“The Kominsky Method” is ostensibly one of those Hollywood productions about Hollywood, but really, this Netflix comedy – starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, from “The Big Bang Theory” co-creator Chuck Lorre – is about two more universal themes: friendship, and getting older. On those levels, the show proves breezy and likable, and about as far from the ad-supported pressure to reach “younger demos” as a TV show can get.
Douglas plays Sandy Kominsky, a renowned acting coach who gives brilliant advice to his classes – who pepper him with questions about things like auditioning for a shampoo commercial – but could use a bit of his own when it comes to his personal affairs.
Kominsky tells his charges that they should act for the love of their craft, “not the pursuit of fame or money.” But he’s in desperate need of the latter, a source of consternation to his longtime agent and bosom pal Norman (Arkin).
Although Kominsky embarks on a relationship with one of his students – a relatively age-appropriate woman (Nancy Travis), to the surprise of those who know him – it’s the banter between Douglas and Arkin that defines the show and consistently delivers its best moments. The two even engage in an amusing “Who’s on first?”-type routine built around the rapper Ludacris (Kominsky has no idea who that is), and is later told by an exasperated Norman, “I’m not sugarcoating. I’m lying.”
Over the course of the eight-episode run, Kominsky and Norman deal with all the vagaries of getting older, from death to a prostate cancer scare, as the acting coach becomes alarmed over his frequent trips to the bathroom. A trip to the urologist, played by Danny DeVito, leads to more one-liners and groaning about life’s little indignities on the wrong side of middle age.
Produced by Lorre (who also directed the premiere) with Al Higgins and David Javerbaum, nothing here is especially new. But much like Netflix’s other over-the-hill comedy, “Grace and Frankie,” it’s an amusing look at aging grudgingly, not gracefully – more about the talent and situations than the premise. As a bonus, addressing a time of life given short shrift by youth-obsessed media creates the opportunity for cameos and smaller roles by the likes of Susan Sullivan and Ann-Margret.)
The series also incorporates a number of very insider-ish jokes that will play best among Angelenos in the 310 area code, like a Hollywood-friendly restaurant where the waiters are so old it’s a dice roll if the food’s ever going to reach the table.
There are some sweeter, more melancholy scenes among the laughs, which arrive consistently enough to make “The Kominsky Method” feel like a significant improvement over Lorre’s first single-camera Netflix comedy, the Kathy Bates vehicle “Disjointed.” And happily, it doesn’t require lying – or even sugarcoating – to say so.
“The Kominsky Method” premieres Nov. 16 on Netflix.