Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

What The Kominsky Method Teaches Us About Aging

The liberty of old age, where you either stare down reality or go mad.

Note: This post contains spoilers.

Netflix / Fair Use Rights
Kominsky, The Final Season
Source: Netflix / Fair Use Rights

The competition has been fierce for what COVID-isolated and anxious viewers will turn to after eight hours of Zoom, Webex, and Google Meet. Yet, The Kominsky Method, amidst a deluge of streaming series and films, did not die an early death, true to its testy lead characters.

You may have missed earlier seasons of The Kominsky Method (both are reviewed by me on Psychology Today) because you had a real life, with evenings spent having dinners with friends, going to the movies (as in movie theaters), spending time with your kids since, back then, you never saw them during the day, instead of now trying to escape them after a day, every day, together.

If so, what was, still is: A brilliantly written comedic tragedy, wonderfully acted, and an unsparing look at aging and family. In other words, a mish-mash LA sitcom with 22 episodes, each under 30 minutes over its three fleeting seasons, where nothing is sacrosanct. Ah, the liberty of old age, where you either stare down reality or go mad.

Two old but stiletto-sharp codgers (aka alter kockers), Sandy Kominsky (Michael Douglas, born in 1944) and Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin, born in 1934), are blemished, best-of-male-friends who never miss an opportunity to stick it to one another. They center and carry the show, until…

The 3rd Season, which begins with the end of Norman Newlander, as we virtually attend his irreverent memorial service. The eulogies are priceless. Evidently, Mr. Arkin had said “two seasons” and meant it. I missed him in this last of the triptych, as may have other viewers.

But a formidable cavalry (the show’s ensemble) was there as mighty reinforcements to engage in friendly fire, absent Mr. Arkin. Delivering stellar performances were Lisa Edelstein (Norman’s daughter, Phoebe, post-countless, high-priced drug rehabs), Kathleen Turner (an ex of Sandy’s, Dr. Roz), Sarah Baker (Mindy, daughter to Sandy and Dr. Roz), Paul Reiser (Martin, Mindy’s overage, overweight pony-tailed fiancé), Haley Joel Osment (Norman’s grandson, Robby, also Phoebe’s son, a refugee from Scientology), Christine Ebersole (Martin’s castrating mother), and Melissa Tang (Margaret, a student in Sandy’s acting workshop who makes it on TV).

There are many other notables (Hollywood icons by the bushel) across the three seasons whom I will surely offend by not listing. Except for one, who appears in two episodes of Season 3: The entertainment industry’s omnipresent, uber-hombre, Morgan Freeman.

The series was created by Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory, 2 and ½ Men, Young Sheldon), who also wrote for all the Kominsky episodes. He must be an overachiever.

We get, in the third season of The Kominsky Method, two deaths, one funeral, and a wedding. We are swept along (in this, in all, seasons) by the taunting, loving, always-on-beat banter, and nuanced wisdom drawn from the tsuris (Yiddish for heartache) and irony of everyday life, with its friendships, adult children and grandchildren, spouses and former spouses, work, money, romances, and failures and successes — at least as lived by those of privilege.

It helps to see portrayed ‘on screen’ (LCD in this case) the foibles and imperfections we all share. Our bumps and blemishes, big and small, that we can use against ourselves, without mercy, especially when they seem, uniquely, our Scarlet Letter. When we have “met the enemy, and it is us,” absent the forgiveness of perspective and the best of medicines, humor. My thanks to the Kominsky crew for reminding me that self-doubt and heartless self-regard are intrinsically human and thus universal. And that kindness can rule the day.

Among the sacrosanct subjects filleted by this show are old people (their '60s ethos, “all it takes is love”); young people (me, me, me); gender fluid people (confusion — not theirs but ours); money-money-money (the greed and division it can inspire); sex (juicy memories, in reality, not long-lived, and not worth paying for); "exes" (love and hate, and no hiding who you really are); Scientology (OMG, can anyone believe that fantasy?); cancer and other deadly diseases (which often rob the survivors of vitality); those medical conditions that do not kill (indignity, pillboxes and other "accommodations"); funerals and memorials (perilous rituals that endure because we need them); attachments, purpose, and meaning (invaluable, yet elusive); and so forth. A virtual zoo of subjects, perfect for our times.

The last episode of the final season is titled, "The Fundamental Things Apply," a tune written by Herman Hupfeld (1931), which achieved perpetuity in Casablanca (1942), retitled, As Time Goes By, and sung by Dooley Wilson at the piano.

One of its verses goes:

Moonlight and love songs
Never out of date
Hearts full of passion
Jealousy and hate
Woman needs man
{sic}, and man {sic} must have his mate
That no one can deny

Love, passion, jealousy, hate, and our needs for a mate (inclusive of all sexual orientations)—all fundamental and timeless.

Hey, those are big, big, big.

The Kominsky Method does them great justice.


More from Lloyd I Sederer M.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Lloyd I Sederer M.D.
More from Psychology Today