (not their husbands) who are sent to live in assisted living, which they manage to escape by season's end. I liked Fonda as this Grace much better.

It's nice that the season came out on Women's March weekend because there's a mention of Susan Faludi's Backlash, which is a great book. The stoner "Friend" Lisa Kudrow guest stars in the first two episodes, and no less than Talia Shire plays Frankie's long-lost sister Teddy who used to give her a hard time about her "reefer."

Netflix has also brought back "Disjointed" starring Kathy Bates as a pot dispensary operator for 10 more episodes. The season opener, a 4/20 special, starts with a sweet musical number and has Bates's character Ruth confronting her earlier activist self. She decides to convene a cannabusiness women's empowerment group, where the women fight among themselves until Dabby (Betsy Sodaro as womankind's answer to Cheech & Chong) saves the day (in a way).

The writers haven't gone anywhere with the tension established in last season's pilot between Ruth's hippie values and those of her son, an MBA who sees the dispensary more as a business. Instead they did the whole thing in parody, complete with poop jokes and a rip-off of "The Help."

There are some genuine scenes with Bates's love interest (played by of Peter Riegert of Animal House), and with Maria (Nicole Sullivan), wherein Ruth introduces the concept of "Grasslighting" to her friend.

Budtender Jenny (Elizabeth Ho), a young Chinese woman, must deal with her mother's disapproval when she chooses to heal with herb instead of staying in medical school. (Too bad she couldn't do both.) She does a nice segment on Chinese hempen history, which could be good for awareness because the show is available with Chinese subtitles.

Season 2 of "High Maintenance," co-created by Katja Blichfield, is now showing on HBO.

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