Parenthood

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TV Series Review

It takes guts to be a parent. Anyone who is a parent will tell you that as they're (a) scrubbing crayon drawings off the new flat-screen TV, (b) getting another call from the principal, or (c) raising bail money. Parents may fret about world trade imbalances, the environment health of our planet and what sort of message they're sending by buying a chicken sandwich … but if you want to see them get really stressed, tell them their pride and joy is taking off his shirt and waving it around like a matador cape during snack time.

NBC's Parenthood is based on the 1989 cinematic comedy of the same name and is produced by that film's director, Ron Howard. Don't be expecting a bouncy, one-liner-filled romp this time around, however. The hour-long TV version is much more of a dramedy that unfolds slowly while examining the various frazzled parents who are members of the extended Braverman clan.

Lots has happened since the show premiered in 2010. As we write this latest review update near the beginning of Season 6 (reportedly the last one), Adam and Kristina are raising a boy with Asperger's syndrome, and their grown daughter Haddie is in a same-sex relationship. Single mom Sarah, who's dating divorcé Hank, is now responsible for two grown children, with one of them, Amber, pregnant and preparing to raise a baby of her own—on her own. (Her one-time fiancé is out of the picture.) Julia and hubby Joel are on the edge of divorce, even though they both still seem to care about each other. Crosby, married and a father himself, tries to come to terms with being a grown-up. And while Zeek and Camille are the patriarchs who helm this motley yet lovable crew, the deck of their own marital ship is not always so stable either.

Need a few more curveballs to go flying into the backstop? Try to put a glove on cancer, puberty, drug abuse, high school sex, marital infidelity and abortion. Every trial and moral quandary possible to mankind seems fair game here.

That's a lot for one show to handle. And, frankly, Parenthood doesn't always do the best job of keeping all those moral and relational juggling pins up in the air. Sure, it adequately illuminates how messy family dynamics can be: The parents we see are flawed (good television-based role models went out with The Cosby Show) but filled with the very best of intentions. Everyone wants to do right by their kids … they just don't quite have a handle on what "doing right" involves. Parenthood pounds no lesson harder than "Wow! Being a parent sure is hard," as if the parents were in some sort of touchy-feely childrearing class where good grades are given just for trying.

Yes, the Bravermans are likeable enough. Yes, they mean well. Yes, they love their children in their own ways, and that's really encouraging in context. Yes, the writing here is crisp and multilayered, and the family dynamics we see may feel very—perhaps even too—realistic. Yes, snippets of dialogue seem pulled right from dining room tables across the country. But this particular tribe hasn't fully grasped the idea that raising children well requires more than love and good intentions. It requires patience, discipline, perspective and an ever-firm but ever-flexible game plan. And it requires parents to be, most importantly, good, living role models—templates from which their children can see how adulthood does (or at least should) work.

Even that doesn't guarantee success, of course. Parenting is as much art as science. But it helps.

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Episode Reviews

Parenthood: 11-6-2014
Parenthood: 1-8-2013
Parenthood: 9-18-2012
Parenthood: 9-14-2010
Parenthood: 3-9-2010
Parenthood: 3-2-2010

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama, Comedy

Author

Cast

Peter Krause as Adam Braverman; Monica Potter as Kristina Braverman; Erika Christensen as Julia Braverman-Graham; Dax Shepard as Crosby Braverman; Sarah Ramos as Haddie Braverman; Lauren Graham as Sarah Braverman; Craig T. Nelson as Zeek Braverman; Bonnie Bedelia as Camille Braverman; Sam Jaeger as Joel Graham; Savannah Paige Rae as Sydney Graham; Joy Bryant as Jasmine Trussell; Miles Heizer as Drew Holt; Mae Whitman as Amber Holt; Tyree Brown as Jabbar Trussell; Jason Ritter as Mark Cyr; Xolo Mariduena as Victor Graham

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NBC

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Reviewer

Paul Asay Paul AsayBob Hoose Bob Hoose