We usually don’t expect tears from Chuck Lorre, the creator of the massively popular Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. Maybe that’s because I haven’t seen enough of his hit shows, but in my mind, they’re defined by broad jokes, laugh tracks, and their remarkable success and high ratings, not tearjerker moments. With Lorre’s new Netflix series, The Kominsky Method, he’ll get some eyes misty with his latest comedy, which is more heartfelt than outright silly or mean-spirited.
The buddy dramedy gets most of its entertainment value from its highly watchable stars, Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, who make for a great pairing. Douglas plays acting coach Sandy Kominsky, while Arkin is his longtime agent and friend Norman Newlander, and both roles play a bit to their images. Douglas, of course, is playing another charismatic and charming man, while Arkin is surly and cantankerous as Norman Newlander. Nobody sounds cooler than Douglas – who has one of the greatest movie star voices – and nobody sounds more comically grumpier than Arkin, so they could not be better suited for the roles. Together, their different styles meet perfectly in the middle to land some laughs.
While a couple of jokes don’t hit as big as they should (at least for me), where you see the punchline coming too soon, Douglas and Arkin make any misses dissipate fast. Most of the jokes are enjoyable and pleasant, though, and are the kind that keeps you smiling. One of the bigger laughs in the series comes from longtime collaborators and two old school friends, Douglas and Danny DeVito. DeVito plays a doctor who doesn’t lose his sense of humor when he’s checking Kominsky’s prostate, which makes for some good physical comedy from Douglas and fun interplay between him and DeVito.
Much of The Kominsky Method‘s humor is about growing old, and in Lorre’s eyes, it’s a hilarious experience. Both the broad and sharper jokes go well together with the story’s dramatic turns, as well, which is when the series at its most engaging. There’s a funeral scene where there are a few hijinks, but like the rest of what we saw, it’s not the jokes that leave a strong impression, it’s the lead performances. During the funeral, Norman speaks about the losing someone he loved, and anybody nobody who’s lost someone close to them may feel some of his honest sentiments. When the laughs are gone, Lorre can go quiet and touch on some real emotions.
Having watched Arkin play so many characters with tough exteriors, including his role here, seeing him vulnerable and hurting in the funeral scene and much of The Kominsky Method, there’s something surprising and powerful about it. You can’t help but separate these characters from the actors playing them, especially since they’re somewhat familiar roles for the both of them, but seeing an actor as beloved as Arkin in pain, that carries a lot of weight to it.
Outside of the heavier moments, Arkin, Douglas, and the rest of the ensemble bring an enjoyable lightness to the series. Lorre’s story is usually going for laughs, but when he’s not telling another piss joke, he gets some real heartfelt and heart-crushing moments out of his entertaining characters. Of course, it helps those scenes are played by two masters who, no matter what they’re doing in The Kominsky Method, keep you invested in Lorre’s broad but tender series.
The Kominsky Method Premiered at the AFI Festival and is now available to stream on Netflix.