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Series / The Kominsky Method

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"As testosterone decreases, morality increases", but true friendship endures forever. Left to right: Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin), Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas).

An American dramedy series, created by Chuck Lorre and airing for three seasons (2018–21) on Netflix, following the friendship of a struggling acting teacher and his long-suffering agent as they navigate their way through showbiz drama, family feuds and old age.

Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas) is a veteran actor with some cult success under his belt – or, in other words, a has-been whose best work has been long forgotten. As his acting work dried up, Sandy decided to found a small acting school in a downtown area of Hollywood. Meanwhile, his agent Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin) struggles to find him acting roles and keeps him on as a client primarily because he's also his best friend.

This show provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion:
  • Age-Appropriate Angst:
    • The show pretty much is this trope. Bereavement, crazy adult offspring, prostate problems- Sandy and Norman face all of these things with a resigned world-weariness.
    • Inverted: viewers are expected to have more sympathy for the older characters who take their serious problems on the chin, while the younger ones are portrayed as being bratty and over-dramatic, even if they're not that much younger. Norman remarks that his troubled daughter Phoebe is far from a helpless child- "The last time she was here she was having hot flashes".
  • Amicable Exes: Sandy and Roz. Mostly.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: Both Dr Schenckman and Dr Wexler do this (and Lampshade it), but it's Played With. Dr Schenckman puts on a facade of cheeriness partly to hide his angst at his own personal problems, while Dr Wexler sounds cheery giving a diagnosis over the phone simply because he's distracted by his huge breakfast pastry and his game of Tetris.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Sandy's relationship with ex-wife Roz has definite shades of this.
  • Berserk Button: Mindy deploys the C-bomb in response to a joke about her weight.
  • Black Comedy: A lot of it, but special mention goes to Lane relating in his one-man show how his father suffered a fatal heart attack while he was driving him to jazz class, forcing him to take control of the wheel of the car to save himself. He was six.
  • British Brevity: 22 episodes in total, each under 30 minues long.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: As an acting teacher, Sandy is full of wisdom and insight. In every other aspect of his life (including his own acting career) he's a complete screwup.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Sandy, Mindy, Roz and Martin, played by Paul Reiser, watch Diner and discuss how Barry Levinson discovered unknowns in that movie. And then Paul Reiser is shown.
  • Country Matters: Mindy's opinion of Martin's mother after she dares to joke about her weight.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Being old, wizened and cynical, this applies to both Sandy and Norman.
  • Cool Car: Sandy's Mercedes-Benz W111 Model 280 SE Cabriolet.
  • Cool Old Guy: Sandy may see himself this way but this trope definitely applies more to Norman. Norman has accepted age with grace, dresses in age-appropriate but tasteful tailoring and is admired for his refusal to take shit from anyone, while Sandy is an insecure try-hard who dresses a little too young and too scruffily and chases women half his age.
  • Creepy Physical: Sandy's urologist, Dr Wexler, says some creepy and inappropriate things while giving him a prostate exam. As Dr Wexler is played by Danny Devito, this was perhaps inevitable.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Norman frequently has conversations with his late wife Eileen. Their daughter Phoebe also talks with her while placing flowers on her grave making some confessions and asking for her forgiveness.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After three seasons of love and loss Sandy finally wins an Emmy.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Sandy founded The Kominsky Studio because he needed a source of income after the acting work dried up.
  • Gold Digger: Martin proposes to Mindy mere seconds after learning Norman has left her $10 million in his will, only hesitating while she confirms she won't make him sign a pre-nup. However, he had been planning to propose regardless.
  • Hypocritical Humor: At one point, Sandy tells a student over the phone to not stop coming to class even though things have gotten difficult there, because that's "a coward's way." While he's hiding in the closet to avoid dealing with a group of people banging on his front door.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Norman names Sandy as executor of his will with orders to give his fortune to charity rather than to his junkie daughter or brainwashed Scientologist grandson.
  • Jewish Mother: Martin's overbearing mother certainly fits the stereotype.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: Robbie Newlander in season 3. Unfortunately for him, the guy he gives $50,000 to is entirely the wrong guy.
  • Last Disrespects: Norman and Eileen's daughter Phoebe drunkly staggers into her mother's funeral- late, and right in the middle of Norman's eulogy. At the wake she gives an impromptu speech about how much Eileen cared about people "...except the ones who came out of her vagina".
