NBC Sitcom ‘Friends’ Has a Unique Link to Netflix Series ‘Grace and Frankie’

Everybody knows Grace and Frankie are friends. What some people might not know is that Grace and Frankie comes from Friends. In other words, both shows have the same creator: Marta S. Kauffman. 

Some 25 years after Kauffman and her collaborators came up with Friends, she now works on the Netflix side of TV, having come up with Grace and Frankie, which reunites 9 to 5 costars: Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.

While Kauffman is celebrating the anniversary of the show that made her famous, she’s also preparing to say goodbye to Grace and Frankie, where the upcoming seventh season will be its last. 

How Marta Kauffman went from ‘Friends’ to ‘Grace and Frankie’

David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Cook, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani and Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay. in 'Friends'
David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Cook, Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani and Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay. in ‘Friends’ | Photo by Warner Bros. Television

One might assume that once you’ve hit the zeitgeist with a seminal show like Friends, which ran on NBC for 10 seasons, you can write your own ticket and do whatever you want. That assumption would be wrong. 

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Kauffman said: “Convincing other people that I could do other things took a little while longer and then when we got to doing (Grace and Frankie)., At a certain point I just had to say, ‘Do your best.” 

The relatively easy part was landing Fonda and Tomlin, who had separately been looking to get back into TV. When the opportunity to do so together came about, that made the prospect that much sweeter.

That didn’t make the show an easy sell: Networks often tend to look the other way when a show is targeted at a demographic of anyone older than 50. But Netflix took a chance when other studios would not, and Grace and Frankie has become one of their longest-running shows. And that’s partly why it’s coming to an end, 

Why is ‘Grace and Frankie’ ending?

Unlike TV networks of old, Netflix is not apt to let a show run for a decade or more, no matter how good it is or how many people watch it. Netflix is all about churn and having its content evolve to attract new subscribers. So out with the old and in with the new. But it’s a choice Kauffman only begrudgingly accepts. 

She told the Los Angeles Times: “Netflix isn’t doing long-term series anymore. And we are really lucky that we got the seventh season. I think when we started, we imagined seven seasons. But, really, this is the kind of decision that comes from Netflix. But as sad as I am that it’s ending, there’s something that makes sense about it.”

As the show heads into its final season, the characters of Grace and Frankie are at a crossroads. Grace has gotten married, but Frankie isn’t entirely accepting of the situation, having thought that she and Grace would spend their twilight years together.

Kauffman and her team will have to come up with a solution that satisfied people who want to see Grace and Frankie as a couple, but that also makes sense for the last season. She would not want to head into the territory of Dexter or Game of Thrones, whose final seasons were widely regarded as major disappointments. 

Where does Marta Kauffman go from here?

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Indeed, the potential of disappointment looms large over Friends too. While that series ended in a satisfying way for many fans, Kauffman is wary of the upcoming reunion show that is slated to appear on HBO Max, the new Warner Bros. streaming service that will also carry the entirely of Friends.

Reports suggest this reunion show will be more of a retrospective and less of a continuation or reboot because Kauffman knows it would be impossible to bottle that lightning again. 

“I have no update on that,” Kauffman says. “It has to be right to do it. I don’t know. I have no good status update on it. It’s a very challenging prospect. I know everyone wants it to happen so much. We don’t want to do anything disappointing.”