I’m the first to admit that my favorite show is about two septuagenarian best friends living in a plush beach house in California. But when Grace and Frankie, a Netflix Original, burst into my millennial life, I surely wasn’t the show’s target demographic.
It was May of 2015. New York was sweltering, and I was moving out of my junior year college single. My room, stripped of posters and ephemera, seemed more like a cell than the home I’d woven together with thumb tacks, bookshelves, and Christmas lights. And so, sitting on my bare bed while the fan blared, I turned on Netflix to drown out the sense of time passing and adulthood coming one year closer.
In the show, Grace and Frankie’s lives are sent reeling when their husbands announce they’re leaving them — for each other. Following the shocking change, the uptight, country-clubbing, martini-sipping Grace (Jane Fonda) and the freewheeling artist Frankie (Lily Tomlin) move in together, despite the fact that they’d been lifelong nemeses.
Pretty juicy premise, sure. But it was the the execution, not the premise, that made me fall in love with Grace and Frankie, whose third season premieres today on Netflix.
So, what was it that made me love Grace and Frankie? Was it that co-stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda inhabit their roles so convincingly and hilariously? Was it because Grace and Frankie takes people of all ages seriously, and doesn’t subscribe to the “TV land” philosophy that you stop being interesting when you stop being young? Was it because the show carries each character, so gracefully, through the ups and downs of a life change?
Possibly all of those things. But it also may have been because of the presence of the Yam Man, the greatest guy on TV.
But let me back up. Frankie, Earth goddess, painter with a messy studio in her garage, freewheeling champion with a heart of gold, starts a friendship with her yam supplier. In her free time, she begins to manufacture yam-based lubricant to support her and Grace’s burgeoning sex lives. She enlists Jacob, the yam farmer at the farmer’s market, as her supplier.
Grace is Frankie’s opposite, but in many ways, so is Jacob. Steady, even-keeled, and patient, Jacob is a dramatic foil to Frankie's wildly scatterbrained ways. And yet Jacob immediately is charmed by her open, childlike nature, and flirts with her from episode one on.
We can use Frankie’s receptiveness to Jacob as a barometer for her growth after her divorce. After spending decades married, Frankie’s unable to read romantic signals. She flakes on Jacob, and he’s hurt.
But Jacob, since he’s the best character on TV, is patient until she’s ready. And then, once she’s ready, what a guy he is! He cooks a feast. He opens up about his past as a lawyer, and his dreams for a simpler life on a farm. He meets her kids. He carries a drunken Grace up to her bedroom and puts her to sleep. He’s playful, kind, and understanding. He embodies that happiness, after trauma, is possible.
Grace and Frankie is a show about second chances. And the best part is, everyone character on the show gets one. Jacob is Frankie’s. And I, struggling junior lost in the cosmos, knew I'd have a million more chances (and hopefully one good yam man) to come.
When it comes to Grace and Frankie, Jacob’s just one example of how well written and fundamentally appealing the show’s cast of characters is. Sure, he just may be my favorite. If you don’t watch Grace and Frankie, you’ll never find out who will be yours.
Season 3 on Grace and Frankie premieres March 24 on Netflix.