    • Massively Played With in the first episode of season 3 with Norman's funeral. Sandy begins his eulogy with some insulting remarks which give Mindy cause for concern before it becomes clear they were made with affection. Then Madeline's eulogy is all about Norman's sexual prowess. Then Norman's assistant gives a rent-a-eulogy in which she details mundane things such as having arranged Norman's medical appointments and bought birthday presents for his family... before she breaks down and practically starts humping his coffin.
  • May–December Romance:
    • We are informed that Sandy has dated many of his young students. His romance with the latest of them, Lisa, still counts because while she is older than most of the class there is still a large age gap:
    Sandy Kominsky: "This one's only half my age"
    • In season 2, Sandy's daughter Mindy reveals that she is dating Martin, a man close to her father's age. When Norman learns of this he even Lampshades it by using the name of this trope to describe the situation.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Implied with Sandy's student Jude, despite him being a student of theatre. When the class are asked to prepare a comedy performance, he tells Sandy he will be performing a scene from Two and a Half Men. When Sandy suggests he tries something from Aristophanes he replies: "What channel's that on?"
    • This is a touch of self-deprecating humour: The Kominsky Method and Two And A Half Men were both created by Chuck Lorre.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: One is seen covering most of Lisa and half of Sandy after they consummate their relationship.
  • Mood Whiplash: Norman has a tragic breakdown at the end of the third episode after coming across one of Eileen’s dresses in a laundromat. The next episode opens with that incident prompting him to enter her wardrobe and express mild, comedic bemusement at all her ‘’other’’ dresses and accessories.
  • Nightmare Sequence: In season 3 Sandy finally lands a major film acting role. He has a nightmare about his students watching the film in class and laughing at his performance.
  • Obviously Not Fine: Being old men who hate to see people make a fuss over them, both Sandy and Norman are prone to this. As is Roz in season 3.
    • After Norman's wife Eileen dies in the first episode, he acts erratically and even has frequent conversations with her while pretending he is just fine.
    • In season 1 Sandy tries to keep his prostate cancer diagnosis a secret and gets irritated when his students find out and make a fuss over him. He gets similarly annoyed in season 2 when trying to keep his lung cancer diagnosis to himself. At one point he has a fall and doesn't understand why Mindy and Martin are so freaked out over it- even though he answers the door to them with blood pouring down his face.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Alan Arkin only ever committed to two seasons, possibly because he wanted to enjoy his retirement, so Norman Newlander was killed off at the start of season 3.
  • Sexy Secretary: When we see Dr Schenckman's secretary the reason why Mrs Schenckman wants a divorce becomes abundantly clear.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Sandy and Norman's friendship has shades of this. Norman wears expensive-looking tailored outfits and appreciates a well-mixed martini while Sandy wears more casual clothes, has shaggy hair, and drinks "Jack Daniels with a Diet Dr. Pepper on the side":
    "I loathe the way you drink"- Norman Newlander
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Sandy himself. As he explains to one of his guest tutors, admittedly during a bit of a breakdown:
    Sandy Kominsky: "Did you happen to notice the name on the outside of the building? Did you see it? It says "The Kominsky Studios". That's me. Sandy Kominsky. And they're all here because of me, Sandy Kominsky."
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Sandy and Roz, which probably didn’t help their marriage stay above water.
  • Stern Teacher: Sandy may find his young students annoying and frustrating at times but at heart he's a passionate teacher who takes pride in his work and wants to see his students succeed.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Deconstructed in Season 3. Sandy seems poised to replace his dynamic with Norman with Martin (who superficially resembles him) and his ex-wife Roz (in terms of curmudgeonly snark). But as the season progresses and both of these relationships hit the skids in various ways, it’s clear that Nothing Is the Same Anymore and that the story is wrapping up in more ways than one.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: In season 3 Sandy's student Margaret lands a major role, acting alongside Morgan Freeman. Naturally her fellow students all suddenly start to hate her and ostracise her.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Sandy really can't help himself.
  • The Topic of Cancer: So, so much of this. Somewhat inevitable in a series about the trials of ageing.
  • Totally Radical: In season 3 Mindy is mortified by her much older boyfriend using language like "doobie" and "my bad".
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Sandy and Norman have known each other for way too long to sugar-coat their opinions to each other.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The final season attempts to retroactively have the show’s overarching narrative be reminiscent of The Old Man and the Sea, whose film adaptation lead role Sandy manages to snag midway through.