WE seldom get to see shows about old people so we really enjoyed “The Kominsky Method”, which stars Michael Douglas, 76 years old, and Allan Arkin, 86 years old, as geriatric best friends in Hollywood. They’ve both won the Oscar and the Golden Globe, and Michael has also won the Emmy while Alan, the Tony. Truly impressive acting credentials.
“Kominsky Method” is a heartwarming comedy of only 8 episodes of half an hour each on Netflix. It’s about the joys and pains of friendship and getting old. Michael plays Sandy Kominsky, who started as an actor but is now known better as an acting coach famous for his teaching style known as the Kominsky Method.
Alan is Norman Newlander, a talent agent who still handles Sandy’s career. His wife of 46 years, Eileen (Susan Sullivan), is afflicted with terminal cancer and eventually dies. Sandy stays with his grieving friend and helps him arrange Eileen’s funeral.
Eileen left specific instructions on how her funeral should be conducted. She has to be in a driftwood coffin, Jay Leno should host the eulogy, Patti Labelle should be a guest singing “Lady Marmalade”, and also Barbra Streisand.
Sandy manages to get Jay and Patti but he knows Barbra will be a pipe dream. How he manages to satisfy Eileen’s last wish is the highlight of the show’s pilot episode, along with the arrival of Phoebe (Lisa Edelstein), Norman and Eileen’s drug-addicted daughter who flew in from New York.
Norman might have an estranged relationship with his 45-year old daughter who embarrasses herself in front of their guests, but Sandy has a more cordial relationship with his own daughter, Mindy (Sarah Baker), who helps him run his acting school. The show successfully delineates the contrasting relationship the two old dads have with their respective daughters.
The show also touches on some health conditions commonly faced by old men, like prostate problems, which prompt Norman to urge Sandy to consult his urologist. Along the way, we also get to watch Sandy’s various students delivering enacting choice scenes from acclaimed plays like “Cat on a Hot Thin Roof” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Sandy also finds new romance with one of his students, a recent divorcee, Lisa (Nancy Travis, who’s very good).
To show his support for Norman, Sandy drives him and Phoebe to a rehabilitation clinic in the mountains and it becomes a road trip for them. This is one of the best episodes in the show where they get to tackle lots of topics like suicide, back taxes, the Pechanga Indian Casino where they stay for the night, the movie “Thelma & Louise”, also churros and bonsai plants.
On his own, Norman also gets to talk with his late wife’s ghost to consult her about a lot of things. Of course, he’s the only who sees her.
The show gives us the chance to see many veteran Hollywood stars doing minor roles, like Danny de Vito as Sandy’s urologist, Ann-Margret as an old friend who carries the torch for Norman, Elliott Gould as himself, and later, Kathleen Turner, Jane Seymour, Lainie Kazan, Corbin Bernsen, Allison Janney, among others.
But what really holds everything together is the great bond between the silver-haired Douglas and the bald Arkin. They gripe, they banter, it’s almost like a bromance, and it’s sheer acting gold watching them do scenes that can be funny like Abbott and Costello and also extremely touching as they show their love for each other as the best of friends. With a total of about a century of acting experience between them, they’re both on the same page and it’s just delightful to see these old pros interacting on screen.
The show is created by Chuck Lorre, best known for the big hit “The Big Bang Theory”, who manages to mine the pain of aging and losing someone your love. Viewers of a certain age, like mine, will respond more favorably with knowing nods of the situations, including the aches and pains that Sandy and Norman encounter in the course of the show, like frequent urination at night. Ha ha!