Can The Kominsky Method live on without Norman?
It’s in the trailer and it’s in the opening scenes of episode1, so it’s no spoiler that Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin) is no longer of this earth. Having not been paying much attention for the past year or so, I immediately reached for Google; had Arkin himself passed on?
Happily no, but he did make it clear he wasn’t on board for Season 3. To go ahead with a buddy series that hinged on the friendship between these two crotchety old duffers who played so well off each other as they shone a light on how rubbish it is to get old, with only one of them remaining – acting coach Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas) – might seem like a strange decision, reaching for straws, even. But here’s the even better news: it works.
The final act is just as sweet and lovely and funny as those that came before, and Norman’s death is handled beautifully in episode 1, in which we see Sandy, his lover, his assistant, his daughter and his Scientologist grandson deliver eulogies that are heartfelt and utterly inappropriate.
Afterwards, Sandy goes to their favourite restaurant to drink a toast (Jack and diet Dr Pepper – the story behind this strange combination is explained later in the season) to the dearly departed, served as always by Alex the shuffling waiter (Ramon Hilario).
When he gets home, Sandy finds a lost dog that might or might not be harbouring Norman’s soul, but either way, the events that follow both boost and bruise his ego.
Norman died a very wealthy man and the distribution of his funds form one of the running gags for the next five all-too-short episodes. He leaves Sandy $10 million but Sandy decides it should all go to his daughter Mindy (Sarah Baker) – on the condition she keeps it a secret from her boyfriend, Martin (Paul Reiser, can you believe it?). So there’s conflict there, as Mindy doesn’t want to do it Dad’s way.
Norman’s daughter Phoebe (Lisa Edelstein, House, Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce), a junkie who’s been through many rehabs, and her son Robby (Haley Joel Osment) are on a constant and increasingly creative quest to get their hands on their inheritance, which is being held in a trust of which Sandy is the executor. These scenes offer comedic timing at its best.
The third prong of Season 3 is the return of Roz (Kathleen Turner), Sandy’s ex-wife and Mindy’s mom. Roz and Sandy have hit that sweet spot of a couple that has been divorced longer than they were married and the acrimony has settled into friendship.
And in the fourth corner, we have the neat little story arc of Sandy being offered the opportunity to realise a lifelong dream – thanks to Norman. Everything is tied up prettily and satisfactorily by the time the end credits roll, and that’s no mean feat. Did I mention that it’s really, really funny?
“Without giving anything away, [Chuck] Lorre doesn’t necessarily ride the jaded mentality that has informed the series all the way to the end. The result is a six-episode season that deals with friendship, grief and loss in ways that are alternately funny and touching and, overall, satisfying, yielding another strong showcase for Douglas,” says CNN.
PS Morgan Freeman is in it.