Grace and Frankie is a fun show on Netflix. It's well done, all around. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play off each other beautifully, and it's a rare bird, that can show depth and emotion and be hysterically funny at the same time. It's made me laugh hard enough that Hubby comes in to check on me.
The basic premise is that there are two couples. The husbands (Played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterson) are business partners, as they reach retirement, they leave their wives (Tomlin and Fonda) for each other. The wives both end up staying in the beachouse owned by the two couples. The central characters are in their 70's, they have kids in their late thirties (they kids from both marriages grew up together, they act like siblings), and there are a couple of grand babies. I particularily identify with it because my parents are the same age as Tomlin, Fonda, Sheen and Waterson, and if you put Grace and Frankie into a melding machine, you'd get my Mother at the other end. I imagine she's with me when I watch it, I know the bits she'd find funniest. It has a particular connection for me personally; my father left when I was 16, moved in with a man. And not to mention that I have an Aunt and a niece named Grace, and a sister called Frankie!
And now, I identify even more with the show. Allison (a tertiary character dating one of the 'siblings'), has MCAS. I have no idea if it was designed that way, or simply a stereotype that's a bit close to home. It's possible they don't even know. Whether intentionally or not, aware of it or not; that character has MCAS. Nobody can have gotten it this right without having been there. My initial reaction to a few of the scenes was frustration… prejudicial stereotypes where I am the target piss me off. But, there's something about the way they are handling it… it's not just a cheap gag, the satire is aimed more at the narrow mindedness of the siblings. The topic is brought into the open, and Bud defends his girlfriend. Certainly the last episode of the season started debunking their attitude. I don't think they have gotten it this close through just following a stereotype. (If I had to take a wild guess, there's someone involved in a LOT of Netflix shows, in front and behind the camera. I've suspected for a long time that she has it… I'll see if it pans out before I say her name).
The character is only in a few scenes, but I'm guessing that they are planning to put her in a more central role. (I won't spoil the 'why', you'll just have to watch it yourself!) Alison is mentioned a few other times, fishing an orange slice out of the punch and saying 'Oh, look! Something I can eat!', etc., but these are the best ones.
Scene One. Plums
Season 3, Episode 1 (at about 12:00)
Bud (one of what I call the 'sibling group') arrives at his mother's art show, Mallory, Brianna, Coyote, Bud, along with Alison and Barry (dating Brianne)
To set the scene, Bud (one of Frankie's sons) is with his new girlfriend, Allison. They bump into the 'siblings' at an art show.
Mallory "Ooo, it's starting!"
Barry "What is?"
Mallory "The 'Bud's super needy girlfriend' game."
Brianne "Oh, here. You're going to want something to eat first."
Coyote "This is great. I can't even play the game I invented." [Hes a recovering alcoholic].
Barry "Oh, she looks lovely…?"
Mallory "They always look lovely."
(Scene cuts to another, returns)
Allison "And that's when I realized I have celiac disease."
(The siblings take a drink.)
Brianne "Of course you do." (The actress who plays Brianne has amazing microinflections!)
Bud (defending Allison) "Gluten allergies are so common nowadays."
Coyote "Do you have other allergies?"
Alison "It's quicker to list the things I'm not allergic to."
(All murmur and drink.)
(Everyone looks confused, drink again.)
"I don't even like them that much."
(They all drink again.)
How many times have I said those exact words!?! The way she said it, with such a deflated feeling, you can't get it that right by chance. I've said it just that way… All you have to do is substitute Miniwheats for plums… Even though I loved miniwheats, living on them for months creates a whole different kind of antipathy towards that food. My initial reaction was to growl…but then…
Later on, she asks Bud for her special soap. (She says she lost her sense of smell- that doesn't quite fit, but oh well). Bud realizes that she's thetarget of their drinking game.
"I told you that drinking game bothers me!"
Brianne "That little bag of soap bothers me."
Bud "You know what? You guys suck. Allison's great. Unlike you, she's kind. She has a big heart."
Coyote "Oh, we know, she told us about that condition." They giggle.
Bud "Fuck you all. I like her. More than I like you people right now."
Scene Two: Hives are worth it
S3 Episode 10 "The Labels"
(At about 13:05)
The scene is at home, Bud is on his computer, Alison walks out in a nice silk dressing gown.
Bud looks up "Oh, you said you were having your stomach thing, but you were putting on a sexy outfit."
"Well, I did have my stomach thing and then I put on my sexy outfit."
"Wow. well, uh.. I was gonna wait until it was dark outside, but I also got a little something to add to the party. I hope it's not, you know, too kinky, but…. ", he pulls a plate of strawberries from the fridge.
Bud "What do you think? You don't have to try it if you don't want to, I uh, just want to make sure everyone is comfortable…"
"I love it."
"Yes, It'll be totally worth the hives."
The episode rapidly goes past g-level, but it turns out that Grace and Frankie's product is perfect for her carpal tunnel 😂. When Hubby and I watched that scene we laughed so hard. Welcome to my life… Is it worth the reaction!?
Scene Three: Outside the ER
S3 Episode 12. "The Musical"
(At about the 10 minute mark)
Frankie makes a visit to ER, the 'siblings' go to meet her there, but she had already left. While there, Allison passes out, garnering many eye rolls and snide comments from the 'gang'. The rest of the crowd follows Frankie back and forth (classic sit-com, done well).
Mallory says "The rest of us will head over as soon as Allison is being done being Allison."
Bud waits for Allison, Coyote, pulls him aside before she comes out.
Coyote "Alison knows we're waiting, right?"
Bud "Yeah. She just needs to check out. She'll be out in a minute."
Coyote "Are we going to have to hear about everything that's wrong with her? Because we don't have time for the 'Ailments with Alison Show'."
Bud "She fainted!"
Coyote "Because she always has to be the centre of attention, so she conjures up some kind of illness. But, there's a name for it, Ficticious disorder."
Bud "First of all, it's factitious disorder. And she doesn't have that, we checked."
Coyote "With a factition?"
Bud. "That's not a real thing."
Coyote "Neither are her numerous diseases."
Bud "Shut up, okay? Oh, here she comes."
I've been accused of making things up, doctoring photos, and of having factitious disorder (Munchausen's). The story is too perfect, MCAS not well enough known. Someone on that set understands MCAS… a writer, an actor, a friend or relative of the key grip (what the hell is that?). The big question is does that person know what MCAS is? Do they have it? How are they getting it SO right (but not perfect- Allison has ichtheosis. I don't think thats mast cell related. I bet that diagnosis is erroneous- much more likely that it's excema… 😂).
I turned over as many rocks as I could find online, but the extent of discussions about Allison is that she's crazy and an attention seeker and faking it. So who is it that seems to 'get' this so well? The actor who plays Bud (Baron Vaughn) has allergies, but I couldn't find any further details. There are very few people in front of the camera on a TV show, but if those that are, who would you bet on?
Anybody know how to get a message to the writers? What a golden opportunity to get the word out about MCAS! I will happily consult with them. I am impressed with how it has been addressed so far- calling out stereotypes. A boyfriend who backs her up, even when everyone else is rolling their eyes. And it's funny, too.