on September 4, 2010
Parenthood swept onto the airwaves mid-season this past year and filled in a void on television. As the title of my review says, the show was a real breath of fresh air. I have never been one for procedurals and doctors and lawyers, and we get a lot of that on network TV. So, it was nice to see a family show come on that was just about people. It's not flashy, or gimmicky, or trying to be hip and edgy(which most other shows fall all over themselves trying to be and end up looking and feeling like everything else). Given it's pedigree (coming from a wonderful 1989 hit film and a cute 1990-91 series)from executive producers Ron Howard, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel, it had a lot going for it. So, let's jump right in....
The series is not about the same family in the 1989 movie or previous series. It's a whole new family. They are the Bravermans, and they reside in Berkley, California. The patriarchs of the family are Zeek and Camille Braverman(Craig T. Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia), and the family extends to their four grown kids and their families. The oldest is Adam(Six Feet Under's Peter Krause), married to Kristina(Monica Potter), and has 2 kids, Haddie and Max. Next up is Sarah(Gilmore Girls' Lauren Graham), who is a single mother to two teenage kids, Amber(Mae Whitman)and Drew. Next is Crosby(Dax Shepard), a single guy working in the music business who has a girlfriend and lives on a houseboat. And lastly, there is the youngest of the four, Julia(Erika Christensen), a lawyer, who is married to stay at home dad Joel, and has a little girl named Sydney.
Because it was a mid season show, the first season consists of only 13 episodes, instead of the usual 22 or so. Still, season 1 packs a lot into the shorter seasons. I won't go into detail for every episode, but here are some of the stuff you can expect in the Braverman's debut season. The "Pilot" episode establishes the setting and the characters, including Sarah's return home(and moving in with her parents with her kids), and Crosby learning he has a son he never knew from a previous relationship. Episode 2 is "Man Versus Possum", an episode that has Adam and Kristina coming to terms with the fact their son Max has Asperger's Syndrome, Autism, and all that details. It's a strong storyline and is a major focus all year long. Sarah is also job hunting in this episode. Episode 4, "Wassup", is the season's first really great episode, with Adam and Kristina going out of their way to find out about their daughter Haddie's secret relationship. It gets very comical elsewhere when Sarah(and then others)try to deal with Drew becoming "a man". Jason Ritter begins a guest arc in episode 5, "The Situation", playing Amber's teacher, who strikes a chord with Sarah. Julia and Joel fear Sydney may have Asperger's in episode 8, "Rubber Band Ball", where Adam learns of a financial situation his father is in. Sarah learns of her father's situation in episode 10, "Namaste No More". A 3 episode arc begins when Amber betrays Haddies in episode 11, "Solace". The last two episodes of the season, "Team Braverman" and "Lost And Found" continue to deal with the two cousins' fallout, as well as Crosby's future with his son, and the Braverman patriarchs' problems. There is much more here, but that would be spoiling.
Season one of "Parenthood" is a delight. The "Pilot" episode was a strong debut, but it was a little unsure of what it was. While the 1989 movie had no problem balancing the delicate act of comedy, drama, and family dynamics, the pilot isn't quite as assured as you hoped. A little more on the drama than the comedy. Thankfully, it gets better and becomes stronger and more sure of itself with episode 2. From there, the show grows and becomes it's own thing. It wonderfully balances the daily lives and schedules of a family, with the right helpings of drama, heart, warmth, and humor. It doesn't hurt that the writing is great, but it would be nothing if it didn't have the right cast bringing it to life. The cast is wonderful. Each character is their own person and the actors bring each to life with his or her own personality. Not surprisingly, Krause and Graham are the stand outs, but it must be said that Dax Shepard is the biggest surprise out of the cast. He is funny, but deals with his newfound parenthood with a lot of heart and honesty. Seriously, everyone here is great. One of the best casts currently on TV.
"Parenthood" is a wonderful show. Season 1 was a winner and great way to be introduced to the large Braverman clan. I can't wait for season 2.