Yes, I love my children, but in this case I’m talking about the NBC drama currently in its sophomore season. It wasn’t love at first sight. In fact, after I watched the first few episodes, I let the rest of season one pile up on my Tivo, and at one point considered just deleting them all. Being over ten episodes “behind” on a tv show is very intimidating! Thank goodness I decided to give the show another look! I jumped back in at the end of July, and despite being busy having a baby and all, I managed to finish out the first season in just a few weeks. Now I eagerly await each new episode of season two. What’s so great about this show, which is yet another tv adaptation of the 80s movie starring Steve Martin? Let me give you ten reasons:
- Lauren Graham – Seeing her on this show makes me realize how much I miss Gilmore Girls. I loved the snarky dialogue, Luke, the overabundance of coffee, etc. Parenthood may not have a Luke, but there is plenty of coffee and clever scriptwriting. Former Lorelai Gilmore is at the heart of this show, playing the family’s underachieving daughter, Sarah Braverman. She’s a single mom to two struggling teenagers, works as a bartender, and can’t seem to maintain a relationship for much longer than the first date. She may have issues, but she’s sure fun to listen to. She often provides the commentary on how ridiculous some of the situations in the Braverman family are. I wonder how the show would have been different if the role had gone to Maura Tierney, as originally planned. I doubt the character would have been as funny and bubbly.
- The Adam and Kristina Braverman Family – Adam is the oldest Braverman son, and so everyone turns to him for advice and problem solving. Meanwhile, he and his wife have their hands full at home, with teenage daughter Haddie, and Asperger’s-diagnosed son Max. This family’s conflicts, conversations, and household atmosphere seem very realistic to me. I especially like how the writers handle Max’s Asperger’s syndrome. Aspergers and autism are becoming more common, so it’s good that a network show is dealing with them in what seems to be a realistic way. Haddie is a smartly written character as well. She relies on, is embarrassed by, and is trying to be independent from her family all at once.
- Zeek and Camille’s Marriage – I like the way the show handles the patriarch and matriarch’s relationship. They have been married for decades, but have never fully dealt with some major issues. As a result, they separate for awhile, then start going to counseling and trying to heal the parts of their relationship that aren’t working. I love Zeek’s character development: he started out as a stubborn, gruff man who wouldn’t admit anything was wrong. But because he loves his wife, he embraces the new mantra “I see you, I hear you,” starts taking ballroom dance lessons, and begins to see everything he’s been missing about his wife all these years. And Camille is skeptical but appreciative of his efforts. Such a sweet subplot, and it gives Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia something more interesting to work with than simply being the token grandparents doling out their wisdom and life lessons.
- The Stay at Home Dad – Taking a more realistic approach than Michael Keaton’s 80s hit Mr. Mom, Parenthood shows us a slice of life where mom (Julia) is the breadwinner (as a lawyer), and dad (Joel) takes care of the homefront and daughter Sydney. This is the least interesting family unit on the show, but it is still a nice change to see a dad dealing with things like play dates and house cleaning. As one would imagine, having a man in the mix of stay at home moms has led to some awkward moments, and some jealousy from Julia.
- Crosby and his Houseboat – The youngest of the Braverman clan gives us a taste of the opposite side of the spectrum. While (at least two) of his siblings are living the typical suburban family life, he is living in a cool houseboat, working at a music studio, going to parties, and trying to figure out how to parent the son he just found out he has. His Bohemian attitude and influence on the family add some flavor to the show. I’m not crazy about his girlfriend Jasmine, but they have developed her character a little more, so there’s hope her likability will improve. And their son, Jabbar, is about as cute as a kid can be.
- Mae Whitman – I can’t think of a more convincing teen actress on tv today than Whitman. She plays Sarah’s daughter, Amber. Amber is both rebellious and respectful of her mom, has a good head on her shoulders, and learns from her mistakes. Whitman previously played George Michael’s frumpy girlfriend Ann (or as Michael called her, Egg) on Arrested Development, and played another troubled teen on Andre Braugher’s short-lived show Thief. It is refreshing to see a young actress so comfortable and convincing on screen, in a sea full of mediocre young actors (with a few exceptions, of course) on all those CW shows.
- The Opening Theme – “May God bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true, may you always do for others, and let others do for you…” I love this Bob Dylan song – the tune, the lyrics, everything. And it’s the perfect theme song for this show that’s all about parents trying to raise their children well and prepare them for the world. I always watch the opening sequence, both because I enjoy hearing the song and seeing pictures of the cast at different stages of their lives (a la Growing Pains).
- The Music – The opening theme isn’t the only song to enjoy on this show. Music plays an integral role in setting the tone – from playful to melancholy to nostalgic, and everything in between. I was pleased to see that there is a Parenthood Season One soundtrack. I love shows and movies that use music to successfully engage the viewers (think Garden State, Elizabethtown, Dawson’s Creek, Grey’s Anatomy). There’s also an element of product placement with the music, which is only slightly annoying, since I’m actually interested in knowing who is singing the song. For example, Ray La Montagne’s name has been mentioned more than once, such as when Adam was listening to him on the way to work.
- The Braverman house – Zeek and Camille’s house has a lot of character. It’s a big, old house with a large yard, and a guesthouse. Everyone gathers on the patio (surrounded by bountiful flowers and greenery) for family dinners. Every time I see it, I think how nice it would be to have a large house like that with plenty of room for the extended family to hang out.
- Jason Katims’ involvement – Sometimes I’ll watch a show just because I respect the person behind the camera. The first two names that come to mind are J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, but not far behind them is Jason Katims. He is the man who brought us Roswell, Friday Night Lights, and Boston Public, all great shows in their own way. And he writes most of the Parenthood episodes, so I know they will be clever and enjoyable. And in the end, the balance of great writing, smart casting, and convincing acting are what make this show work so well.
If you haven’t checked this show out yet, I encourage you to do so. If you are a late 20s or 30 something family-centered individual like me, you won’t be disappointed!