NBC desperately wants its new family dramedy Parenthood to be a success. For months, the show has been advertised online and in magazines with such tired clichés as “Parenthood is realizing you’ve become your father” and “Parenthood is reading more Dick and Jane than Moby Dick“. Its premiere episode was hyped as “brought to you with limited commercial interruption by Nissan”, so I thought I was in store for a rip-off of Brothers and Sisters or Modern Family that served as a cheap infomercial for minivans. Furthermore, the show is loosely based on the 1989 movie of the same title that started Steve Martin. However, it’s better than advertised.
One problem with the show, though, is the fact that there are so many members of the Braverman family to keep track of. A large focus of Tuesday’s episode was single divorcee Sarah (Lauren Graham) who picked up her spoiled brat daughter, Amber, and seemingly normal teenage son, Drew, and moved back home to her parents. However, a more interesting character on the show is Sarah’s brother, Adam (Brian Krause). After losing his position as Little League coach when he fights with the umpire over a call involving his son, Max, he argues with his pushy dad (Craig T. Nelson) over a nosebleed he apparently caused by pushing Max to play basketball. After a violent outburst in school, Max is diagnosed with Asperger’s Disease. The two most poignant moments in the episode dealt with Adam and his wife, Kristina, dealing with this news and the grandfather’s realization that “something’s wrong” with Max. Less interesting is the plight of Sarah and Adam’s slacker brother Crosby (Dax Shepard), a recording engineer who reluctantly agrees to have a baby with his record producer girlfriend within three years, after learning that she was looking for a sperm donor. A supposed cliffhanger is his discovery that he fathered a son named Jabbar with a stripper named Jasmine. What I find more interesting is Braverman sister, Julia, (Erika Christensen) a working mom who is beginning to realize that her daughter, Sydney, prefers her stay-at-home dad to her.
As typical of a family drama, family crises occur. Amber gets herself and good-girl cousin, Haddie, arrested for drug possession and Drew runs away to live with his father after seeing his mother slugging wine in the kitchen with her new date. Also, Sarah believes her father could be having an affair. By the end of the episode, the whole clan comes together to cheer on Max at another baseball game.
For a show that proclaims to be all about family, it’s ironic that Parenthood is not a show that a family could watch together. It’s too soon to know where the series is headed, but with a little tweaking, Parenthood could become the next 7th Heaven or Eight Is Enough, or at the very least, be the show that Life Unexpected pretends to be.