First Impressions


Aired on: NBC

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            For weeks I had seen several hysterical promos for the upcoming NBC television series named Parenthood.  Based on the 1989 film starring Steve Martin, Parenthood follows the trials and tribulations of the Braverman family.  One comedic promo showed former Gilmore Girls mom Lauren Graham dealing with her teenage daughter who had decided she would rather shack up with her boyfriend than live with her mother.  “Her bark is worse than her bite,” she says with a sanctimonious grin.  Two beats later, Graham is pouncing on her.  The next scene is of the mother and daughter outside the building as mom practically drags daughter to the car, daughter protesting the whole way.  It was promos like these that made me certain that I had to watch this show when it aired at 10PM EST on March 2, 2010.

            The first episode basically introduces us to the Braverman family, mostly through their children.  Eldest son, Adam (Peter Krause), is the 40-year-old father of two and the guy that every other family member turns to in a crisis.  Sarah (Lauren Graham) is a single mother who has just uprooted her kids and moved in with her parents while she struggles to find a way to make ends meet.  Crosby (Dax Sheperd) is the irresponsible sort who never wants to be bogged down by commitment.  Julia (Erika Christensen) is the successful corporate lawyer/mom of two who always seems to have her life under control.

            On the surface, it would seem that Sarah and Crosby are the irresponsible members of the family - always in trouble and having to be bailed out by their older brother.  But as we watch the series, we watch these characters in particular go through a growth phase as Sarah learns how to handle her teenage children’s crises while struggling to rebuild her own life and Crosby is finally introduced to a son he never knew about. 

            The seemingly “put together” members of the family are given the exact opposite treatment as Adam learns that his son’s recent behavior is not a phase, but the result of Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism, and his daughter reveals some rather shocking traits of her own.  Meanwhile, we learn that while successful in the business world, Julia is not doing so well in her family life.  Spending so much time away at the office, Julia realizes she is missing out on a great deal with her daughter, so much so that her bond with her child is very weak.

            I’ve learned all of this in one episode - the powers that be did a great job in introducing us to the family and, while we haven’t learned all that much about the matriarch and patriarch of the family, we have learned a couple of interesting tidbits.  We know that the sometimes overbearing Zeek Braverman (Craig T. Nelson) has a softer side and a special secret yet to be revealed and we know that Camille Braverman (Bonnie Bedelia) is a calm and nurturing mother with a sense of humor.

            I found Parenthood to be a rather humorous look at a middleclass, slightly dysfunctional family whose members epitomize the saying, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.”  To me, this show is a true-to-life representation of many families out there, the humorous parts coming from real life experiences.  Who doesn’t get annoyed by a family member or think that one gets more leeway over another?  Who doesn’t have a strange uncle or a ne’er-do-well family member?  What family doesn’t have its share of skeletons in the closet?

            Another thing I liked about the series - its approach to autism.  Having a family member who is autistic and knowing several people with autistic family members as well, I have noticed that there are many varieties of autism.  Some cases are severe, some slight, some can be handled through diet and stimulation, others seem extremely hard to manage and still others are barely diagnosable.  I loved Adam’s response to the realization that his son may be autistic.  It was extremely realistic.  Nobody wants to believe there is something wrong with their child, especially when that something seems to be an insurmountable obstacle that will be a part of their lives forever and so Adam’s initial denial of the diagnosis is utterly realistic.  I also like the fact that the show’s producers decided that it was time for television to approach this subject.  The word ‘autism’ has been heard more and more in the media - in books, movies, etc., but until now, it has never really seen any exposure on a television series.  Perhaps this show will help to put tot rest some of the many misconceptions about the disorder.

            Many critics have said that the premiere episode of Parenthood didn’t show much promise.  I have to wonder just what show they were actually watching.  I laughed out loud quite a few times at some very funny scenes.  Yes, the serious side of Parenthood does need a little work, but this was the pilot episode.  These are the kind of things that get polished in the second and third episodes of the series.  Have some faith and give Parenthood a chance.  I, for one, will be seated right in front of the television on Tuesday at 10PM waiting for the next episode to begin on NBC.


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