Parenthood – The Show You Probably Aren’t Watching

This little show I believe to be VERY underrated.  The first season takes a while to pick up steam.  Originally Lauren Graham (best known from Gilmore Girls) was not supposed to play a lead.  Originally it was Maura Tierney (from ER).  However, Tierney underwent breast cancer treatment and was unable to proceed with the show, so (after Helen Hunt turned it down) Lauren was brought in, reshot and the show was made into a midseason replacement instead of a leading season starter.  I’ve heard comparisons to “Brothers and Sisters”.  I haven’t seen that show, so I can’t concur, but I’ve been told be several people that if you like that, you’ll like “Parenthood”.

“Parenthood” is loosely based on the movie with the same name starring Steve Martin.  It’s based on the stories and troubles that actually occured with producers Ron Howard, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel.  It’s a fun movie, clearly dated in 1989, but fun.

I call “Parenthood” a DRAMEDY.  It makes you think, lately has made me tear up and every episode makes me chuckle to myself (if not out loud) at something.  It’s no “30 Rock,”  if you’re looking for that laugh-out-loud for 40 minute show, this is not it.  And on the flip side, it’s no “LOST,” where you have to pay attention to every minute detail to be able to follow along.  It’s simply a show about embracing all different kinds of families.

Craig T. Neslon (Coach) and Bonnie Bedelia (of the Diehard franchise) portray Camille and Zeek Braverman.  They are the foundation the other families weave in and out of.  With marital and parental problems of their own, their four children are “grown up” and they struggle with their marital life and unique parental life.

Adam (Peter Krause, “Six Feet Under”), the oldest Braverman sibling, has had to relinquish his expectations about what constitutes a “normal” family, as he, his quietly forceful wife Kristina (Monica Potter, “Trust Me”) and independent-minded teenage daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos, “American Dreams”), struggle to cope with their eccentric son Max (Max Burkholder, “Brother and Sisters”), who has Asperger’s Syndrome.  This family has had A LOT of juicy plots in season 2, including Haddie growing into a young woman with boyfriend Alex (Michael B. Jordan from “Friday Night Lights), Adam’s work issues, Kristina’s coping with being a full-time caretaker for Max and Max learning of his Asperger’s and his growth and troubles therin.

I believe the next sibling in the family is Sarah (Lauren Graham).  She is a financially strapped single mother trying to raise two teenaged kids; the bright but insanely rebellious Amber (Mae Whitman from “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”), and sensitive Drew (Miles Heizer from “ER”).  They live with Zeek and Camille and navigate through Amber’s rebellions, Sarah’s ex-husband resurfacing, drugs, alcohol, job searches and so much more.  You really pull for Sarah, because she tries so hard, but it always just seems to blow up in her face.

After Adam and Sarah is career minded Julia Braverman-Graham (Erika Christensen from “Swimfan”).  She is a high powered attourney trying to balance her career and family life with stay-at-home dad Joel (Sam Jaeger from “Eli Stone”) and ornery young daughter Sydney (Savannah Paige from “Date Night”). Joel’s developing resentment of being a stay-at-home dad, Julia’s longing for a second child and their precocious daughter makes their story lines interesting.

The youngest Braverman sibling is Crosby (Dax Shepard of “PUNK’D” fame).  He is the complete opposite of all the other siblings.  While Sarah is what I would call a struggling slacker… at least she tries.  Crosby just floats through life and women until he finds that he has a young son named Jabar (Tyree Brown) that he never knew about with dancer Jasmine (Joy Bryant from Antwone Fisher”).  This interracial couple come together over their son, but Crosby’s wondering eye and years of bad habits of irresponsibility are at the core of this mini-family’s issues.

The family as a whole always pulls together when things go south.  They’re there for each other, push each other, and guide each other through their struggles.  Every actor shines in their roles.  I can’t pinpoint a single actor that shouldn’t be on the show or doesn’t seem 100% authentic.  You really pull for these characters to succeed.

Like I said earlier, the first season takes a while to pick up because you have to meet, learn and understand who these people are, but now that we’re mid-way through season 2, it has gotten intense, hilarious and one of my new favorite shows.  It’s well written story lines and character development go overlooked in a world of pure dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy” and pure comedies like “The Office.”  If you go into the show with the label of DRAMEDY and not pure drama and not pure comedy, you’ll be able to appreciate it.

When NBC first started advertising, it looked like a dark scripted comedy… and then when I watched it, I was extremely let down.  Now that I know it’s just a drama with some great comedic moments, I get it.  I hope you will too, because stuff has hit the fan the past few episodes that is just great television.

Also, the sets are really wonderful.  When you see Julia’s home… you know someone who is a perfectionist and career minded lives there: clean lines, lots of grey, very modern.  You see Zeek and Camille’s house and it just looks like a grandparent’s home: spacious, lots of plants from the outside.  You go to Adam’s house and it seems the most “traditional”, because his family is, but as you’ll find out, his “perfect little family” is not as perfect as he would dream.  and Crosby lives on a tiny houseboat… need I say more?

Everything just fits and it’s now a show I have to DVR, OnDemand,  or watch live.  Take a chance on it if you’re looking for a show that will make you think of your own family.

PARENTHOOD -- Pictured: (l-r) top row; Peter Krause as Adam Braverman, Sarah Ramos as Haddie Braverman, Dax Shepard as Crosby Braverman, Lauren Graham as Sarah Braverman, Miles Heizer as Drew Holt, Sam Jaeger as Joel Graham, bottom row; Monica Potter as Kristina Braverman, Max Burkholder as Max Braverman, Craig T. Nelson as Zeek Braverman, Bonnie Bedelia as Camille Braverman, Mae Whitman as Amber Holt, Erika Christensen as Julia Braverman-Graham, Savannah Rae as Sydney Graham -- NBC Photo: Art Streiber.

“Parenthood” :   10pm, Tuesdays on NBC or OnDemand on Comcast for this season’s past episodes

Season 1 is available on Netflix to really catchup.

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