Parenthood Review (TV)

Tonight, NBC aired the first episode of its new family drama-comedy, Parenthood. Inspired by the hit 1989 movie that starred Steve Martin and shared its name, Parenthood brings a modern edge to a genre that was in dire need of a spark.

It is now clear why NBC decided to unshamedly promote the living hell out of Parenthood: The show and its star-studded cast delivers big.

Parenthood revolves around four siblings and their spouses, and focuses on their various battles towards raising their children. The age of these siblings range from the mid-thirties to early forties, but Parenthood also gives plenty of screen time to their children and parents. The show begins with Sara Braverman (Lauren Graham), who moves her two teenage children back home to Berkeley due to financial trouble. Her parents (Bonnie Bedelia and Craig T. Nelson) welcome them back into the house, thus beginning the show and its amazingly complete introduction to the characters.

Lauren Graham - Parenthood

Lauren Graham... wow

While Lauren Graham may be the “star” of the show, the oldest brother Adam (Peter Krause) is the one who all paths cross through. He is the sage of the family that is constantly called upon to give advice and provide help to the rest of the family. Adam and his wife, Kristina (Monica Potter), however, have problems of their own when they learn that their son Max may have Asperger’s Syndrome.

In the meantime, their little brother Crosby (Dax Shepard) is hit with a bomb at the end of the episode, and the other sister Julia (Erika Christensen) is such a successful lawyer that her daughter prefers the company of her father (Sam Jaeger) due to her mother’s inexistent rearing.

Parenthood - Cast

The Parenthood Cast

Much of Parenthood’s initial issues are taken from the 1989 movie. Steve Martin wanted his kid to do well in little league baseball, as does Adam. Dianne Wiest had challenges as a single mom with two teenage kids – same for Sara. The “bomb” dropped on Crosby is also the same. However, these “thefts” are fine because it was a good story in 89, and with modern adaptations, it’s even better today.

My amazement with this show is how well so many characters are introduced without the loss of any plot development. Nearly a dozen characters are successfully brought in, but it is done in such a way that it supports the story. There is still plenty of drama, conflict, and resolution to give the show a proper storyline. I’ve seen shows with a third of the characters fail miserably at this. Consider this a true testament to the writers.

Craig T. Nelson and Adam - Parenthood

Father and Son

A great aspect about having this breadth of characters is that you will almost certainly find someone to identify with. Maybe you’re old-school and side with Dad in learning that parenting is a much different game these days. Maybe you’re a career woman who doesn’t/didn’t see your children enough. Or you’re single and frustrated. Personally, I empathize with Alan, who seemingly has it together and is the lightning rod for everyone else’s problems, but can’t seem to get a grasp on his own situation.

Parenthood has many funny moments (ever go to your girlfriend’s house and find a stainless steel thermos of another man’s sperm?), touching moments (Adam and Kristina’s realization that their son is different – thousands of mothers across the country cried at this part), and a few ridiculous moments (finding your single mother half naked with another man, after she had found her father’s condoms… are single mothers this desperate? Hmmm maybe so..) It kept me on my toes and thoroughly entertained – more so than most of the regurgitated slop I’ve witnessed on TV lately.

As much as I loved Parenthood’s pilot episode, the show may not be for you. Don’t bother watching if you can’t give it your full attention. If you can’t pause the TV and can’t hold your bladder, you’re out of luck – you’re gonna miss something during that bathroom break, and it will definitely come back to confuse you later on. Parenthood has no downtime; no filler. If you can’t keep 12 characters semi-straight, you will be lost. I imagine my Dad asking my Mom “Wait, which one is that?” about 10 times, at which point their arguments over whose kid is whose have made them miss half of the action on the show, ruining everything except a frustrated trip to bed.

Parenthood TV Review

Son and Father

There is also a lot of conflict. Feel-gooders need not apply. The best comparison to be made would be Friday Night Lights. This makes sense because the writer and director, Jason Katims, comes from FNL. Parenthood’s pilot follows a conflict-conflict-conflict-conflict-conflict-quasi_resolution-conflict-conflict-conflict-conflict-conflict-resolution formula. The best feeling you’ll get from the show is the feeling that things aren’t so bad after all, and you’ve just spent an hour watching something that was vastly more entertaining than everything else Hollywood has to offer (that is, until April 27th, at least).

All in all, Parenthood is the best TV I’ve seen in a long time, besides perhaps the Season 4 Finale of Dexter (and you can’t even compare the two). We needed this. Thank you to a wonderful group of writers, actors, and the team at NBC.

And the best thing of all? Rumors from the set are that “it only gets better”. We’ll be there ready to take you up on that offer.

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