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6 Grandfathering Lessons From John Stamos

Even a reluctant sitcom grandpa can teach us a thing or two

By Ann Oldenburg

On the Fox sitcom Grandfathered, actor John Stamos plays hip restaurateur Jimmy Martino, a playboy who prides himself on his party-packed single life — until he makes a surprising discovery.

An old girlfriend, Sara (played by Paget Brewster), shows up and tells him that their long-ago fling resulted in a son, now grown, named Gerald (Josh Peck). But that’s not all. Gerald has a baby daughter named Edie.

That makes Jimmy a … grandfather. Gulp.

It’s a big adjustment for Stamos’ character, who quickly goes from hip and happening to hapless and harried. He tries to deny it. He tries to cover it up. He tries to come to grips with the whole idea of grandpa-ism. And it’s not easy.

The casting of Stamos in the role might seem preposterous. The hunky 52-year-old is too young to be playing a grandfather, right? No, in fact, according to, the average age of a first-time grandparent is 48. Stamos is a perfect fit for busting the “old” stereotype.

While Grandfathered explores all sorts of relationship topics, the hook is the title: Stamos’ struggle with being a grandpa. The show hopes viewers are relating. Whether you’re a new grandparent, a veteran grandparent or acing a Pop-Pop or Nana role sometime in the future, here are six lessons we’ve learned from watching:

1. You Can Still Be Hip

Jimmy drives a hot convertible car, with fine leather seats. So when he has to take little granddaughter Edie for a ride to a preschool open house, he doesn’t want to sully his sweet ride with a big car seat.

He (horrifyingly) buckles little Edie into the front passenger seat and promptly gets a ticket when pulled over by police.

In goes the car seat. But he’s still got the hot car.

2. You Gotta Do the Dirty Work

Do the diaper. Don’t be the grandpa who can’t deal. Be the grandpa who offers to help out. Jimmy really doesn’t want to change Edie’s diaper.

In one episode he winds up changing the wrong baby’s diaper, and in another he returns home to hand off Edie to her grandmother and pretends he doesn’t notice her unpleasant stench.

“Oh, she still wears diapers? She didn’t mention that to me,” he says, turning to take a phone call.

Sorry, Jimmy, that doesn’t cut it.

3. Life Is About Choices

You might have to choose between a chic cocktail party with friends or a day at the beach digging in the sand with the grandkids. Choose wisely!

Stamos’ character really didn’t want to give up a chance at going to a pool party populated by sexy supermodels, but he had committed to going to the beach for a “family” day. He had promised his son he would be there.

He tried to juggle both — saying he was leaving the beach to buy some baby wipes but instead zooming over to the party.

He wound up shortchanging both events, until he realized that the real joy was with his son and granddaughter at the ocean.

4. Image Isn't Everything


Jimmy’s hair is very important to him. It’s so lush and full — and commands so much of his attention — that Sara tells him to stop worrying about projecting the perfect image and just “be real.”

John Stamos and Layla/Emelia Golfieri in Grandfathered
John Stamos and Layla/Emelia Golfieri in Grandfathered  |  Credit: ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co.


Stamos tells her to give it a tug and she’ll find out it isn’t a rug. She’s impressed. But that doesn’t excuse his otherwise bad grandpa behavior.

5. Change Is Good

When Jimmy has to create a child-friendly area in his bachelor pad apartment, and has his granddaughter over for the day, he looks around and says, “I can’t wait to get my apartment back to normal.”

Wrong, Jimmy. As one of his co-workers tells him, “You’re a grandpa now forever.”

6. Titles Are What You Make of Them

This is the hardest part for Stamos’ character.

Jimmy is determined not to use the G-word. “I don’t go by Grandpa,” he vows in one scene. But the options he offers — Uncle Happy and The Candy Man — don’t quite stick.

In another episode, Jimmy so much wants to impress a preschool admissions teacher that he won’t admit he’s Edie’s grandfather. Instead, he lies and says he’s her father. Trouble ensues, of course.

And while wooing a woman at a bar and telling her a story about little Edie, she says, “So that means you’re a grandfather?” He quickly replies, “Does it? I don’t really let labels define me.”

Own the title, grandpeople. It only defines you in the way you allow it.


Ann Oldenburg Ann Oldenburg, who started her career at The Washington Post and was a longtime culture writer at USA Today, is assistant director of the journalism program at Georgetown University. An advocate of lifelong learning, she is a member of the first cohort of Georgetown's new Aging & Health master’s program. Read More
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