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Rob Edeman: What To Watch

These days, simply-put, heading off to a movie house is, increasingly, a trying experience. Within the Hollywood mainstream, the artistic quality has been drastically lowered. The bottom line here is directly connected to the business of show business. This is nothing new. I’ve cited this often enough, not just in recent weeks or months but in recent years. However, there is an alternative. One does not have to head off to a movie theater to be genuinely entertained or enlightened. Plenty of first-class material has been popping up on television. Plus, they feature actors who are veteran movie stars and who simply are not going to draw the same box office bucks as they used to, once upon a time.

This brings to mind two TV series that lately are justifiably winning plenty of praise. Not only are they well-written and acted. They feature story lines that are relatable to the over-50 masses. In the first, the central characters primarily are women. That would be GRACE AND FRANKIE, a TV series that premiered in 2015. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play two long-married women. The series deals with their responses upon learning that their husbands, played by Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston, are not just work partners. They have in fact been romantically involved for the past two decades. So what are Grace and Frankie to do?

One of the points here is that, at this moment in time, it is acknowledged that mates do not just seek out-of-marriage relationships with members of the opposite sex.

Then there is THE KOMINSKY METHOD, yet another 30-minute-long series. Here, the main characters are men. And by the way, none are played by Clint Eastwood! The setting is Tinseltown; Michael Douglas is cast as a long-established acting coach; Alan Arkin is his agent and long-time best-pal; and the issues with which they deal highlight everything from health and aging to loneliness and the very real sense of loss that time simply will not erase.

To cut to the chase: The choice between seeing and savoring GRACE AND FRANKIE or THE KOMINSKY METHOD and waiting patiently in line to sit through most every feature film that has just opened at the local mall is a non-issue. Both GRACE AND FRANKIE and THE KOMINSKY METHOD are well-written. They are well-acted. They are entertaining and, at their best, they are heartbreaking. Once upon a time, one could not imagine a Jane Fonda or a Michael Douglas regularly appearing in 30-minute-long TV series episodes. But times have changed...

Rob Edelman teaches film history courses at the University at Albany. He has contributed to many arts and baseball-related publications; his latest book, which he co-edited, is From Spring Training To Screen Test: Baseball Players Turned Actors. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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